During the first week of February it was discovered that one of the youth on probation and his family was no longer living at their given address. I, along with my supervisor, made several trips to the house to verify. The house was soon boarded up and the youth could not be located. There was no attempt by the youth to contact probation and he soon became out of contact, a clear violation of his probation contract. An arrest and detain (A&D) warrant was issued for the youth because of his probation violation. The youth was unable to be located by the Juvenile Crime Apprehension Team (JCAT) and no one in his family could be found by probation staff. The youth was also no longer attending school. The seriousness of the youth’s offence presents a problem. He was adjudicated delinquent on a charge of unlawful possession of a pistol. With such a criminal history it is not hard to say that society may be in danger with the child unable to be located.
On March 1, the youth called my supervisor, his probation officer, to check in. The youth stated that he was staying in a hotel in Saint Paul with a few of his friends that had been staying in the home they were evicted from. He stated that he was not staying with Grandma or older sisters, the only adults that were at his other house, and that he wasn’t sure where they were staying. The youth did state that they were trying to find a house to live in somewhere in Saint Paul and that he was trying to get enrolled at a high school in Saint Paul.
The youth making contact with my supervisor developed into an ethical dilemma; to send the police and have him brought in on his warrant, or go meet the youth to re-establish contact. Each choice has its pro’s and con’s and both would impact the future practitioner/client relationship.
The decision to arrest or to make contact challenges several different social work ethical standards. The first standard being challenged is 1.01: Commitment to Clients. The standard sates “In general, clients’ interests are primary. However, social workers’ responsibility to the larger society or specific legal obligations may on limited occasions supersede the loyalty owed to clients, and clients should be so advised” (NASW; 7). The ethical dilemma relating to this ethic is who are we more responsible to in this situation, the client or society? The client was out of contact, but by making contact he was now in compliance with probation. However, we are obligated to protect public safety at all times and his violation of probation does warrant a court hearing. It brings into question what is in the youth’s best interest, to not be held accountable for his actions or to be placed in a locked facility for a period of time. This ethic also creates a dilemma in itself, who are we more responsible to; the client or society?
Standard 3.09 of the NASW ethics, commitment to employers, is also challenged by this dilemma....