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The editorial team warmly welcome Mrs. Professor Lena Dominelli, and Mr. Professor Malcolm Payne, two prominent internationally social work personalities who have kindly accepted to be part of our journal’s International Advisory Board starting with issue no. 1/2010.
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Homepage > Archive > Numar: 2 > Approaches to Ethics in Social Work in a Complex Work Environment

 Approaches to Ethics in Social Work in a Complex Work Environment

  • Ion Copoeru (Center for Ethics and Health Policy, University of Medicine and Pharmacy “Gr.T. Popa” Iaşi, str. Buna Vestire, Nr. 4, 700455 Iaşi, Romania. Tel: +40 232 267751.)
  • Nicoleta Neamţu („Babeş-Bolyai” University Cluj-Napoca, Sociology and Social Work Faculty, B-dul 21 Decembrie 1989, No.128, 400604 Cluj-Napoca, Romania, Tel: + 40-264-424674, E-mail:

Approaches to Ethics in Social Work in a Complex Work Environment
Ethical norms and principles are embedded in the professional practice of social workers. Their ability to provide quality service for a wide range of people in need depends on their commitment to act ethically in a complex and challenging multi-professional environment. The core values of social work – equality, worth, and dignity have not to be seen as abstract entities, but rather as vectors of the professional action directed towards meeting concrete human needs and enriching human life.

The professional ethics is not an exhaustive list of rules; there are ethical challenges and problems that social workers are facing in daily practice. Some of them are general, some other are specific to particular settings. This collection of studies and essays is not designed to address all the issues to which social workers are confronted in their professional activity, nor do we intend to “lecture” them or provide guidance in specific situations. Rather, the aim of this dossier is to encourage social workers and other practitioners to reflect in a more systematic way on the moral dilemmas of their professions and develop a line of research which would lead them to ethically informed decisions.

Ethical problems habitually arise in situations when conflicting interests and competing rights are manifests. While social workers have always the role to support, protect people, they belong to bureaucratic hierarchies and are taking orders from others or they have to cooperate with professionals which do not share the same values and principles.

In this dossier, the values and goals of social workers are confronted with those of professionals from neighboring areas, such as health care, social research, public managers and so on.

In the Modern societies, public surveysare one of the sources for the legitimate public policy actions. It is important, therefore, that people trust the survey results and that the social research ethics to be taken into account. In her article, Mădălina ZAMFIROIU reveals some ways of tricking the public eye without any obvious violation of social research ethics’ rules. She argues that the public opinion is manufactured while the surveys are carried on and it is stabilized once the results are conveyed by the media. She concludes, then, that the focus on researchers’ moral behavior should be replaced by the social research ethics.
The professionals working in psychosocial oncology have been the subject of a study aiming to identify the stage of development of this area seven years after Romania joined the European Union. The research team coordinated by Csaba László DÉGI presents the first empirical study conducted among Romanian professionals in psychosocial oncology care. The results are coreelating variables, such as: socio-demographic and professional characteristics, aspects of job satisfaction, opinions and attitudes about work and cancer patients’ distress, awareness of the state of psychosocial oncology development in Romania, and current professional needs. While discussing the implications for professional ethics in psychosocial oncology care, the authors poinys to directions for future action to improve services in psychosocial cancer care in Romania. The need for a transition from power to empowerment is brought forward, as patients are still approached by professionals with over-protective and avoidant attitudes.
Many times, the practice of child protective services, which consists in decideing what is best for a child’s life usually implies, may deal with uncertain factors and cause inner conflicts in all those who are involved in the decision.Oana LăcrămioaraBĂDĂRĂU’s article aims to discuss some aspects that account for the ways and methods to assess and to make a pertinent ethical decision. She argues that special attention should be paid to aspects related to basic human rights, as well as those related to the medium and long term consequences produced by the measures implementedon child’s development.

In the care of elderly people, social workers often deal with religious faith and various forms of spirituality. Should they encourage religious and spiritual practices? Can they rely on them in order to alleviate the anxiety of the older adults facing many life-threatening and disabling illnesses? The exploratory research conducted by Mihai-Bogdan IOVU and his colleagues brings forward new data, which are suggestion that religiosity is significantly associated with the fear of death and acceptance of death attitudes.

Through a case study, Florin LAZĂR discusses case from legal and ethical points of view the topic of HIV stigma and confidentiality. He stresses out the need for social workers to make efforts to convince HIV positive persons, as the young man from Segarcea, to inform their sexual partners and protect them.
The profession of health mediator is a recent one; it was introduced so as to facilitate the access of the Roma population to the health care system, to facilitate the communication between health professionals and Roma groups and not in the least to facilitate the implementation of public health programs in Roma communities. Andrada PÂRVU is tackling the issue of the access of ethnic minority populations to the health care system. In her research she focuses on the ethical dilemmas in the doctor-Roma patient relationship, seen from the perspective of health mediators. She concludes that the ethical problems are related to stigmatization and discrimination in the provision of health services, to the barriers in doctor-patient communication, and finally to the failure of medical doctors to adapt the medical approach to the culture of Roma patients.
The suicide prevention line for children and teenagers in Bucharest is presented and evaluated after five years of activity. Emanuel Adrian SÂRBU underlines that it may be considered an example of good practices, since it put together local knowledge, human resources and social actors.

Sorina POLEDNA makes the case for an alliance between social work and art therapy. Her main argument consist in showing that the both have an essential contribution in facilitating access to development resources and strengthening the protective factors. More importantly, each of this two types of activities are governed by values and ethical principles, such as the respect for the dignity and uniqueness of the individual, the pragmatism and confidentiality, self-determination, and so on. Thus, art can contribute to the operationalization of ethical values in the social work.

The management of the public service has an important place in fostering a moral climate in social work institutions and maintaining the organization's legitimacy in the eyes of the public. Daniela Tatiana AGHEORGHIESEI (CORODEANU)’s paper brings into focus the importance of the concept of responsibility in the public management. She insists that not only the following of procedures, but also the decision maker awareness and assuming of the moral obligation, are expected and required from managers in order to be morally responsible.

Aiming to obtain insight into the subjective experiences of caregivers working at children’s homes have regarding their roles and responsibilities, Margaret FUNKE OMIDIRE and her collaborators collected data from focus group discussions, group collage and semi-structured interviews. The study shows that caregivers view their work environment as child-focused and expressed the need to be acknowledged as professionals and to be empowered with more training.

Georgiana-Cristina RENTEA summarizes the governmental initiatives aimed at return migrants or Romanian citizens settled temporarily abroad. Her paper, based on data provided by authorities responsible for relevant information about Romanian emigrants or the integration of those who already returned, shows that, although the emigration of Romanians became an important fact during the last years, the initiatives aimed to sustain their return or reintegration are still rather limited in scope and effects.

Cătălin PÎRVU’s article advances a 4D paradigm of Body, Emotions, Mind and Spirit instead of the current 3D paradigm of just Body, Emotions and Mind and proposes that the physical manifestation of Spirit, which integrates both the body, the mind and the emotions, be considered the individual personality type. His article is a journey inside the trends of globalization and hypothesises that its integrative nature follows the pattern of the individual personality. His conclusion is that the world rediscovers itself through the globalization – glocalization dynamics.

In a paper on the “Ethical and Moral Perspectives of Social Gerontology”, Denizia GAL aanalyses the demographic, political and legislative changes that signal the aging of our societies and highlights the urgent need for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary gerontological knowledge. Underlining the fact that the elderly population is a heterogeneous category, our ethical concern has to be oriented towards raising awareness and changing the discourse regarding elderly generations.