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On this page we reflect on social work values and ethics and consider some of the dilemmas discussed in the social work fiction novel 'Forces at Work'. If you haven't yet read the book, please be aware that this page contains some (limited) spoilers which may detract from your enjoyment of the book.
When we first meet Darryl, it is soon clear he is a disturbed ten year-old-boy and has suffered years of neglect. Who let him down? His parents, school, wider community or later, his social worker? How could mistakes have been avoided and did he ultimately deserve what happened or does no child of that age deserve anything more than nuturing, love and care despite the challenges they face?
Clynton's journey through the care system had been an unhappy and unsuccessful one with numerous placement breakdowns. How could that have been avoided and should a tougher line have been taken with him or did the social work values of his workers preclude him from settling down? Where his foster carers too quick to end his placements and should they have claimed him regardless as they would have with their own children despite all of the challenges Clynton presented?
Paige had little time to find her feet when she first started as a child care social worker and she made mistakes. Were her social work values and ethics misguided or was she ultimately a good social worker who simply went 'that extra mile' for her clients, or was that just unprofessional? How could things with Darryl turned out differently and were the actions she took towards the end of the book justifiable or should she have simply let her department take responsibility rather than take matters into her own hands?
Lesley was appointed manager of children's services at a time of crisis. Should her social work values and ethics have made her take a different approach to her social work department or was she right to act solely as a agency lead and implement national requirements against the advice of her managers? Knowing what we know do about her, was she ultimnately a good social worker manager?
Greg was a newly-qualified social worker with a clear set of values and ethics that informed his work. Was he right to see clients purely as cases that needed to be managed or did that approach fail the very people he was there to help? He argued with Paige about the appropriate level of intervention and accused her of being too emotionally attached to her clients. Which approach was best?
Mike was the team's union representative and strongly supported strike action against his employer despite knowing the implications for a vulnerable client group. Were his values right or was he wrong when he once urged Paige to "see the wider picture"? Who, if anyone, benefitted from the strike and who's circumstances were negatively impacted? Was his case managemnet of the Robson/Reeds family effective?
Although we don't meet Beth in 'Forces at Work', she was Clynton's first social worker, determined to place him with black adoptive parents. Having grown up in a white foster home herself, her dual heritage background made her conclude that children with a black heritage should only be placed with black carers. Was she right to overlook Clynton's wider needs and why was his black heritage considered to be more important that his white heritage and cultural upbringing in a northern semi-urban community?
Jeff and Linda Sanderson were foster carers of long-standing. To put it simply, were they good carers or should more be demanded of those looking after children in public care? Would they have responded to their own children the way they responded to those they fostered?