University of Southern California
• Organization has been greatly criticized for its operations and internal
• DCFS had a backlog of at least 3,200 investigations into initial complaints
of abuse or neglect that had been open more than the maximum 30 days.
• From 2008-2010 found that in only 31 percent of the cases social workers
did the appropriate assessments of a home before placing a child there.
• High turnover in its management- The department has had four directors
in one year and also saw a high turnover in key management positions.
• A general instability in management has hampered the department's
ability to address its long- standing problems such as completing timely
investigations and placement assessments.
• The turnover has impeded the department's ability to develop and
implement a strategic plan that would have provided cohesiveness to its
various initiatives and communicated a clear vision to department staff.
• Source; LA Times, dailybreeze.com 2012
•Organization: Los Angeles Department of Children and
Family- District B.
•Case -Tina is one of the youth that is transitioning from the
foster care system in District B and her case was handled
by Public Administrator Ms Brown who is a social worker.
•Tina as an 8 year old was placed into the foster care
because her mother was physically abusive. The years
spent in foster care, she moved a total of 34 times to
various group and foster homes. At age 18 she is ready to
aged out of the system even though she is still in high
school and not prepared to survive on her own. With no
resources and no one to count on because parents are
Ms. Brown as a Social worker (public administrator) is faces with an Ethical Dilemma of
Terminating Tina as required by eligibility of the Department in compliance of the federal
policy related to supporting the youth in the system after age 18 yrs.
Ms. Brown is faced with a burden of conflicting values and divergent responsibilities as it
pertains to the termination of knowing the what lies head of Tina. (Distinguishing
abandonment from termination can be central to understanding what constitutes ethically
responsible client care in difficult cases.)
Competing Ethical Principles:
•Stability- For foster youth
Balancing: VALUE/MORAL(What is right for client ) + ORG/ Policy = CONFLICT
•Not to terminate Tina from the LA County Department of Children and
Family Service system; allow her to continue receiving support from the
department until there is stability in her situation.
•Ms Brown will provide her client time to stabilize in her situation while
still receiving services from the agency
•Ms. Brown as a public administrator will not be abiding with the federal
requirements of terminating- violation of law
•Loss of Job
•Client will loss services eventually.
Terminate Tina from system but request to receive foster care benefits after
age 18 under the AB 12 legislation ( extension of service request)
And the participation conditions include that a youth must be:
•Complete high school
•Enrolled in college
•Participate in a program designed to remove barriers to employment
•Employed at least 80hrs a month
•Unable to do one of the above requirements due to medical conditions.
•Ms Brown provides a resource for a client
•Client may not meet the requirements of AB12 – e.g not complete high school
•There is an assumption that AB 12 fits all foster youth transitioning
AB 12 State Policy
• The federal Fostering Connections to Success and
Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 made extensive policy
and program changes to improve the well being and‐
outcomes for children in foster care system including
changes related to the extension of federal funding for
foster care services for non- minors from ages 18 21‐
• if they meet certain participation criteria.
Participation by counties is optional. And each county
defines what the waiver negotiations mandate the funds
be used for a specific purpose – “preventative services”.
Terminate Tina from the system but as a Social Worker (Public Administrator) assist with
supporting her in the transition with her as virtual partner in the decision process.
•Ms. Brown meeting and abiding with program alignment with federal requirements by
terminating Tina because of eligibility as it relates to transitional youth.
•Enhanced and supportive system for Tina. She is able to receive multiple resources that
support and meet her unique and individual circumstances.
•Youth empowerment - Tina being a vital partner in the decision process is empowering
•Increased positive links to the community for client and the organization as well.
•Long term possible social and economic benefits for the community; i.e. reduced juvenile
crime, homeless, substance abuse
•Over whelmed, under resources Public Administrators with the pressure to deal with a
large case load may not have time to deal with situation and provide the support
•Terminate Tina - because she is no longer eligible for services.
•Relieve federal funds to the next child that needs support
•Ms. Brown meeting and abiding with program alignment with federal
requirements as it relates to transitional youth.
•Keeps her job
•Tina’s termination may cause further harm to her situation which may
include mental health issues, substance abuse, homeless, unemployment,
teen pregnancy, public assistance, not completion of high school (poor
education achievement) and other expensive outcomes for young adults
who are forced out of foster care at the age of 18.
•Moral Confrontation for Ms Brown- Challenging the morality of policy
Ethical Principles supporting
Choose Alternative 3
Autonomy - Ms Brown have an obligation to deliberate
and decide free from improper influence- She has the
freedom to decided what to do that is best for her client
and freedom to act on that decision.
Beneficence- Ms Brown is required to act for the good
or interest of another- acting on the benefit of citizenry
broadly rather than personal or private interest.
Justice- What is justice for this child? Looking at all the
things she has gone through? All youth deserve to be
treated fairly. Tina deserves the same opportunities and
access like the rest of the young people despite her status.
Ethical Principles supporting Alternative
Public Interest – Ms Brown has to act to preserve and
enhance the larger interests of the public- Looking at the
long-term issues surrounding transitional youth.
Accountability- Will Ms Brown be able to publically
justify this decision with consequences? Ms Brown is
accountable to client and organization.
Stability-The conflict of children in foster care’s best
interest and stability is not at heart a legal one but an
ethical one. The best Alternative is one that chooses the
best stable situation for the youth.
Social workers’ primary goal is to help people in need and to address
their social problems.
Value: Social Justice
Social workers pursue social change, particularly with and on behalf of
vulnerable and oppressed individuals
Value: Importance of Human Relationships
Social workers recognize the central importance of human
Value: Dignity and Worth of the Person
Social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person.
Social Worker’s Ethical Responsibilities
• Primary responsibility is to promote the well-being of clients. In
general, clients’ interests are primary.
• Respect & promote the right of clients to self-determination.
• Assist clients in their efforts to identify & clarify their goals. ( may limit
clients’ right to self determination when, in the social workers’
professional judgment, clients’ actions or potential actions pose a
serious, foreseeable, and imminent risk to themselves or others.)
• Terminate services to clients and professional relationships with them
when such services and
relationships are no longer required or no longer serve the clients’
needs or interests.
“As the Ethical Climate of the
Organization becomes stronger,
the Organizational performance
values will be strongly
(Menzel & Carson 1999)
There is a clear outlined objective of the organisation which is to
support and protect the safety of children.
Ms Brown has the support of the organisation to make an ethical
decision based on her role.
County has a Structured Decision Making processes :
• To provide SW with simple, objective, and reliable tools with which to
make the best possible decisions for individual cases.
• To provide managers with information for improved planning and
The organisation will also support any collaborative arrangements
with public, private and community partners to provide quality child
welfare services. (e.g partnering with the faith community)
Leadership turnover has impeded the department's
ability to develop and implement a strategic plan that would
have provided cohesiveness to its various initiatives and
communicated a clear vision to department staff.
Bureaucratic norms: follow orders
Emphasis on efficient means instead of ends.
Management Strategy for Change
Adopt practices in their agencies that help employees at all levels engage in
ethical decision making.
Encourage an ethical work environment.
Provide continues formal of ethics training.
Encourage participatory decision making and trust building between the
clients/youth and social worker, and also trust between the social workers and
Emphasize within the management strategy on the idea that public
administrators are professional citizens or citizen administrators; they are
fiduciaries who are employed by the citizenry to work on their behalf – citizen’s
interests should be primary.