Case Study on Ethics and Dual Relationships in Social Work

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Ethics Case Study: Juan S.

The social worker in this case study worked at the ABC Children’s Wellness Center. An ESL teacher at a local elementary school referred Juan S. to her. Juan came to the center with his mother, Silvia.

Before seeing Juan and his mother, the social worker called the ESL teacher who referred Juan to her to discuss the case. The teacher reported that Juan was showing little interest in classroom activities or his peers, and always seemed exhausted. He was irritable and frequently became physically aggressive toward classmates who made fun of him for being so small and thin (sometimes calling him “mosquito”). She also stated that he often appeared to be daydreaming, and when she tried to talk to him, he seemed to withdraw further.

Juan presented as a very thin 6-year-old who was small for his age. He spoke very little English. He avoided eye contact with the social worker and would not speak. He fidgeted and then got up to wander around the social worker’s office. He picked up a teddy bear and brought it the social worker, crawled up into her lap and snuggled there. She rocked him gently there while she continued talking to his mother about their financial difficulties, and Juan appeared to fall asleep. She gently woke Juan and tried to put him back on the floor, and as he got down from her lap, he reached up and kissed her on the cheek. He then went back to playing with the toys in the office.

His mother reported that they emigrated from Mexico 18 months ago along with Juan’s 17-year-old brother, Jaime. Juan had lived in a rural village in the Yucatan peninsula with his parents and 3 older siblings until 2005 when hurricane Wilma destroyed their home. The eye of the storm went directly over their village, and when Juan’s father went outside during the calm to survey the damage, he was electrocuted by a downed wire. A few months after her husband’s death, Silvia decided to move with her four children to the city of Monterrey in...
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