The values I personally hold dearest and strive every day to realize, exemplify, and uphold for others as well as myself are fairness, social justice, tolerance, integrity, dignity, and equality. These values are deeply rooted in my personality and have, for as long as I can remember, guided my thinking and behavior. I track their origins partly to the circumstances in which I grew up.
I was raised in a multi-cultural and very diverse environment and was very early on confronted with a variety of cultures, traditions, languages, and lifestyles. I was exposed to a wonderful variety of people and circumstances that taught me to appreciate and embrace diversity for its unique and life-enriching opportunities. Neither, the family I was born in nor the one I have created are ‘cookie-cutter’ or conventional and I have experienced discrimination and intolerance against my loved ones and myself. This might be why I developed a very strong desire for (social) justice. I was never able to comprehend discrimination and still firmly believe that it is an entirely selfish and fear-based sentiment rooted in misinformation, ignorance, and a lack of empathy. Therefore, I strive to be absolutely accepting and tolerant and am rarely shocked or startled by anything. I attempt to approach each person and each situation with empathy, a positive and open mind, and a welcoming attitude. I try to follow reason and, despite my strong sense of justice and fairness, I am very forgiving. I believe in equality, respect, and tolerance in every area of life and demand the same for myself.
The Social Work Core Values service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence are identical and complementary to my personal values.
‘Service’ refers to the helpful and supportive nature of social work promoting the advancement of clients, the satisfaction of their needs, and restoration and preservation of their safety and wellbeing. Social workers serve their clients, as well as the community as a whole, by helping their clients become autonomous, healthy, and productive members of society.
‘Social justice’ refers to the fact that social workers are to be advocates for their clients’ rights and should strive to achieve equal access to opportunities and resources and equal participation in all areas of society for their clients.
‘Dignity and worth of the person’ refers to the fact that every client must be treated equally, with utmost respect and their dignity must be preserved and/or restored in and through our service for them.
‘Importance of human relationships’ stands for the social worker’s understanding that the creation and nurturing of healthy human bonds between the client and the social worker and the client and other persons is important and extremely beneficial for the client’s progress. Social workers strive to create a stable and trusting relationship with their clients so that clients feel free, safe, and encouraged to accept help and can develop trust.
‘Integrity’ demands that social workers act in a trustworthy manner. The outcome of social work very much depends on clients’ cooperation and trust and if they feel that their social worker lacks integrity they will not believe that he or she has their best interest in mind.
‘Competence’ in social work is very important because of what is at stake. It is not uncommon that the fate of persons or even families depends on the social worker’s competence to guide them into the right direction and/or to provide them with the means necessary to regain control of their lives. It is important that social workers keep up with professional standards and developments, especially in their specific areas of expertise. As far as I am aware, there are no fundamental differences between my own and the values of the profession. If I were ever to be faced with a situation, where I would encounter a significant disagreement of personal and professional values, I would have to first consider the specific details of the case in order to determine what course of action to take. Things to consider in this decision would be the needs of my client, my legal rights and obligations as a social worker, the rules and regulations of the agency that I work for, and my own understanding of the situation followed by a subjective and objective analysis of the ethical and/or professional dilemma that I am potentially faced with. At the end of these deliberations, I would either have to excuse myself from the case or I would have to go against my personal beliefs, if doing so would mean doing right by the law, my organization, and my professional ethical guidelines. In my opinion, I would have to be a social worker first and then a private person. Of course, if my personal and professional values were fundamentally and permanently at odds, I would have to reconsider whether the social work profession truly is a good fit for me.
An ethical dilemma is a situation, in which one is faced with a choice between two imperfect solutions. It is a scenario, where it is not possible to make a choice that satisfies all parties and everyone’s sentiments of what is just, right, and fair. If ever an ethical dilemma arose in the exercise of my profession, I would attempt to take the best possible course of action under consideration of my professional obligations (code of ethics, laws, rules of my organization) and my client’s needs. I would try to advocate for my client’s needs as best as I can, within the constraints of what is allowed and good practice, and would put a fair amount of effort and work towards finding maybe a loophole or exception, or even attempt to inspire a change, extension, or clarification of policy. If all should fail, I might attempt to provide my client with other points of contacts, sources of help, or alternatives, in order to ensure he or she is, if not entirely properly, than at least existentially taken care of.
Additionally, I would make sure to address this dilemma within my agency and professional association, in the hope that better or more flexible policies might be put in place to provide a more desirable outcome for such cases in the future. As a social worker, one should be prepared to work in an environment of opposing and conflicting interests. Social work is a helping profession that works within the realm of scarce public resources and conflicting interests (individual vs. society) and therefore ethical dilemmas may sometimes occur. A good social worker should be aware of this, should anticipate it, and should have a strategy ready to tackle such situations without getting overwhelmed or paralyzed by them. He or she should have excellent mediation skills and should be able to advocate for a certain course of action, by knowing and being able to communicate why it is to be preferred over another, seemingly more preferable one. Additionally, it helps to keep an open mind. Sometimes the argument that the ‘opposing team’ makes is convincing after all. This can, in consideration of the greater good, create an unexpected but universally acceptable solution to the ethical dilemma.
As a social worker, I would attempt to prepare as best as possible. I would make sure I know my rights and professional boundaries, would always try to consolidate needs and requirements, and would just attempt to be as helpful as possible to my client and as loyal and compliant as necessary to my organization, the law, and professional standards. As stated above, the creation of equal treatment, access, and opportunity is one of my highest goals in life. I attempt to exemplify these qualities in my attitudes and interactions, reminding myself constantly to stay objective and unbiased. I critically evaluate the way I interact with others on a daily basis. I do so, recognizing that I am far from perfect and knowing that I still have a long way to go before I can truly reach my goal of being free from prejudice. I strive to be tolerant and accepting and in doing so find that one of my weaknesses is that I have a hard time dealing with irrationally prejudiced and narrow-minded people. I resent any kind of discrimination and cannot and will not stand by when others are discriminated, demeaned, or mistreated. Such behavior goes against my beliefs and I am aware that I have to work on better controlling my reactions to them. I struggle when I have to work with people, who are on the opposing end of the acceptance and tolerance scale, and acknowledge that I must learn to tolerate them as well. I have yet to master this task. Ever since I can remember, wonderful persons of different races, religious beliefs, ethnicities, sexual orientations, physical and mental abilities, and socio-economic statuses have surrounded me.
My life has been enriched and I have been blessed by each and every one of them and their combined diversity. I am a gay female immigrant, a mother, a wife to a disabled Army veteran, and a German Jew, who grew up with an African stepfather. I have had a lot of prejudice thrown in my path – enough to know better and to want to do better for others and myself.