Print Сite this

Ethics of Removal of Children From Their Home

Abstract

Child protective services (CPS) is a government institution, most commonly a branch of a state’s social services department. It maintains crucial responsibility for overseeing and investigating cases of child abuse and neglect and acts to protect the child and enforce state and federal laws when necessary. One of the most socially controversial and ethically challenging situations that occur for Child Protective Services is the removal of children from their homes because it is deemed unsafe, a direct threat, or unsustainable for habitat by state authorities and CPS representatives. Therefore, there are two direct positions on the issue of removing children from their homes. One is currently the status quo where children are removed from homes under any suspicion or evidence of even small instances of neglect or inappropriate action by parents. The other position is that child removal from homes is highly detrimental and traumatic for both the children and their parents, with the tactic being best applied in absolutely dire circumstances of direct or expected danger to a child. This paper investigates the causes behind this ethical issue and ongoing protocols. It then analyzes current ethical standards for CPS workers as well as the application of three distinct ethical theories. Finally, the context is discussed, and solutions are proposed based on evidence and the potential for improvement of current services.

We will write a
custom essay
specifically for you

for only $16.05 $11/page
308 certified writers online
Learn More

Framework Appraisal

One of the most critical areas in the human services industry is child welfare and protective services. Child protective services (CPS) is a government institution, most commonly a branch of a state’s social services department. It maintains crucial responsibility for overseeing and investigating cases of child abuse and neglect and acts to protect the child and enforce state and federal laws when necessary (StopItNow, n.d.). Child welfare and protective services are a crucial part of human services, but due to the nature of the job, it faces socially difficult, ethically unclear, and emotionally challenging situations where decision-making relies both on strict policy and also the personal judgment of caseworkers.

Ethical Problem

One of the most socially controversial and ethically challenging situations that occur for Child Protective Services is the removal of children from their homes because it is deemed unsafe, a direct threat, or unsustainable for habitat by state authorities and CPS representatives. While certain situations, such as direct threat or physical/sexual abuse to the child, are clear-cut ethically, with immediate removal of the child necessary, many other situations are not. Child removal, in most cases other than emergency situations, occurs through courts, where CPS has to demonstrate elements of abuse or neglect (Child Welfare Information Gateway, n.d.).

However, there are two significant issues with this approach. First, abuse and neglect can vary in degrees, with the public child welfare system, both historically and in modern-day, based on faulty assumptions about what is best for the child. Despite the goal of making ‘reasonable efforts to preserve families before removing a child and placing them in foster care, there is little progress in that area (Trivedi, 2019). Furthermore, children can be removed even if there are just suspicions or accusations (tips from neighbors, etc.) of abuse and neglect while the casework investigates the family. The system has notably been abused by disgruntled family members or romantic partners (MacFarquhar, 2017). Even though the law is meant to presume that the interests of the child and parents are aligned unless there is a finding of them being unfit, in most cases court treats parents or guardians as adversaries with full suspicion placed on parents, sometimes with no evidence even yet being found or presented (Trivedi, 2019).

Therefore, there are two direct perspectives on the issue of removing children from their homes. One is currently the status quo where children are removed from homes under any suspicion or evidence of even small instances of neglect or inappropriate action by parents. Meanwhile, caseworkers, while wanting to help families, also evaluate them by the most stringent state standards, having to prove allegations only by a “preponderance of evidence” in many jurisdictions (MacFarquhar, 2017). The other position is that child removal from homes is highly detrimental and traumatic for both the children and their parents, with the tactic being best applied in absolutely dire circumstances of direct or expected danger to a child. Cases should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis of who is being accused, who, if anyone provided the tip to CPS, and the circumstances of the case (MacFarquhar, 2017).

Positions and Theories

While there is no national code of ethics for CPS workers, there are still guidelines on which these human service workers can rely. For example, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) offers standards for social work practice in childcare (NASW, n.d.) Meanwhile, state agencies may also offer codes of ethics for their respective jurisdictions. When applying the NASW code of ethics to the situation at hand, there are key standards to consider. First, Standard 4 states that social workers shall advocate for resource and system reforms that will improve services for children and families (NASW, n.d.). This includes advocacy efforts for families in order to improve public and administrative support. This, first and foremost, should focus on shifting the perception of placing immediate blame on parents and guardians but instead viewing cases neutrally and allowing for said guardians to advocate for themselves and their needs.

Next, Standard 9 focuses on social workers performing an initial comprehensive assessment of the child and family with the goal of gathering information. This guideline implies that children should be protected in accordance with state and federal laws but also indicates that child services must maintain open communication with families, inform them of their rights, and aid with legal representation. The key element in the standard is that “the social worker shall seek to understand the family’s perspective, identify their strengths, and convey understanding and empathy for the family’s situation and/or difficulties” (NASW, n.d., p. 19). Finally, Standard 12 states that children should be placed in out-of-home care when they are unable to safely remain at home, and the social worker should direct all planning efforts to return children home or place them with a permanent family as soon as possible. The standard indicates that the strengths and needs of both the child and the caregiver should be considered when assessing the safety and appropriateness of changing placement options, with permanency and preservation of family having priority (NASW, n.d.). Therefore, all standards point to the fact that social workers in child welfare should practice discretion and professional judgment and aid families in preserving placement rather than taking the extreme over-cautionary approach of removing the child when there is no strong evidence of wrongdoing.

Get your
100% original paper
on any topic

done in as little as
3 hours
Learn More

The first theory of ethics applied in this situation is deontology. The theory developed by Immanuel Kant argues that it is not the end result, which is important, but rather the moral intent of a decision that highlights the morality of one’s actions. However, there are also duties that are imperative and must never be abandoned regardless of the predicted outcome. There are perfect duties that must be inflexibly obeyed and imperfect duties that have some flexibility (McCartney & Parent, 2019). Applying deontology to the ethical dilemma is by evaluating the case situation at hand. Extreme abuse and neglect of children are immoral actions with immoral intents, also being an inflexible aspect. However, other situations call for evaluating the intent and well-being of the home and child. For example, sometimes a child can be injured by accident, and although the parent was neglectful at the time by not preventing whatever caused the injury, it does not define their intent to harm. Similarly, economic circumstances that place a family into poverty and near homelessness do not define the intent of the parent to neglect the child, even if it superficially seems to be that way.

The second theory is virtue ethics, which is based on the premise that good people will do or at least attempt to do good things. Proposed as early as Aristotle in Ancient Greece, the ethics theory suggests that good character demonstrated through life is exemplary of ethical behavior and most likely in result people doing well rather than harm, demonstrating moral goodness through intellectual and moral virtues such as compassion, generosity, and integrity (McCartney & Parent, 2019). Applying this theory, it can be argued that social workers can take into account the virtues and character of parents or guardians when conducting initial assessments and making the decision to remove the child from home. CPS caseworkers have access to a variety of information that can be used to assess parents, such as personal data, criminal records, records of employment, and finances. CPS workers also evaluate the family in the current context, including gathering testimony from family, neighbors, and schools where the child attends. It allows for painting a whole picture of the type of person that the parent or guardian is and whether there are certain patterns of behavior that are evident throughout their lifetime that can potentially reflect on their role as a parent.

The final applicable ethical approach is known as ethics of care, sometimes known as feminist ethics, which is concerned with caring for others, particularly for those in need and who cannot take care of themselves. Ethics of care is an important perspective for government and enforcement agencies, suggesting that an ethical solution may be to come to an understanding through consensus to resolve issues rather than formally charge and subject families through legal courts. Ethics of care emphasizes compassionate and humane resolutions, finding alternative solutions to moral dilemmas (McCartney & Parent, 2019). Ethics of care is highly relevant to the ethical issue at hand. Acting based on these principles encourages social workers to understand and empathize with families and children, finding solutions that divert from the extreme such as ripping a child from their home and family. It calls to wholesomely evaluate the situation and consider the aspects of human relationships and the trauma that may be experienced by either child, parent, or both. Only then, if there are circumstances justifying it, should action be taken based on full legal authority, such as to remove the child.

Solution

As evident in the discussions above, the ethical and social issue of Child Protective Services removing children from homes is complex. While it is a procedure that is sometimes necessary and highly effective in protecting the welfare of a child, utilizing one set of rules and protocols in all cases is also redundant and most often detrimental. The problem with such a sensitive issue such as this is 1) human lives are directly involved, so the actions will have direct long-term consequences, either if the child was removed justifiably or erroneously, and 2) human judgment is fundamentally flawed, so both the social worker and courts may be potentially right or wrong in removing the child, and that will lead to the first point of affected consequences. The complexities of cases inherently create an ethical dilemma because, on the one hand, removing the child may cause traumatic experiences, but if he is not removed from the situation and faces harm, it represents tremendous incompetency on behalf of the CPS social workers.

The overabundance of this intervention is used primarily to avoid one consequence above else, which is wrongfully failing to protect a child. However, the system, just like many government agencies, is often ineffective, full of bureaucracy, and maybe even prejudiced towards certain populations (racial minorities, drug users, etc.). While some behaviors such as drug use may be detrimental to children, there is an inherent difference between parents who use heroin and have served prison time for drug abuse and parents who smoke marijuana and were simply caught at the wrong place at the wrong time by law enforcement or CPS.

The proposed solution is to shift policy towards using the intervention of child removal from parents only in cases of evident (current) or potential (in the future) physical/sexual/extreme emotional abuse or neglect to the point where it threatens the long-term health of the child. Similar to that of criminal law, where the state has the responsibility to provide a burden of proof of the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, a similar principle should be applied that CPS has to provide strong and undeniable, not circumstantial, evidence that the child’s environment is unsafe to the point of removing them from the family. Of course, the system has to be more flexible and work on a case-by-case basis because, for example, in cases of sexual abuse, if a child insists on inappropriate touching but the parent denies it, it is still potentially viable to prevent further contact while an investigation is ongoing. However, the policy change should at least eliminate the predetermined suspicion of framing parents as adversaries from the beginning. The importance is to eliminate the removal based on suspected neglect alone, which is the majority of such cases, and neglect is often correlated with the poverty in which many of these families live (Chill, 2018).

The situation is both complicated but simple as there are no realistic alternatives. CPS and the state can either remove the child or not. Up to date, the efforts focused on removing the child just to be on the ‘safe side.’ There are potential incremental solutions such as increased monitoring and checks on the families, but realistically in the highly underfunded human services system, there are barely enough resources as is to function. However, removing children from homes is cruel and oftentimes does not address the core issue. Another key solution would be for inter-organizational collaboration when investigating such cases, allowing CPS to partner with other government agencies and even private organizations to address the underlying causes of the suspected or identified neglect or abuse. This can range from providing families with temporary housing to employment to even offering mental health services or parental classes, depending on the case. Although this does occur in a limited capacity already, as CPS does seek to cooperate with parents, it should be greatly expanded in order to help create an environment in families for the child that satisfies the state standards of care.

We will write a custom
essays
specifically
for you!
Get your first paper with
15% OFF
Learn More

References

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (n.d.). Child abuse and neglect. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Web.

Chill, P. (2018). Hundred of U.S. children taken from home. Hartford Courtant. Web.

McCartney, S., & Parent, R. (n.d.). Ethics in law enforcement. Web.

NASW. (n.d.). NASW standards for social work practice in child welfare. Web.

StopItNow. (n.d.). What is child protective services. Web.

Trivedi, S. (2019). The harm of child removal. NYU Review of Law & Social Change, 43, 523-580. Web.

Cite this paper

Select style

Reference

StudyCorgi. (2022, September 18). Ethics of Removal of Children From Their Home. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/ethics-of-removal-of-children-from-their-home/

Reference

StudyCorgi. (2022, September 18). Ethics of Removal of Children From Their Home. https://studycorgi.com/ethics-of-removal-of-children-from-their-home/

Work Cited

"Ethics of Removal of Children From Their Home." StudyCorgi, 18 Sept. 2022, studycorgi.com/ethics-of-removal-of-children-from-their-home/.

* Hyperlink the URL after pasting it to your document

1. StudyCorgi. "Ethics of Removal of Children From Their Home." September 18, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/ethics-of-removal-of-children-from-their-home/.


Bibliography


StudyCorgi. "Ethics of Removal of Children From Their Home." September 18, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/ethics-of-removal-of-children-from-their-home/.

References

StudyCorgi. 2022. "Ethics of Removal of Children From Their Home." September 18, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/ethics-of-removal-of-children-from-their-home/.

References

StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Ethics of Removal of Children From Their Home'. 18 September.

This paper was written and submitted to our database by a student to assist your with your own studies. You are free to use it to write your own assignment, however you must reference it properly.

If you are the original creator of this paper and no longer wish to have it published on StudyCorgi, request the removal.