Youth work is inherently filled with dilemmas: the challenges in which there are tensions between competing considerations, conflicting interests, and multiple options for taking action (Larson & Walker, 2010). Ethical challenges in particular deal with “rights, duties, needs, interests, relationships, motives and the maintenance or transgression of prevailing norms” (Banks, 2010, p.12). Complex ethical dilemmas often surface unexpectedly within everyday practice. They unfold quickly and demand a response within a very short time frame. To understand and improve effective youth work practice during such ethical dilemmas, our research explores the types of ethical tensions that practitioners face and how contextually embedded responses facilitate ethical development for both the youth worker and young person.
Our research is based on interview data collected from 25 program leaders across time in 13 programs for high school aged youth. Leaders were asked to identify a recent dilemma situation they faced in the program, what considerations they had in this situation, how they formulated their response, and what happened as a result. This yielded data about 71 dilemma scenarios, 18 of which were identified as ethical.
This poster features three types of ethical dilemmas that arise in youth work, including situations where a young person violates a program norm, engages in illicit or risky behavior, and situations that represented incongruent values between youth worker and the young people or their family. We also present three key features of program leaders’ responses to these situations and discuss implications for training and supporting youth workers.
Walker, Kate; Weiss Rhodes, Tamara Ginger.
Ethical dilemmas experienced by youth workers: Implications for practice and professional development.
University of Minnesota Extension.
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