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The Role of Law in Social Work Practice and Administration

The Role of Law in Social Work Practice and Administration

Theodore J. Stein
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 496
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Role of Law in Social Work Practice and Administration
    Book Description:

    The strong nexus between law and social work is beyond dispute: the law informs day-to-day social work practice and administration, and social workers are employed by the courts. Moreover, they work collaboratively with attorneys in legal aid offices, public defenders'offices, and other law enforcement settings, interviewing clients, preparing reports for use in court, interpreting social science information, and providing consultation on how best to approach client problems. This book addresses the relationship between the professions of social work and law and helps social workers develop the knowledge necessary to practice in a legal environment. The author focuses on how the law affects the day-to-day practice of social work; the creation, administration, and operation of social service agencies; and the ways in which social workers and attorneys collaborate to serve the public.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51809-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science, Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. PART 1

    • 1 Introduction
      (pp. 3-16)

      This book is addressed mainly to social work students and to professionals in the field of social work. It focuses on the ways in which the law affects practice and administration and on the working relationship between social workers and attorneys. My intention is to make the law accessible so that social workers, in whatever capacity they practice, will understand (1) the various ways in which the law affects their profession; (2) how to expand the knowledge from this text into your own ongoing research; and (3) some ways in which social workers and attorneys can collaborate to better serve...

    • 2 Sources of Law
      (pp. 17-42)

      In chapter 1, I said that the development, implementation, and administration of social welfare programs and the day-to-day practice of social work are affected by the law. Your in-depth exploration of the ways in which the law affects programs, practice, and administration begins with the material in this chapter. We shall start with a definition of the law and then review six topics. The first three will address constitutional law, covering (1) federal and state constitutional law; (2) the U.S. Constitution and states’ rights; and (3) constitutional law and the provision of social welfare. Next, our attention will turn to...

    • 3 The Justice System and an Introduction to Criminal and Civil Law
      (pp. 43-73)

      Many of you will have contact with the justice system in the course of your practice. You may be employed by the courts, law enforcement agencies, or law firms, or you may be hired to consult with any of these entities. Whether as an employee or consultant, you may conduct interviews, prepare reports, and interpret social science information for use in court. In addition, you may testify in court as an expert witness, and if you engage in direct practice, you may be subpoenaed to testify about one of your cases, or you may find yourself enmeshed in litigation initiated...

    • 4 Legal Research
      (pp. 74-96)

      Students accustomed to conducting research in the social or behavioral sciences or the humanities often find the conduct of legal research intimidating. This chapter is an introduction to this subject. We will begin with an example of how one might approach researching a legal issue, followed by a general discussion of how to conduct research in the areas of statutes, regulations, and case law. The chapter also covers computerized legal research.

      Assume that you are newly employed in a public agency. You learn that a coworker is being sued by a party who claims that the coworker acted inappropriately when...

  6. PART 2

    • 5 The Organization of Social Services and the Regulation of the Profession
      (pp. 99-121)

      The public and private sectors provide an array of social services, including educational, health, and mental health services, in such diverse settings as social service agencies, schools, and hospitals. The private sector includes nonprofit agencies, for-profit entities, and private practitioners. Most social workers who are members of the National Association of Social Workers (80 percent) are employed in agency settings, with approximately 34 percent in the public sector (state, local, and federal agencies), 38 percent in the private nonprofit sector, and 28 percent in the for-profit sector.¹

      Public agencies in each state administer a variety of social welfare programs, including...

    • 6 Social Workers and the Courts
      (pp. 122-149)

      As a social worker, you may be employed by the courts, law enforcement agencies, or law firms, or you may be a member of a multidisciplinary team that includes attorneys, medical and mental health professionals, accountants, and members of the clergy. In any of these ways you may have regular contact with the judicial system; you also may have such contact if your practice involves working with children and their parents, young adults, victims of domestic violence, or the mentally ill. Your work may require that you interview clients to gain information for attorneys, to prepare reports for use by...

    • 7 Professional Liability
      (pp. 150-172)

      The focus in this chapter will be the vulnerability of professional social workers to being sued.¹ A variety of conditions render social workers, their supervisors, and/or the agencies that employ them vulnerable to suit, including (1) an increase in the number of states that license social workers and the provisions in licensing law for disciplining those whose practices do not conform to statutory mandates; (2) ethical codes and standards of practice that provide yardsticks against which behavior can be measured and judged as suitable or lacking; (3) laws that mandate reporting of child abuse and neglect and that provide penalties...

  7. PART 3

    • 8 Families and the Law
      (pp. 175-206)

      Social workers play a key role in providing services to families. These roles may be categorized by (1) population served, such as the family, the elderly family member, or the child; (2) the practice setting, such as family services agency, child welfare agency, hospital, or school; and (3) by task performed, such as preparation of social studies, interpretation of studies prepared by others, and investigation following a report of child abuse or neglect. Therefore, knowledge of family law is critical to a significant number of practitioners.

      Typically, family law is concerned with marriage and divorce, family violence, child custody, visitation...

    • 9 Education
      (pp. 207-228)

      In several places in this text I have said that parents have a right to the care, custody, and control of their children. Authority for this proposition is found in the U.S. Constitution, which protects family privacy and which the U.S. Supreme Court has said limits the situations in which the state may interfere with parental authority.¹ However, a family’s right to privacy is not absolute. Parents have an obligation to provide for their children and to protect them from harm. If parents fail in their social contract, the law authorizes the state to act in loco parentis, meaning in...

    • 10 Care and Protection of Children
      (pp. 229-259)

      This chapter will continue the theme introduced in chapters 8 and 9 concerning families. Parents have a right to the care, custody, and control of their children, a responsibility to provide for their children, and a duty to protect them from harm. If parents fail to meet their responsibilities, the state, under the doctrine of parens patriae—meaning the state as parent or protector—has the authority to intervene in family life to protect children from harm. A state establishes its parens patriae authority in its family code or children’s code (chapter 8) and gives its juvenile courts the jurisdiction...

    • 11 Adoption
      (pp. 260-290)

      This chapter is about adoption, which, as I said in chapter 8, is one of the ways in which legally recognized families are created. The exact number of children adopted each year is not known. The National Adoption Information Clearinghouse estimated the figure at 120,000 children each year throughout the 1990s, including children adopted through public agencies as well as those adopted privately.¹

      Social workers are significant actors in all phases of the adoption process. Involvement begins when a social worker (1) meets an individual or couple who wishes to adopt, (2) comes into contact with a child in need...

    • 12 Domestic Violence
      (pp. 291-312)

      The concept of domestic violence brings to mind an altercation between two adults in an intimate relationship, and this is the definition used by the U.S. Department of Justice, which defines domestic violence as criminal acts occurring between individuals with an existing or formerly close relationship. However, in some states the term family violence has replaced domestic violence, and this concept embraces child abuse and elder abuse as well as violence between intimate partners.¹

      In the pages that follow, I shall use the term domestic violence as it is used by the Justice Department and elder abuse to refer to...

    • 13 Legal Issues in Health Care
      (pp. 313-336)

      The focus of this chapter will be on legal issues in health care that affect social practice and the clients that social workers serve. Health care services are provided by the public and private sectors. The work of social workers is affected by publicly funded programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, programs operated by the Indian Health Service and the Veterans Administration, as well as by private insurance schemes. Regardless of the funding source or treatment setting, social workers play a significant role in the health care field by (1) providing direct services to patients...

    • 14 Mental Health and the Law
      (pp. 337-364)

      This chapter will be about mental health and mental illness. The latter refers to “mental disorders [which] are health conditions . . . characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior . . . associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.”¹ As with health care services (chapter 13), mental health services are provided by the public and private sectors, and social workers practice in both. Social work practice is affected by publicly funded programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, by the Mental Health Block Grant, which provides funds to support community-based treatment services, and by programs operated by the Indian Health...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 365-418)
  9. Cases
    (pp. 419-434)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 435-446)
  11. Index
    (pp. 447-468)