Supervision of Ethics in Social Work Practice: A Reconstruction of Ethics Expertise

Supervision of Ethics in Social Work Practice: A Reconstruction of Ethics Expertise

Ana Frunza (LUMEN Research Center in Social and Humanistic Sciences, Romania) and Antonio Sandu (Stefan cel Mare University of Suceava, Romania)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 35
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3090-9.ch011

Abstract

The chapter aims at arguing the necessity and academic functioning of the supervision of ethics – as a model embodied in ethical expertise. Starting with 2012, the model of ethics expertise in the social welfare practice – the supervision of ethics – was continuously developed. Based on the previous approaches of supervision of ethics, the process is understood as having the following main functions: the Gatekeeping in construction of ethics policies, the mediation in achieving a reflective balance in the organization, the administrative and deliberative function, the construction of ethical climate in organizations and monitoring of ethical conformity and counselling of ethics, ethical advising and support. This model brings together practices from all other forms of ethics expertise, additionally exercising its gatekeeper role in the transfer of political theories on public good through the implementing programs and practices thereof, and making the professional values compatible with the organisational ones.
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Background: Grounds Of Ethics Expertise

The literature on ethics expertise starts by defining it consistently from an epistemological and pragmatic point of view. Since there is only a small amount of developed scientific literature on the ethics expertise in the area of social work (Reamer, 1987; 2001; 2012; Sandu & Caras (Frunză), 2014), an attempt to reconstruct it can be based on the ethics expertise in medical practice (Iltis & Sheehan, 2016; Rasmussen, 2005; Rasmussen, 2016; (Frunză, 2011) Schicktanz et al. (2012); Singer, 1972; Weinstein, 1994,).

The ethics expert is defined as being the person who has the capacity to decide between what is right or wrong in a specific field and, for such a decision to be made, this person must also be familiar with the concepts and moral arguments and also devote time to gathering information regarding the moral philosophy and reflect upon the moral concepts. These actions could lead to grounded conclusions on an ethical issue, stronger than that of a person who is not familiar with the moral concepts or who does not spend enough time studying and understanding them (Singer, 1972, pp. 116-117).

Recent opinion on ethics expertise (Iltis & Sheehan, 2016) refers to the ethics expert as being the one who knows what needs to be done. This knowledge of what needs to be done must include both the “common truth” on the moral values and means through which we can access this truth, as well as an ethics theory and sufficient expertise in a field, necessary for a fundamental ethical practice. A series of criticisms on the idea of ethics expertise (Iltis & Sheehan, 2016) even considers that a consultant on (clinical) ethics should not be called an ethics expert. This is because, in order to be an ethics expert, there should be adequate means of discovering the moral truth and a theoretical knowledge of it. This theoretical expertise is not directly connected to the area of professional practice and, as such, an ethics counsellor is not, and cannot be, an ethics expert. In turn, we distinguish between the (meta-) ethical reflection on the professional practice and the ethical reflection of the professional in excercising its practice. In the first case, we have a (meta-) ethical reflection on the convergence between a particular ethical system – for example, the ethics of social work – and the general framework of the ethical reflection (Bubnys, 2014).

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