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Accountability in Public and Private Practice

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INTRODUCTION - Holding Social Workers Accountable

This page is intended to help identify public and independent/private Social Worker Malpractice and to provide a network of suport for their victims. Most social workers chose their field of work from a sincere desire to help individuals and families in the areas of social and economic Health and Welfare. Most websites that deal with Social Worker Malpractice are intended to help the social worker avoid the risk of lawsuit and some even advise how to discredit expert witnesses with regard to the common standard of practice.

In 1973 or 74, the thought of suing social workers didnt cross most peoples minds... That began to change toward the end of the 70s and the early 80s when more social workers went into private practice and were doing more psychotherapy, not just child welfare and family services... It would be a mistake to point the finger elsewhere and blame increased lawsuits against social workers on hungry lawyers and lawsuit-happy clients. The truth is that more social workers are being sued today because, in many cases, the quality of their service is declining. Its no secret that dwindling resources and cost containment measures have had a negative impact on clinical practice..... As social workers become more insured and insurable, well see the amount of claims rise.... Changes in the legal system have also put social workers at greater risk for malpractice litigation. Legal concepts such as protect and warn have been revised and expanded by the courts, so social workers find themselves struggling to negotiate a constantly shifting maze of legal guidelines... Also, social workers in clinical practice who used to be immune to legal action now find themselves unprotected. People who work for state child welfare are still relatively immune from lawsuits... Sovereign immunity means that the state is immune from liability for any civil wrong committed by a state employee during the course and scope of the work the individual is expected to do if it involves the use of discretion. [AmFOR Note: "Eleventh Amendment immunity" has depended on whether the person was acting in his/her "official capacity" or "personal capacity"]Theres also an immunity for not-for-profits that you see less and less now. Some states, by law, have immunity for charitable organizations, but thats really fading.

Excerpted in part from "Social Work Today - Malpractice Minefield - Evading the Long Arm of the Law," by David Surface -



The first social work school in the country, the New York School of Applied Philanthropy (NYSAP), which later became Columbia's School of Social Work, opened its doors in 1904. In 1915, there were only 5 independent and 2 university-affiliated social work programs in the United States. In 1921, the American Association of Social Workers was founded and, in the 1920s, the Russell Sage and Commonwealth Foundations offered crucial financial support for institution-building in the new field. Yet amateur workers remained the backbone of many child welfare organizations long after formal training opportunities were established, and the shortage of social work personnel remained a chronic problem for agencies involved in child placement and adoption.

.....Social work was a female-dominated occupation from the start. ...Although a number of leaders in childrens work were men -- C.C. Carstens, Hastings Hart, and William Henry Slingerland among them -- it was not always clear why women would need specialized training to do work that simply extended their natural, maternal responsibilities to other people's children. ...Social work was an expression of women's intuition and moral superiority, according to this way of thinking, not a professional job. In order to professionalize, social workers set out to affiliate the work they did with science. In placing out, this often took the form of psychiatric casework and outcome studies. By importing psychodynamic theories from medicine and embracing sophisticated research methods as their own, social workers hoped to turn ordinary care-taking tasks into authoritative, if not actually masculine, careers. Therapeutic perspectives on child placement and adoption grew out of this convergence between social work and science.

The progress of social work .... advanced most rapidly and effectively in cities in the east and north. Professionally staffed agencies were still rare or nonexistent in many parts of the country during the first half of the century. In these places, most adoptions were still independently arranged by relatives, doctors, midwives, lawyers, orphanage staff, and other baby brokers who operated according to rules of commerce and sentiment rather than a professional creed.

Excerpted from "The Adoption History Project" -



Social work theory on most any given issue frequently changes. State laws based on social work theory (laws concerning adoption and abortion, for example) are therefore often amended over time, and may bestow or remove certain individual "rights"-- often in conflict with other state or federal laws. Legislation is often conjured up by special interests lobbying with political/financial clout, ostensibly based on social work theory of the time and place, rather than on individual rights already established by higher laws and courts.

In the United States, scholarly books offer extensive and comprehensive research and analyses on the politics involved in social work theory. Examples include: "Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade," and "Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion and Welfare in the United States" by Rickie Solinger; "The Politics of Child Abuse" by Costin, Kagen and Stoesz; and "Chosen Children: Billion Dollar Babies in America's Failed Foster Care, Adoption and Prison Systems" by Lori Carangelo. America's social activists also take their issues to the courts, or "to the streets" via media and websites such as this one.

In the United Kingdom, author of "The Politics of Social Research," Martyn Hammersleg of the The Open University (UK) asks "Is social research political?" In recent years a debate has raged around the politicization of social research. One camp argues that research should be governed by the principle of value neutrality. Critical, feminist, antiracist, and postmodernist analyses have argued the opposite, that research is intrinsically political. In his stimulating and often controversial book, Hammersley weighs the arguments offered in support of these two camps. In critiquing Mammersley's work, Phil Hodkinson, in the "British Journal of Educational Psychology" commented: "It helps clarify my own thinking, while confirming my belief that consensus about social research methodology is currently unattainable, unnecessary, and probably undesirable."

Excerpted in part from Sage Publications book review:

Hands on Globe


Similarities and diversity are a powerful combination. In 1967, an International Social Work Federation (IFSW) was supported by more than 90 individuals volunteering their time in addressing the issues of global social care and rising to meet the needs of the expanding frontier of international social work. through reading journals containing international research and articles, participating in international conferences, educational exchange programs, and computer liaisons through the Internet and e-mail to arm social workers with tools to better understand practice and care issues. Following are website of the most reputable international social services organizations with branches in the United States:


Therapeutic Murders

For adopted children who were murdered during "rebirthing" or other deadly assaults on children advanced by professionals as a "cure" for "Attachment Disorder" commonly diagnosed when adopters simply don't like their adopted children, or when adopted children don't like their adopters, go to "The Daily Bastardette" page on "The Therapeutic Murders of Candace Newmaker, David Polreis, Viktor Matthey, and Jessica Albina Bennett" at

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