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Ethics and Social Justice . Elizabeth Carroll Hocker, JD. Topics for Today’s Lecture. Discuss the ethical dictates of both professions Define social justice Determine the role of social justice in the field of child maltreatment. .

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Ethics and Social Justice

Elizabeth Carroll Hocker, JD

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Topics for Today’s Lecture

  • Discuss the ethical dictates of both professions

  • Define social justice

  • Determine the role of social justice in the field of child maltreatment.

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Social Workers

  • Concerned about the needs and empowerment of all people who are vulnerable, oppressed and living in poverty.

  • … the wellbeing of person

  • … the wellbeing of society

  • Promote change and advancement of people and society

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Competencies for Social Work Practice

  • Passion and Commitment

  • Personal awareness

  • Knowledge

  • Skills

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  • Play a vital role in the preservation of society

  • Have a duty to represent the client.

  • Are officers of the Court.

  • Are public citizen vested with the responsibility to ensure the proper administration of justice.

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A Lawyer’s Responsibilities

  • Advisor – informed understanding

  • Advocate- zealously asserts client’s position

  • Negotiator – advantageous results through honest dealings with others.

  • Intermediary – reconcile divergent interests

  • Required to be competent, prompt and diligent

  • Seek the improvement of the law, access to the legal system and administration of justice.

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Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor

  • Refrain from prosecuting a charge that is not supported by probable cause.

  • Make reasonable efforts to make sure accused is advised of his rights to counsel.

  • Not to seek a waiver of important pre-trial rights.

  • Make timely disclosure.

  • Exercise reasonable care to prevent extra-judicial statements.

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Lawyers and/or Social Workers





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The Differences

  • Rules of Reason

  • Provide competent representation

  • Legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation

  • Act with diligence and promptness

  • Service

  • Social Justice

  • Dignity and Worth of a Person

  • Importance of Human Relationships

  • Integrity

  • Competence

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What are Ethics?

  • Greek – ethos means character

  • Latin – mores means “customs”

  • An attempt to distinguish between right or wrong in human nature?

  • Defined by religious beliefs?

  • Socially acceptable standards of behavior?

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Three Principles

  • Utilitarian Ethics

    Outcome based

  • Deontological Ethics

    Duty based

  • Virtue Ethics

    Virtue based

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Utilitarian Ethics

  • Dates back to Epicurus

  • 1789 – Jeremy Bentham defined Utilitarian Ethics

  • Motto: “greatest happiness of the greatest number”

    “Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne”

    The Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789)

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Deontological Ethics

  • The Theory of Duty or Moral Obligation

  • Kant most famous deontological theorist.

  • Various actions are morally wrong if they are inconsistent with the status of a person as a free and rational being.

  • Acts that further the status of people as free and rational beings are morally right.

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Virtue Ethics

  • Emphasis on moral character vs. duties or rules.

  • Founding Fathers - Plato and Aristotle

  • For Aristotle virtue stood for the excellence of a thing, ethics was therefore the discipline of discovering and practicing virtue.

  • Virtue and character are linked.

  • Virtue becomes character by being exercised

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The Virtues

  • Fairness

  • Courage

  • Honesty

  • Prudence

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  • Live in proper relationship with neighbors.

  • Justice is equated with fairness.

  • An unjust person is one who is not affected by considerations of fairness and is indifferent to the interests of others.

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  • Truthful in speech and action.

  • Assesses the situation in an unbiased manner. Recognizes and deals with reality.

  • Accept circumstances for what they are.

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  • Prudence is practical wisdom.

  • The ability to deliberate well.

  • To recognized and perceive proper ends.

  • A professional who possesses the virtue of practical wisdom is reflective, able to appreciate and synthesize the multiplicity of concerns at stake in each decision.

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  • Courage is the virtue that enables an individual to do what is good notwithstanding harm, danger, or risk.

  • Withstand pressure

  • Willingness to forego short term benefits in pursuit of longer range goals.

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Social Justice

What is it?

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Social Justice

  • Social justice refers to the concept of a society in which justice is achieved in every aspect of society, rather than merely the administration of law.

  • Social justice is also a concept that some use to describe the movement towards a socially just world. In this context, social justice is based on the concepts of human rights and equality.

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Social Justice Lawyering

The commitment to act with and on behalf of those who are suffering because of social neglect, social decisions or social structures and institutions.

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Social Justice Lawyers

  • Mohandas Gandhi

  • Nelson Mandela

  • Shirin Ebadi

  • Mary Robinson

  • Charles Hamilton Houston

  • Constance Baker Motley

  • Thurgood Marshall

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Social Justice Advocates

  • Jane Addams

  • Julia Clifford Lathrop

  • Lillian Wald

  • Marian Wright Edelman

  • Patrick Moynihan

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100 years ago

Children as young as six employed in dangerous industries

Women and African Americans could not vote.

American Indians were not citizens

Any business could discriminate against anyone on the basis of gender, race, age, disability or any other reason.

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Children and Social Justice

  • No voice???

  • Not a priority???

  • Profess to love our children and they are the hope of tomorrow – yet 3 million reports of child maltreatment a year.

  • 1500 deaths

  • 22% of children living in poverty

  • 42% of children live in low income families

    • $22,050 federal poverty level for family of four

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  • 15 year old arrested by police for disturbing the peace

  • Held in detention facility pending hearing

  • Parents not contacted, no notice provided

  • Hearing – no sworn testimony, no cross examination

  • Sentenced 6 years

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Scenario #1

  • 4 year old presents to emergency room

  • Acute ano-genital injuries

  • Mother walked in on 14 year old nephew zipping up his pants.

  • Investigation by law enforcement.

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Defense Attorney



Defense Attorney


Social Worker

What do you do?

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Scenario #2

  • 4 year old presents to emergency room

  • No ano-genital injuries reported by ER physician – “hymen intact”

  • Mother walked in on 14 year old nephew zipping up his pants.

  • Strong disclosure by child

  • Investigation by law enforcement

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Scenario #3

  • Single mother, gainfully employed lives in house with six other adults.

  • Ten year old daughter discloses sexual abuse by one of the adults, boyfriend of mother.

  • No evidence of assault.

  • Mother does not believe daughter.

  • House dirty, but not a danger.

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Scenario #4

  • Matter set for trial, you are called in to handle the case because of a conflict.

  • Witness list includes Dr. S from Bryn Mawr. She is a pediatrician who examined the child. Diagnosis – sexual assault.

  • You have reviewed CV and notice the doctor does not have any specialized training in child sexual abuse and is not a Board Certified Pediatrician, nor has she completed a fellowship in child abuse pediatrics. The Doctor is adamant when she speaks to you on the phone about the child being sexually abused.

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Anticipated Testimony

  • Victim is 13 years old.

  • Victim was scheduled to see Dr. X on May 23, 2010. Appointment rescheduled to middle of June, 2010.

  • The Doctor testified that the child’s hymen was no longer intact and that she (Dr. X) was able to conduct the examination by using a speculum.

  • Both of these factors were and continue to be “very suggestive of sexual abuse”.

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Ethically, can you or should you call this witness?

What do you do and why?

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Social Justice is a Team Sport

  • No one fights or seeks social justice alone.

  • Working on behalf of abused children requires a team approach.

  • You must be able to handle chaos, criticism, and failure.

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Who are you?

Do you strive to improve the plight of the disadvantaged and oppressed?

Do you work to advance the rule of law?

Can you do both?

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Hope has two beautiful daughters.

Courage and Anger

Augustine of Hippo

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The challenge for you…create, fight, argue, litigate, advocate for a better world for our children.

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  • American Bar Association. (2011). American Legal Ethics Library . Retrieved June 7, 2011, from Cornell University Law School:

  • Chaffin, M. (2008). Our Minds Are Made Up—Don't Confuse Us With the Facts: Commentary on Policies Concerning Children With Sexual Behavior Problems and Juvenile Sex Offenders . Child Maltreatment , 110-121.

  • Katz, M. B. (1996). In the Shadow of the Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare in America - 10th Anniversary Edition. New York: Basic Books .

  • Kellogg, N. &. (2005). Evaluation of Suspected Child Sexual Abuse. Pediatrics, 506-512.

  • Kellogg, N. &. (2007). Evaluation of Suspected Child Physical Abuse. Pediatrics, 1232-1241.

  • Miller-Perrin, C. L. (2006). Child Maltreatment: An Introduction. Sage Publications.

  • Myers, J. (2006). Child Protection in America: Past, Present & Future. Oxford University Press.

  • Roth, J. K. (2005). Ethics Revised Edition. Pasadena: Salem Press.

  • Trattner, W. I. (1998). From Poor Law to Welfare State, 6th Ed: A History of Social Welfare in America. Free Press.

  • U.S. Children's Bureau. (2010). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved June 7, 2011, from Child Welfare Information Gateway: