Scenario: Carmen, a county social worker, finds that her personal beliefs are conflicting with her roles and responsibilities as a social worker. Carmen believes that homosexuality is a sin and is working with Staci, a fourteen year-old youth who identifies as lesbian. Staci frequently asks Carmen questions about safe sex and relationships which make Carmen feel very uncomfortable.
What is the Case Manager required to do? Case managers are required to see that a youth’s personal rights are upheld. One of these rights is that the case manager provides the youth access to information about reproductive and sexual health care, which may include conversations about birth control, sex and relationships. If a case manager cannot perform the requirements of their job without their personal beliefs and biases interfering, then they may not be suited to this work. If a case manager is not comfortable answering certain questions of the youth or providing the youth with access to services, then the case manager needs to respond to the youth’s questions in a respectful manner and tell the youth that they will ensure that another trusted adult, for example a caregiver, CASA, the youth’s physician, or therapist, assists them. The case manager should also tell their supervisor of this situation and how it was handled. The case manager should then follow up with the other trusted adult in a reasonable time frame, to ensure the adult provided the youth with the information or service needed.
What are some best practices for the case manager in this scenario? It is the case manager’s responsibility to talk to foster youth about such important topics as sex, pregnancy prevention, and the risk of STIs. Case managers should receive initial and ongoing training regarding working with foster youth and the subject of reproductive and sexual health care issues. Training should cover looking at one’s own biases and beliefs and recognizing how these may be in conflict with the requirements of working with foster youth. Additionally, case managers should speak to their supervisors and coworkers about fulfilling their responsibilities as case managers in spite of conflicting biases or personal beliefs. Training and supervision provided to case managers should reiterate the importance of professionalism and being able to set aside one’s own biases.