Gatekeepers Part of the Responsibilities Term Paper

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Part of the responsibilities of the social work educator is to evaluate the students' performance, which is better known by the term "gatekeeper." The educators must assess whether each of their students enrolled in the courses acquires the instruction necessary to function as a knowledgeable and ethical social work professional. Based on criteria delineated by the college or university, the student is then passed or failed. Those who are unable to adequately complete the requirements for the degree and those terminated from the program can be viewed as unsuitable for this field. Although educators may differ on the width of the gate, every institution with a social work program is concerned that its graduates acquire the minimum competencies, because of the expectations of the agencies and their clients, state licensing boards, and communities as a whole that are served. The process of gatekeeping impacts the "untenured" or new counselor/faculty in a number of ways. For them to do their job as well as possible, they need to learn gatekeeping best practices from others who were once in their position.

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Colleges and universities have gatekeeping procedures in place even before an individual becomes a student. It is common for BSW programs to have admission standards. A minimum grade point average of 2.0, for example, is often required. Schools decide who to admit as well as whom to exclude for enrollment. Selection is not based purely on academic performance. A range of desirable nonacademic criteria, such as personal match with social work profession's values, interpersonal competence, ethical and diversity considerations could all be evaluated at admission through vehicles such as individual and group interviews, reference letters, written statements, life experience, and volunteer and paid work experience (Cleak, McCormack, & Ryan, 2006, p. 67). On the other hand, it would be entirely reasonable, for example, to refuse admission to convicted felons. Perhaps even a stronger case could be made against admitting a convicted child molester (Blakely, 2000, p. 24).

TOPIC: Term Paper on Gatekeepers Part of the Responsibilities of the Assignment

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW 1996) established professional mandates in order to "discourage, prevent, expose, and correct the unethical conduct of colleagues" (p.18) and to "prevent the unauthorized and unqualified practice of social work" (p.25). Thus, the NASW Code of Ethic requires gatekeepiing before enrollment, during the course instruction and whenever there is a violation of an ethical code. Most educators, unfortunately, have had experience with a student who is not fit for graduation in a social work program. If (when) these individuals were allowed to assume positions as counselors, considerable harm may be done to the most vulnerable.

However, the role as gatekeeper is precarious due to changing legal precedent. The landmark case, Dixon v Alabama State Board of Education (1961) tightened the rules by which an institution can suspend a student. In Dixon, the college dismissed five students involved in demonstration for civil rights. The court overturned the dismissals, finding that the public institution was required to have adequate procedures to protect student rights. Since this ruling, courts have continued to acknowledge and extend due process safeguards to students for disciplinary actions.

Students who are dismissed from social work educational programs because of poor performance while in the field are more apt to initiate a lawsuit against the college or university currently than in the past. This change in attitudes is a result of two factors: rising tuition costs and the reality that in the present marketplace, a graduate degree is often a crucial ingredient for a student's economic success. These factors have enhanced the student's stake in completing a degree (Schweitzer, 1992). The results of academic failure, along with the subjective nature of educational field evaluations, leaves field educators particularly open to student-initiated legal actions. However, there is a "widely accepted assumption social work education" that the field placement offers the best opportunity to assess the relativity of the students' fit with the profession and therefore is continued to be used in order to weed out a number of unsuitable students (Gibbs, 1994, p. 71).

Gatekeepers must also be concerned with students who are physically or mentally challenged. With a long tradition of supporting individuals with special needs, social workers are at the forefront of advocacy movements (Lynch and Mitchell, 1995) and need to be a leader in ensuring true access to the profession for persons with disabilities. "Social work programs that are committed to develop opportunities for all students model the type of inclusiveness and support that is the very essence of the profession" (Blakely, 2000, p. 210).

The most recent case law demonstrates that professional behavior as well as scholastic performance needs to be a criterion for whether or not a student remains in a social work program. However, "most social work faculty, however, have failed to keep pace with these newer legal requirements and often continue to think of academic standards as including only grade point average, skill acquisition, course completion, and other more cognitive aspects of performance" (Blakely, 2000, p. 259). Conduct that conforms with the profession's ethical standards is frequently seen as "softer characteristic" and inaccurately seen by faculty and students as an expectation that should falls into the "nonacademic standard" category. Also, there is no consistency from school to school or one faculty member to another on what should be included under academic standards. Schools need to develop relevant and up-to-date gatekeeping practices.

The NASW Code of Ethics states that the social worker's primary responsibility is to clients' interests, rather than rights or worth, which more likely reflects competing claims by societal as well as personal needs and desires. However, clients' interests may conflict with those of workers, agencies, and the community, and choices among interests are inevitable. Even though the goal is to meet public interests, not all can be satisfied, and there may be situations that would better support the interests of workers or agencies in order enhance responsiveness to the client. Similarly, clients' interests are often difficult to identify and it is sometimes difficult to know exactly who the client is. Nor is it a simple matter to decide, when a practice involves families, groups, and intergroups, which are most central (Reich, 2003, p. 15).

There are also a host of other questions that must b addressed by agencies. For isntance, what are the obligations and duties of an agency to both worker and client? What factors must be considered in situations where societal and clients' interest may conflict? What is the profession's responsibilities to its members to assist them in difficult situations? These are the type of questions that schools must clarify.

Gatekeeping has long been of special concern to social work field educators and students. However, it has become more crucial as social work interns increasingly interface with seriously troubled clients who deal with challenges that necessitate significant skill and sensitivity from service providers. Research suggests that these interns are being sent on field placements that involve more serious unresolved life issues and therefore present additional concerns for field educators (Koerin & Miller, 1995; Regehr, Stalker, Jacobs, & Pelech, 2001).

Working with students with psychiatric problems can be most problematic for field educators. In the past, little attention was given. When such issues of working with students who have psychiatric problems were addressed, they were concerned about risk management and the need to avoid lawsuits from dismissing students and improving admission and review procedures. These measures are important to social work education, but do not totally meet the needs of the student, agency, academic program, or profession Field educators have had to balance the legal rights of students, clients, and agencies while maintaining the integrity of educational programs that have struggled to deal with these problems, most frequently in isolation and with limited guidance and support (Gillis, & Lewis, 2004, p. 391).

Psychiatric problems among social work interns are frequently a discussion subject among field educators. Stromwall (2002) delineates two competing philosophies in this debate: client protection in one case and promoting social justice and empowerment on the other. The social work profession is not immune to stereotypes and preconceived ideas of student appropriateness for the field. Social work educators and supervisors have mostly put the emphasis on potential impairment instead of than present functioning. That is, is the risk to clients too significant or does the advantage of having these students in the social work education programs and the field as a whole outweigh the risk? The presence of a psychiatric disability does not necessarily make a student unfit for the profession. Gillis and Lewis (2004) believe that these two concepts are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The rights of all parties involved have to be considered clearly by the policies of the academic program. The point is not only whether the student has a psychiatric disability, but also whether or not he or she is capable of performing the essential responsibilities of the academic program, the internship, and the profession. Once again, litigation needs to be taken into account.

Gillis and Lewis (2004), for example, give… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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