Carolyn I. Polowy, Sherri Morgan, W. Dwight Bailey, and Carol Gorenberg
Confidentiality of client communications is one of the ethical foundations of the social work profession and has become a legal obligation in most states. Many problems arise in the application of the principles of confidentiality and privilege to the professional services provided by social workers. This entry discusses the concepts of client confidentiality and privileged communications and outlines some of the applicable exceptions. While the general concept of confidentiality applies in many interactions between social workers and clients, the application of confidentiality and privilege laws are particularly key to the practice of clinical social workers in various practice settings.
Robert G. Madden
The law is a powerful force in all aspects of contemporary American society. The legal system furnishes the context and procedures for the creation and enforcement of laws to resolve disputes, protect rights, and generally to maintain order. Social workers are expected to understand the basic workings of the legal system. Knowledge of the legal system provides the foundation to support social workers to undertake social justice initiatives, to give voice to vulnerable client populations, and to work for legal rules that support good social work practice.
Katherine van Wormer
This entry defines restorative justice and describes the models most relevant to social work. These are victim–offender conferencing (sometimes incorrectly referred to as mediation); family group conferencing; healing circles; and community reparations.
Restorative justice is an umbrella term for a method of handling disputes with its roots in the rituals of indigenous populations and traditional religious practices (Zehr, 2002). A three-pronged system of justice, restorative justice is a nonadversarial approach usually monitored by a trained professional who seeks to offer justice to the individual victim, the offender, and the community, all of whom have been harmed by a crime or other form of wrongdoing. Accountability is stressed as the offender typically offers to make amends for the harm that was done.
Restorative justice not only refers to a number of strategies for resolving conflicts peacefully but also to a political campaign of sorts to advocate for the rights of victims and for compassionate treatment of offenders (see Bazemore & Schiff, 2001; Umbreit & Armour, 2010). Instead of incarceration, for example, the option of community service coupled with substance abuse treatment might be favored.