Navigating an Ethical Dilemma with Enzo and Family

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 4820 |

Pages: 11|

25 min read

Published: Feb 13, 2024

Words: 4820|Pages: 11|25 min read

Published: Feb 13, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Ethical Application for Decision Making
  2. Discounting our biases
  3. Ethical Theory
  4. Ethical Decision Application
    Inviting your client into dialogue
    Accounting for care amidst demands for social control
    Considering activism and ethical resistance
  5. Appealing to the Code of Ethics
  6. Appealing to the Standards of Practice
  7. Conclusion
  8. References

Working with a Gandhian philosophical approach, this writer works through the scenario of Enzo and his family to help resolve the ethical dilemmas presented. This writer utilizes the ethical decision making model outlined within the Spencer, Massing, & Gough (2017) textbook.

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Keywords: Gandhian ethics, ethical dilemma, social control, activism

Ethical Application for Decision Making

For the purpose of this paper, this writer will use the example of Enzo, a 38 year old single father of two children, Jenna (17 years) and Memory (12 years) seeing a Family Counsellor. To understand Enzo’s case, this writer will begin by focusing on the harms of those involved: try to understand what they are, how they affect everyone involved and to weigh them against each other.

The participants include, at least, Enzo and his daughters, Jenna and Memory and their grandmother. The agencies involved in this case include: the Government Income Security program, the Housing Authority, Enzo’s boss, my agency (if any) and indirectly tax payers.

In considering possible answers for our ethical dilemma, we must be cognizant that some information may be missing which we do not have access to. Decisions we make are solely based on the information provided and may be different if additional information were to come to light.

When considering possible answers for this dilemma, we cannot avoid making some presumptions about Enzo. Examples being, he could be so concerned about his own interests that he thinks it is better to defraud the government. Or that he could be capable of working full time and is playing up his disability so he does not have to return to work.

However, while working through this dilemma or any dilemma, we should presume that the individual making the decision is doing so based on what is best. Our presumption may be incorrect, however presuming that most people are reasonable and well-intended is in line with respecting the inherent dignity and worth of persons (Canadian Association of Social Workers, 2005). With assuming that Enzo is making reasonable and well-intended decisions, we are able to look at the situation from his point of view which will explain his decision making process.

When looking at Enzo’s decision making process we must also consider what most, not just Enzo, would do in a similar situation.

Discounting our biases

When making an ethical decision, we must extract ourselves from the situation. We must not act on emotions we have to a particular situation in order to act objectively. This is hard to do when we are engaged in relationships with people, when we have an understanding of their situation, and when we ourselves have been in similar situations.

Understanding our self-interests is part of the journey to making our ethical decisions. Acting cautiously and in a way that does not harm our own self-interest is another consideration in ethical decision making. Acting out of our own self-interest should not be a determining factor in decision making, however consequences within a situation may have an impact on us long-term and should be looked at and discussed.

We must make ethical judgements in an objective way; so, understanding the parts of ourselves (our values and morals) that could create bias is a fundamental part. We must ask ourselves, if others in a similar situation would make the same judgement.

When making a decision with regards to Enzo’s case, this writer must be open and honest with past events in my personal life that I have made similar decisions as Enzo’s. I have previously been on government assistance and lived within a housing authority; both of which, at times, I have not been completely truthful about my financial situation. I have personally made decisions that may not have been ethical in nature, however the basic needs of my family (shelter, food, clothing) needed to be met and surviving on a very limited income proved difficult at times. Having this understanding, combined with privileged knowledge gained since being in that situation allows me to provide options for Enzo and his family.

Ethical Theory

As Vareed states (Spencer, Massing, & Gough, 2017, p. 191) “Gandhian ethics follow a self-reflective process;” which is of upmost importance to this writer in practice and training. Self-reflection is also imperative to social work practice. Utilizing a Gandhian philosophical approach to ethical decision making, this writer uses the concepts discussed by Walz and Ritchie, 2000 and Vareed (Spencer et. al., 2017): unity of all things, Ahiṃsā , Sarvodaya, Satyagraha, and Swadeshi.

Gandhi’s philosophical approach presupposes self-reflection to change yourself; then changing the world. When faced with an ethical dilemma, we must not make any brash decisions; we must sit in reflection with ourselves, work through the thoughts we have causing our dilemma, weigh the decision(s) we have to make, have wholesome conversations with the client/parties involved, and seek guidance of others. Then ultimately, aligning with Gandhian thoughts, follow our inner truths.

  • Unity of All Things. We as a society have adopted and normalized thoughts of equality and gone against utilitarian thoughts. Examples of this are universal legislations such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • Ahiṃsā. To cause no injury and do no harm. These acts are not only applicable to the physical realm of life, but also the mental, emotional, and spiritual realms.
  • Sarvodaya. To create a foundation of support for all, specifically those with the greatest need in order to raise society as a whole.
  • Satyagraha. Understanding that we cannot fix societal problems with retribution. We can only correct these problems with love and support of one another.
  • Swadeshi. That we need to advocate for self-sufficiency at a higher level. The word in and of itself means “own country” but speaks to alignment with social justice and advocacy.

Ethical Decision Application

To apply a working model of ethical decision making, this writer needs to consider the following: what are my ethical obligations under the Code of Ethics and/or the Standards of Practice? What are my ethical obligations under law? What are my ethical obligations to my client as an individual? What are my ethical obligations to my organization?

Working through the model

  1. Defining the situation and questions
  2. The decisions that need to be made for this scenario involve ethics, legal issues and questions about good practice
  3. This scenario presents ethical dilemmas as defined by Banks and Williams’ (2005).
  4. Legal obligations and liabilities include fraud against a government entity.
  5. Questions about good practice arise, in this writer’s opinion, with all ethical problems. Good practice is followed by self-reflection, understanding personal ethical philosophical views, and working through the ethical dilemma in this fashion.

In this scenario, the stakeholders involved include: Enzo, Jenna (daughter), Memory (daughter), the grandmother, the Government entities operating Income Security and Subsidized Housing, Enzo’s boss, this writer and the organization this writer may or may not work for.

The dilemmas include: Enzo working for cash income and not reporting it to the income security program and Enzo’s daughter, Jenna, residing with her grandmother during the week so she is closer to school.

This writer must make a decision respecting reporting Enzo’s actions to appropriate agencies, or not reporting. This writer holds an ethical, legal, and moral obligation to each party involved in the dilemma.

Decision Benefits Harms
Reporting - Integrity of Income Support program - Client may lose income support
- Integrity of Housing Subsidy program - Client may have legal consequences: charged with a criminal offence
- Following legal responsibilities - Client may be indebted to government
- Client may lose daughters if criminal charges result in incarceration
- Daughter may not have adequate means of getting to school
- Daughter may miss school time
- Client may lose housing
- Client’s mental health may decrease more so
Not Reporting - Client has a decrease in financial stress - Client may have legal consequences even if it is not reported and found through audit
- Client has support in raising daughters - Counsellor may have consequences relating to loss of job, ethical investigation
- Client is receiving physical alleviation with extra finances
- Client has self-determination
- Continued trusting relationship
- Upholding the inherent dignity and worth of persons
- Upholding service to humanity
- Alignment of personal values relating to individual freedom and an obligation of service to those who are disadvantaged - Maintain confidentiality

Inviting your client into dialogue

This writer would want to have an open and honest conversation with Enzo. Not only regarding the obligations this writer has to this dilemma, but also to assess other ways of meeting his needs without these actions. Having a conversation with Enzo about the issues not only continues and supports a trusting relationship, it also allows Enzo to make informed decisions which aligns with the Standards of Practice (2019). It is the opinion of this writer that Enzo has disclosed this information for reasons, even if he does not understand the reasons at this time. On some unconscious level he is perhaps feeling some form of guilt or shame relating to committing this act, which he knows is wrong and has consequences. He may also be feeling some guilt or shame relating to his ability to provide for his children.

Having these conversations with Enzo, will allow for an action plan in which Enzo is fully engaged and has helped to make.

Accounting for care amidst demands for social control

In this situation, this writer’s best ethical self is reflected through my personal understanding and empathy towards how difficult it is being a single parent, and at time relying on social supports systems to make ends meet. And at times, not having sufficient support to make these ends meet, and doing things outside the consideration of “normal” or “law abiding.”

These experiences, in my opinion, also create a bias within myself. By this I mean, I am of the opinion that these structural systems are not sufficient, and that most individuals relying on these systems in all likelihood do conceal information. However, privileged individuals or those that structure these support systems may not understand the life of someone who cannot meet their basic needs. Utilizing the foundational knowledge I have of being underprivileged with the experiential knowledge that I have of privilege allows me to also support Enzo and provide him with resources he may not know about.

Considering activism and ethical resistance

Although the scenario provided does not indicate this writer works for a specific agency, I would assume this is the case. When processing through this dilemma, this writer would hope to be involved in an agency that has similar beliefs and values. Working within organizations without similar beliefs, values and practices adds additional complexity to the decision making process. Although this writer recognizes that working within an agency that is in exact alignment with your personal beliefs and values is not realistic, it is of importance to this writer to align with an agency that is.

Appealing to the Code of Ethics

Each value within the Code of Ethics (2005) is applicable to Enzo’s case. As a professional working with Enzo and his family, I hold and respect his inherent dignity and worth. I believe he is a capable individual whom has the right to self-determination, and that he is the only person who know what is best for him and his family. I do not believe his actions are in malice or to purposefully defraud. I also provide him with informed choice with regards to decisions I have to make as a service provider and want him to be involved in that process.

I also have an obligation professionally and morally to provide him with access to information or resources that may be outside of his knowledge. The pursuit of social justice can be met on an individual level as well as a macro level. I believe that I have an obligation to help him obtain resources but to also advocate for better resources and supports. Examples of this may include helping Enzo get onto disability assistance as it sounds as though he is only on income assistance which is a lower level of pay. Other examples include survivor’s pension if he is not already receiving it; as well as possible ride share or community bussing programs for his daughter.

The work and conversations I have with Enzo relay into my service to humanity and integrity in my professional practice. All of these components align with Gandhian theory in which Walz and Ritchie (2000) state that one must remain in close, personal, non-exploitative and non-manipulative relationships with others.

Appealing to the Standards of Practice

Working through an ethical dilemma in and of itself is aligning my professional capacity with the Standards of Practice (2019). I am ensuring that I am competent in my position by analyzing my personal beliefs and values, recognizing my biases for this scenario and maintaining a professional relationship with this client. I am also maintaining professional accountability with discussing this issue with Enzo and allowing him to understand the dilemma.


The purpose of income support, specific to Alberta, is to “provide programs for persons in need for such of their requirements for food, shelter, personal items and medical and other benefits as are essential to their health and well-being and, in particular, to provide training and other measures to facilitate their movement toward independence and self-sufficiency” (Income and Employment Supports Act, SA 2003). With the poverty line in Canada for a two parent, two child home being $37,542.00 according to Statistics Canada in 2015, income support in Alberta does not even close to meeting this threshold. According to table one and three under the Income and Employment Supports Act, SA 2003, Enzo likely receives $836.00 per month as a maximum payment for core essential needs and $260.00 per month as a maximum for core social housing. This totalling $13,152.00 annually is far below the poverty line in Canada.

Enzo has presented to this writer with various barriers to his success in life. Enzo is struggling to meet his basic needs, and likely needs more resources to meet those needs. If this writer was to decide to report his actions to income supports or the housing authority, this likely would do great harm to Enzo and his family. Reporting that he is making additional income and that his daughter is staying with her grandmother is not the right solution for Enzo.

Creating an environment where he can have a trusting professional relationship with this writer, have open and honest dialogue about his needs, and showing empathy for him is the correct course of action in this scenario. Enzo knows that there are consequences for his actions and even if this writer did not report his actions, he likely knows that these consequences will eventually catch up to him. He is being open with this writer perhaps to seek help and find alternatives to meet his needs.

Having the conversation with Enzo and inviting him to make informed decisions furthers his self-determination, and allows him power within his own life. Connecting Enzo with other resources furthers his self-determination and allows him to create a better life for his family.

On a societal level, working with individuals whom are impoverished can be a struggle. However, advocacy and education to more privileged individuals can assist with societal change. Part of professional practice needs to include competency in politics and the current political environment in my opinion. Understanding how different legislation being introduced affects people and society as a whole. And expressing concern and your voice when changes need to occur. Within your agency, being involved in policy development or the organizational part of the agency. And advocating for your clients when you know there are resources available.

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To summarize my decisions, I would not inform either agency, however I would encourage Enzo to weigh the consequences and benefits of his actions, inform him of the position I am in ethically and guide him in finding alternative resources to meet his needs.


  1. ACSW (2019). Standards of Practice. Edmonton: Alberta College of Social Workers. Retrieved from
  2. Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, s 7, Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c11
  3. CASW. (1994). Social Work Code of Ethics. Ottawa: Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW). Retrieved from
  4. Income and Employment Supports Act, SA 2003, c I-0.5. Retrieved from
  5. Statistics Canada. Dimensions of Poverty Hub, 2015 Census. Ottawa, Ont., 2019. Retrieved from
  6. The United Nations. (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  7. Walz, T., & Ritchie, H. (2000). Gandhian principles in social work practice: Ethics revisited. Social Work: Journal of the National Association of Social Workers, 45(3), 213-222.
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Navigating an Ethical Dilemma with Enzo and Family. (2024, February 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 25, 2024, from
“Navigating an Ethical Dilemma with Enzo and Family.” GradesFixer, 13 Feb. 2024,
Navigating an Ethical Dilemma with Enzo and Family. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 May 2024].
Navigating an Ethical Dilemma with Enzo and Family [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Feb 13 [cited 2024 May 25]. Available from:
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