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Social Work Social Work and the Law
by
Allan E. Barsky

Introduction

“Social work and the law” refers to the interface between the practice of social work and the legal system, including statutory law, case law, legal institutions (courts, prisons, etc.), and legal professionals (attorneys, judges, paralegals, forensic experts, and alternative dispute resolution professionals). Law plays a number of important roles in the practice of social work. First, from an ecological perspective, the legal system is a vital part of a client’s social environment. Many social work clients are involved in legal systems, such as child protection, criminal justice, or mental health. Social workers need to be aware of the laws that regulate each system in order to help clients navigate their way through these systems more effectively, and to be able to advocate for law reform to improve the goodness of fit between clients and their socio-legal environments. Laws also govern many relationships of interest to social work clients, including landlord/tenant, employer/employee, physician/patient, vendor/purchaser, spouse/spouse, and parent/child relationships. Thus, knowledge of the law should provide practitioners with a practical understanding of their clients’ rights and responsibilities in a broad range of social relationships. Second, hospitals, schools, social assistance, correctional institutions, mental health facilities, and other social agencies are regulated by organization-specific laws. Organization-specific laws may dictate who is eligible for services, standards for record keeping, confidentiality, and other client rights. Social workers need to understand these laws in order to ensure that their agencies comply with the laws, and to be able to advocate for changes in the law to promote greater social and economic justice. Third, the profession of social work itself is regulated by various laws. Most states have licensing or accreditation laws that regulate the practice of social work, including who may practice and what standards of practice are legally enforceable. Social workers should also be aware of malpractice (tort) laws that identify when a social worker may be legally responsible for causing harm to a client if they perform their professional duties in a manner that falls below a reasonable standard of care. Finally, some social workers practice in forensic settings, providing investigations, evaluation, expert testimony, and treatment for clients involved in court or other legal systems. Such settings include probation, parole, prison, child custody evaluation, and involuntary committal to mental health institutions.

Introductory Works

The resources listed here provide overall introductions to social work and the law, as well as to law and the legal system more generally. For basic overviews and explanations of legal terms, some of the older materials may be sufficient. For specific laws and how they apply in specific circumstances, readers should refer to the most current sources. Madden 2003 and Alexander 2003 provide two of the more recent and comprehensive introductions to social work and the law. Stein 2004 offers one of the most accessible introductions to the legal system and the philosophy of law.

  • Albert, Raymond. 2000. Law and social work practice: A legal systems approach. 2d ed. New York: Springer.

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    Provides a clear explanation of the legal system, including judicial and legislative processes, as well as areas of law most relevant to social workers. Information on rapidly evolving topics such as same-sex marriage has become dated.

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  • Alexander, Rudolph. 2003. Understanding legal concepts that influence social welfare policy and practice. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

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    Describes laws pertaining to child welfare, mental health, professional liability. Designed to help readers understand the relevance of laws to social welfare policy and practice (with emphasis on macro issues).

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  • Brayne, Hugh, and Helen Carr. 2010. Law for social workers. 11th ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Comprehensive textbook on the British legal system, including laws related to a social worker’s obligations in working with the legal system, children, families, people with mental illness, homeless people, and other people who have been socially excluded.

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  • Madden, Robert G. 2003. Essential law for social workers. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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    Provides a good overview of the legal system and uses case examples to demonstrate the application of law to various issues related to social work practice (particularly clinical/micro practice). Excellent information on child welfare, contracts, advance directives, and malpractice.

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  • Martin, Peter W. 2010. Introduction to Basic Legal Citation.

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    Online resource that explains norms for citing legal sources, including statutes and case law.

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    • National Association of Social Workers Legal Defense Fund. Legal Issue of the Month. Washington, DC: NASW Legal Defense Fund.

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      Practice-oriented series of articles to inform social workers of legal issues, rights, and responsibilities. List of titles and order information available online.

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    • Schroeder, Leila Obier. 1995. The legal environment of social work. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers Press.

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      Provides a good overview of the legal contexts in which social workers operate (particularly child welfare, family, mental health, and social security laws).

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    • Stein, Theodore J. 2004. The role of law in social work practice and administration. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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      Provides social workers with a good overview of the legal system, legal terminology, and the history and philosophy of law. Chapters on specific areas of law are relatively basic, perhaps designed for social work students rather than practitioners.

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    Textbooks

    This section focuses on legal textbooks designed for social work and related professions. Textbooks designed for law students may also have pertinent information, though they are not written in a manner that is accessible to people without legal training, education, or experience. Textbooks that provide excellent overviews of American law in various contexts of practice include Brayne and Carr 2005 and Madden 2003. For textbooks that have a case-based approach, refer to Meyer and Weaver 2005 or Pollack 2003. The Social Care Institute for Excellence’s Introduction to Law is an excellent online learning resource, focusing on the British legal system. Turner and Uhleman 2007 and Birnbaum, et al. 2008 are both written by Canadian authors.

    • Birnbaum, Rachel, Janet E. Mosher, and Elaine J. Vayda. 2008. Law for social workers: A Canadian guide. 4th ed. Toronto: Thomson Carswell.

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      Canadian social work text considers legal issues for clients at various stages of the life cycle and life transitions, as well as specific topics such as immigration, criminal justice, and judicial processes.

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    • Brayne, Hugh, and Helen Carr. 2005. Law for social workers. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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      Comprehensive textbook on wide range of legal topics related to social work. Includes case examples, plain-language explanations, and insights into how social workers may work with lawyers and within legal systems.

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    • Madden, Robert G. 2003. Essential law for social workers. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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      Geared toward social work students with little knowledge of the legal system, this well-written textbook provides basic information about various areas of law (including torts, contract, and administrative law), as well as how the court system operates. Also introduces students to legal philosophies and inductive reasoning as used by attorneys and judges.

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    • Meyer, Robert G., and Christopher M. Weaver. 2005. Law and mental health: A case-based approach. New York: Guilford.

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      Designed for students in advanced levels of mental health practice (including clinical social work), this textbook encourages students to read and analyze various cases in order to understand the law and how it is applied in practice. Topics include jury selection, qualifying professionals to give expert evidence, confidentiality, forensic evaluations, civil rights, criminal justice, and family law.

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    • Pollack, Daniel. 2003. Social work and the courts: A casebook. 2d ed. New York: Routledge.

      DOI: 10.4324/9780203426753Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The author is a legal and social work scholar who includes key court decisions (with annotations) on matters related to child welfare, social worker liability, mental health, evidence, and other areas of law relevant to social workers. Helps social workers understand how case law develops, and how to interpret and apply legal principles.

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    • Saltzman, Andrea, and David M. Furman. 1999. Law in social work practice. 2d ed. Chicago: Nelson-Hall.

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      Demonstrates interconnections between the law and social work, including how social workers and attorneys work together, how understanding laws can help social workers advocate for client rights, and how laws regulate the social work profession. A third edition would be welcome, given that the format and writing are very accessible.

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    • Social Care Institute for Excellence. Introduction to Law.

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      Online, interactive learning resource that introduces students to the law, including how legal decisions are made and the importance of looking at legal issues from different perspectives (based in the United Kingdom). Other resources are available through the same link.

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      • Turner, David, and Max Uhlemann, eds. 2007. A legal handbook for the helping professional. 3d ed. Victoria, BC: Sedgewick Society for Consumer and Public Education.

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        This Canadian textbook covers mental health, criminal law, juvenile justice, family law, restorative justice, First Nations, education, freedom of information, and malpractice. Although it references some federal laws, the provincial laws focus on British Columbia.

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      Professional Associations

      This section lists websites for bar associations and other professional organizations that provide legal information. Websites for the Canadian Bar Association, American Bar Association, and International Bar Association provide access to legal information for professionals and the public. Bar associations have developed online resources so that the public can access information about attorneys, current laws, and explanations of various contexts of practice. The National Association of Social Workers’ Legal Issue of the Month series provides well-researched, plain-language analysis of legal issues of significance to social work practice.

      Legal Research and Databases

      The following online resources are useful for accessing primary and secondary sources of law. Remember, from a legal perspective, the laws of a particular jurisdiction are articulated in that jurisdiction’s legislation and cases. Textbooks, journal articles, and other secondary sources may or may not accurately reflect the current state of the law in the relevant jurisdiction. The databases in the first group are fee-based, although students and faculty often have free access through their university’s subscription. Those in the second group provide free access to everyone. For people who are not accustomed to conducting legal research, locating current, relevant, and comprehensible legal resources can be particularly challenging. Laws differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and legal resources must be continuously updated to take legislative changes and the latest court rulings into account. Primary sources of law (constitutions, legislation, regulations, and case law) are readily available online through the legal databases cited here. Unfortunately, primary sources may be difficult to sort through and comprehend unless one has legal training. Secondary sources, including journal articles and textbooks, may become outdated very quickly. Some secondary resources are written specifically for law students and attorneys, so they may be more difficult to understand. Other secondary sources are written for social workers, mental health professionals, or the general public. All secondary sources should include a notice of caveat emptor—buyer (or in this case, “reader”) beware. Secondary resources may not be accurate, because they depend on the writer’s interpretations of the laws, and even peer-reviewed materials may contain some inaccuracies. For people without legal training, introductory legal textbooks can provide good overviews of the law. For legal research on particular issues, reference librarians with legal research training can provide assistance with locating relevant laws, cases, and the most recent journal articles. In order to locate textbooks and journal articles for specific states or provinces, local law schools may provide a variety of jurisdiction-specific resources: law reviews (journals) that focus on state/provincial laws; websites with links to state/provincial legislation and case law; and textbooks designed for law students (universities with joint MSW-JD programs may be particularly useful, as they may develop legal resources of particular interest to social workers).

      Fee-Based and Institutional Subscriptions

      Of the databases listed here, Campus Research is one of the most comprehensive and easiest to use. Index to Legal Periodicals and LegalTrac provide access to journal articles, but not statutes and case law.

      Free Access

      One of the best free-access websites for legal information is the Legal Information Institute. Thomas is an excellent resource for searching for US laws, including bills under consideration. The United States Department of Justice website provides access to laws pertaining to immigration, criminal justice, terrorism, and other federal issues. For local laws, refer to the websites for your particular state, including the House and Senate websites for bills under consideration. FindLaw provides basic information about legal topics for those who want general knowledge or need basic overviews of law before conducting a more specific search for relevant laws, cases, or journal articles.

      Legal Journals

      Since the Journal of Law and Social Work went out of publication in the 1990s, there has been no journal specific to social work and the law. The journals listed here relate to other mental health professions and the law, but they include perspectives relevant to social work. Overall, the Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice and Psychology, Public Policy, and Law provide the closest match to social work interests and perspectives. Law and Human Behavior focuses on research from the fields of criminology and mental health.

      Contexts of Practice

      The following sections pertain to various areas of legal and social work practice.

      Alternative Dispute Resolution

      For good introductions to the fields of alternative dispute resolution and conflict resolution, see Barrett and Barrett 2004 or Barsky 2007. The Association for Conflict Resolution website has sections covering areas such as family, community, health care, environmental, criminal justice, and court-based disputes. CRInfo (including its partner Beyond Intractability) provides online resources, definitions, videos, and access to a broad range of conflict resolution information. Barrett and Barrett 2004 explores the cultural and historical context of conflict resolution. The Journal of Dispute Resolution focuses on dispute resolution from a legal perspective.

      • Association for Conflict Resolution.

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        Interdisciplinary association for conflict resolution professionals in various contexts, including family, professional, environmental, criminal justice, and intercultural disputes. Publishes a journal, Conflict Resolution Quarterly, on best practices, research, and theory.

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      • Barrett, Jerome, and Joseph Barrett. 2004. A history of alternative dispute resolution: The story of a political, social, and cultural movement. Chichester, UK: Wiley.

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        Describes the use of conflict resolution across a range of cultures and puts alternative dispute resolution in historical context. Well researched and presented.

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      • Barsky, Allan E. 2007. Conflict resolution for the helping professions. 2d ed. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

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        Introduces students to four basic approaches to conflict resolution—power, rights, interests, and transformation—demonstrating how these approaches can be applied in a broad range of social work contexts. Skills inventories and experiential exercises provide students with the opportunity to put theory into practice.

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      • CRInfo: The Conflict Resolution Information Source.

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        The most comprehensive gateway for information on conflict resolution, this site includes annotated bibliographies, short articles, interviews with leading CR scholars (audio), course syllabi, a search engine (for books and articles), and links to other organizations and resources.

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        • Journal of Dispute Resolution.

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          Published by the University of Missouri–Columbia School of Law and Center for the Study of Dispute Resolution, a student-edited academic journal that focuses on the legal aspects of dispute resolution. It includes a number of topics of interest to social workers, including mediation practices, professional ethics, restorative justice, and cultural issues.

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        • Moffitt, Michael L., and Robert C. Bordone, eds. 2005. The handbook of dispute resolution. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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          Provides a comprehensive overview of the history, research, and theory that informs alternative dispute resolution. The chapters are broken down into four sections: understanding disputants, understanding dispute contexts, understanding resolution processes, and emerging issues.

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        Child Welfare, and Children and the Law

        This section addresses legal issues pertaining to child abuse and neglect, children’s rights, adoption, and juvenile justice. O’Brien 2004 and Bala, et al. 2004 provide practical introductions to child welfare issues from a legal perspective. The Child Welfare Information Gateway offers an easy-to-use search engine for locating child welfare laws in various states. The website of the National Association of Counsel for Children provides legal information for families, attorneys, and other professionals working with or advocating for the rights of children. For adoption resources, see the website of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute or Henry and Pollack 2009. Small, et al. 2002 focuses specifically on liability issues in relation to child abuse reporting.

        Capacity, Consent, and Rights of Minors

        This section provides resources related to the rights of children and adolescents, including legal issues pertaining to capacity, consent, and assent (permission from a minor who is not legally able to give consent). The Legal Information Institute’s Children’s Rights is an excellent gateway to US information on the rights of children and adolescents. The UNICEF website on the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides access to legal information and analysis of children’s rights internationally. For information specific to the consent and assent of minors, see Alkhatib, et al. 2008 or Redding 1993. Keller-Micheli, et al. 2007, part of the NASW Law Notes series, includes an excellent overview of the legal rights of children, including relevant legislation on a state-by-state basis.

        • Alkhatib, Anas, Judy Regan, and John Jackson. 2008. Informed assent and informed consent in the child and adolescent. Psychiatric Annals 38.5: 337–339.

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          Analyzes ethical and legal issues pertaining to a child’s rights to autonomy and confidentiality, as balanced against parental rights, to determine what is best for the child.

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        • Cornell Law School, Legal Information Institute. Children’s rights. Wex.

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          This entry in LII’s Wex legal dictionary and encyclopedia is an excellent gateway to online information concerning children’s rights, including federal statutes, case law, and international treaties. Addresses issues pertaining to children’s civil rights, juvenile justice, parental responsibility, and legal protections.

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        • Keller-Micheli, Alison, Sherri Morgan, Carolyn I. Polowy, and W. Dwight Bailey. 2007. Social workers and the legal rights of children. Law Note series. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers Press.

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          This law note provides state-by-state information on the rights of minors. Good starting point for legal research on laws regulating the rights of children (including rights to sue, to be free to consent to treatment, and to be free from abuse and neglect). This publication may be ordered online, as can a separate Law Note publication on child abuse and neglect laws.

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        • Redding, Richard E. 1993. Children’s competence to provide informed consent for mental health treatment. Washington & Lee Law Review 50:695–764.

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          Provides comprehensive overview of legal issues related to child capacity, competence, informed consent, and children’s assent to mental health treatment.

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        • UNICEF. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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          Provides extensive information on how to best use this convention to advocate for children. The UNICEF website also contains analysis of other children’s rights issues in reports on various legal and social issues across the globe.

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        Criminal, Juvenile, and Restorative Justice

        For excellent overviews of criminal justice, see Schmalleger 2011 or White, et al. 2006 (the latter is written from a social work perspective). For one of the most comprehensive online databases of criminal justice literature, see ProQuest Criminal Justice. Barkan 2009 and Carson, et al. 2007 are general textbooks on criminology and criminal justice. Hickey 2007 analyzes controversial issues in the field of criminal justice.

        Elders and the Law

        For an all-inclusive textbook on elder law, see Schwartz 2005. The National Center on Elder Abuse and American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging provide useful online gateways into laws pertaining to elder abuse and gerontological social work. The Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect publishes legal and psychosocial research related to the mistreatment of elders. The Elder Law Journal has a broader mandate, including all areas of law pertinent to elder rights and protections. Quinn 2005 focuses on adult guardianship, which may include guardianship of incapacitated elders, but also other vulnerable adults.

        Family Law

        For a plain-language description of family law, see American Bar Association 2004. For current laws, legal decisions, court-affiliated programs, and trends, refer to the Family Court Review, Canadian Journal of Family Law, or another legal journal (see also Child Welfare, and Children and the Law). Folberg, et al. 2004 is an excellent edited collection on family mediation as an alternative for managing family law issues. Gelles 2007 analyzes the use of social science research in the context of domestic violence cases. Quinn 2005 describes the laws pertaining to adult guardianship.

        Custody Evaluations

        Custody evaluation is a very specialized area of forensic practice with a growing body of research and practice guidelines. Condie 2003, and Gould and Stahl 2007 offer step-by-step guidance to social workers and other mental health professionals who provide custody evaluations in divorce and separation cases. Kelly and Ramsey 2007 gives more focused guidance on communicating social science information to courts.

        • Condie, Lois O. 2003. Parenting evaluations for the court: Care and protection matters. New York: Kluwer.

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          Describes the role of an evaluator for custody and protection cases, as well as children’s rights, parental rights, and how to gather and interpret information for evaluations.

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        • Gould, Jonathan W., and Philip M Stahl. 2007. The art and science of child custody evaluations. New York: Guilford.

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          Leading custody evaluators describe how to integrate research in child-centered custody evaluations. Includes practical guidance to avoid clinical and ethical pitfalls, and to maximize the effectiveness of the evaluation process.

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        • Kelly, Robert F., and Sarah H Ramsey. 2007. Assessing and communicating social science information in family and child judicial settings: Standards for judges and allied professionals. Family Court Review 45:22–41.

          DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-1617.2007.00126.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Helps social workers and other mental health professionals understand evidentiary rules and how to convey expert evidence in a more effective way.

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        Forensic Social Work

        Although there is a body of literature particular to forensic social work, forensic social workers also rely on forensic literature from psychology and other mental health professions. Barker and Branson 2000, and Roberts 2009 provide good introductory information on the roles of forensic social workers. Melton, et al. 2007 offers a more detailed and comprehensive description of how to conduct investigations and present assessments for forensic purposes. The American Journal of Forensic Psychology provides current research on forensic practice. The National Organization of Forensic Social Work promotes research and practice in the area of forensic social work. Roberts 2009 gives good introductions to different areas of forensic practice, including criminal justice, juvenile justice, and mental health.

        Testifying in Court

        Forensic social workers and other practitioners may be called or compelled to testify in court. For plain-language guides on how to testify in court, see Barsky and Gould 2002 or Bernstein and Hartsell 2005. Sarnoff 2004 and Siegel 2008 analyze issues specific to social workers as expert witnesses. Lieberman and Krauss 2009 explores the influence of forensic testimony in civil commitment hearings. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law publishes articles about forensic psychiatry, including best practices for forensic practitioners testifying in court.

        Malpractice

        This section highlights resources on social work liability for malpractice. Two of the more current and comprehensive sources on social work malpractice and risk management are Pollack and Marsh 2004 and Reamer 2003. Lunney and Oliphant 2008 is a textbook that describes tort law from a British common-law perspective. Strom-Gottfried 2000 analyzes NASW Code of Ethics violations. The research there may be dated, but more current research has been curtailed because of laws limiting the disclosure of information and reluctance among liability insurance providers to release information to researchers.

        • Houston-Vega, Mary Kay, Elaine M. Nuehring, and Elisabeth R. Daguio. 1997. Prudent practice: A guide for managing malpractice risk. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers Press.

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          Identifies areas of malpractice risk for social workers and offers advice on how to ensure that social workers maintain an appropriate standard of care and reduce the risk of harm to clients.

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        • Lunney, Mark, and Ken Oliphant. 2008. Tort law: Text and materials. 3d ed. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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          British textbook designed for law students, but provides an excellent overview of tort law in common law jurisdictions, including malpractice in health-related fields.

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        • Pollack, Daniel, and James Marsh. 2004. Social work misconduct may lead to liability. Social Work 49.4: 609–612.

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          Brief but important article on the liability of state-employed social workers, including a discussion of case law on qualified immunity.

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        • Reamer, Frederick. 2003. Social work malpractice and liability: Strategies for prevention. 2d ed. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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          Clear overview of malpractice law as it applies to social work, including areas in which social workers have had issues with legal liability and practical suggestions for reducing the risks of malpractice claims.

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        • Roberts, Albert R., Ianna Monferrari, and Kenneth R. Yeager. 2009. Avoiding malpractice lawsuits by following standards of care guidelines and preventing suicide. In Social workers’ desk reference. 2d ed. Edited by Albert R. Roberts, 128–135. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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          Covers legal and clinical issues related to one of the most serious types of allegations of malpractice: the failure to protect a suicidal client.

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        • Rosoff, Arnold J. 2001. Evidence-based medicine and the law: The courts confront clinical practice guidelines. Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law 26: 327–355.

          DOI: 10.1215/03616878-26-2-327Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          With the trend toward evidence-based social work, will social workers be subject to greater or lower risk of malpractice liability? This article explores what happened in medicine as that profession developed evidence-based practice guidelines.

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        • Strom-Gottfried, Kimberly. 2000. Ensuring ethical practice: An examination of NASW Code Violations, 1986–97. Social Work 45.3: 251–261.

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          Reports the study results of professional review cases received by NASW from 1986 to 1997. Although the data are somewhat dated, this is the most recent information available on ethics complaints to the NASW, because insurance providers and others have been reluctant to allow such information to be released for research purposes.

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        Mental Health and the Law

        For a plain-language description of mental health laws in a manual format, see Bernstein and Hartsell 2004. For a detailed treatment of legal issues in mental health, Meyer and Weaver 2006 uses a case-based approach. The Legal Information Institute’s Mental Health page provides a useful gateway for other mental health law resources, including current laws and recent cases. Brewer and Williams 2005 presents psychological research that can be used by expert witnesses in a range of legal contexts.

        • Barrett, Kimberly, and William H. George. 2005. Race, culture, psychology, and law. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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          Explores the interface between race, culture, psychology, and law, including racism and bias within the criminal justice and other systems. Also examines the use of cultural interpreters and cross-cultural forensic assessments. Includes examples related to African Americans, Asian Americans, Muslims, and various immigrant groups.

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        • Bernstein, Barton E., and Thomas L. Hartsell. 2004. The portable lawyer for mental health professionals: An A–Z guide to protecting your clients, your practice, and yourself. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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          Portable, but not light, at 480 pages, this book provides detailed analysis of legal issues affecting mental health professionals (including social work perspectives, as one author has a joint JD-MSW background). Includes sample forms and contracts as appendices.

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        • Blau, Theodore H. 2001. The psychologist as expert witness. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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          Demonstrates how mental health professionals may use the knowledge of neuropsychology, clinical psychology, psychotherapy, mental disability, and psychological profiles to inform their testimony as expert witnesses.

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        • Brewer, N., and K. P. Williams. 2005. Psychology and law: An empirical perspective. New York: Guilford.

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          Edited text with chapters that explore using psychology research regarding child testimony, detecting deception, false memories, jury selection, and eyewitness recall.

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        • Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute. Mental Health. Wex.

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          This section of the Wex legal dictionary and encyclopedia provides an overview of mental health law, as well as access to recent case decisions and current legislation.

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        • International Journal of Law and Psychiatry.

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          Explores the interface between law and psychiatry, with an emphasis on mental disorders among people involved in the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Includes articles from related disciplines, including social work. Articles from non-English-speaking countries are translated into English.

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        • Meyer, Robert G., and Christopher M Weaver. 2006. Law and mental health: A case-based approach. New York: Guilford.

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          Detailed treatment of legal issues of importance to mental health professionals, including laws and court cases related to confidentiality, privilege, insanity, polygraphs, sexual orientation, personal injury, mental retardation, psychopathology, and juvenile justice.

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        Suicide

        For an article on laws relating to a social worker’s obligations when working with suicidal clients, see Mishna, et al. 2003. Pakes 2005 explores the controversial issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide. Dallaire, et al. 2000 critiques the use of legally coerced treatment for clients with suicidal ideation and other mental health concerns.

        • Dallaire, Bernadette, Michael McCubbin, Paul Morin, and David Cohen. 2000. Civil commitment due to mental illness and dangerousness: The union of law and psychiatry within a treatment-control system. Sociology of Health & Illness 22.5 (September): 679–699.

          DOI: 10.1111/1467-9566.00226Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Provides an interesting critique of how the legal and mental health professions join together to equate mental illness and dangerousness (to self or others), and link treatment and control in providing services for people with mental illness (including suicidal ideation).

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        • Mishna, Faye, Cheryl Regehr, and Beverley Antle. 2003. Canadian legal and ethical parameters for working with suicidal clients. Canadian Social Work 5.1: 17–28.

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          Analyzes legal and ethical factors that social workers should consider when working with clients with suicidal ideation.

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        • Pakes, Francis. 2005. Under siege: The global fate of euthanasia and assisted-suicide legislation. European Journal of Crime, Criminal Law & Criminal Justice 13.2: 119–135.

          DOI: 10.1163/1571817054300594Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Explores legal and ethical issues related to assisted law legislation in various countries.

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        Substance Abuse and Treatment

        For federal laws pertaining to the possession, manufacturing, and sale of drugs. see the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s webpage on Title 21. For state laws related to the regulation of alcohol, see the National Institute for Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse’s Alcohol Policy Information System. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association 2008 uses program evaluations to inform suggestions for establishing drug courts, policies, and procedures. Burns and Peyrot 2010 provides a critique of drug courts as they have been expanded and standardized. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association 2004 describes federal laws protecting the privacy of patients in drug treatment programs. Lurigio and Loose 2008 studies racial disparities in the enforcement of drug-related offenses.

        Regulation of Social Work and Social Work Agencies

        In Canada and the United States, provinces and states have primary responsibility for regulation of the professions. See the websites of the Association of Social Work Boards (a US organization) and Canadian Association of Social Workers for links to appropriate state and provincial websites. Banks 2004 critiques the use of external regulation of social work. Barsky 2010 contrasts different approaches to professional regulation.

        Social Policy

        Pruitt 2007 critiques how social science research has been used to inform social policy and law reform, and it provides suggestions for how researchers might improve the use of their research. The other entries listed here look at how social science research can be used to influence particular areas of social policy, including gay and lesbian rights (Barsky 2009), coerced addiction treatment (Sullivan, et al. 2008), and laws protecting the public from sex offenders (Vess 2009).

        • Barsky, Allan E. 2009. Social work research and the law: How LGBT research can be structured and used to affect judicial decisions. In Research methods with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender populations. Edited by William Meezan and James I. Martin, 372–401. New York: Routledge.

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          Explores how research on gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people has been used by courts to inform their decisions, and offers social science researchers guidance on how to develop and report their research in a manner that will improve its chances of being considered in future judicial decisions.

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        • Pruitt, Kenneth D. 2007. Social science research and social policy: Bridging the gap. Family Court Review 45:52–57.

          DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-1617.2007.00128.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Explores the use of social science literature to inform social policy and law reform, identifying problems in how legislators have used social science research and providing suggestions for social scientists to improve this process.

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        • Sullivan, Maria A., Florian Birkmayer, Beth K. Boyarsky, Richard J. Frances, John A. Fromson, Marc Galanter, Frances R. Levin, Collins Lewis, Edgar P. Nace, Richard T. Suchinsky, John S. Tamerin, Bryan Tolliver, and Joseph Westermeyer. 2008. Uses of coercion in addiction treatment: Clinical aspects. American Journal on Addictions 17.1: 36–47.

          DOI: 10.1080/10550490701756369Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          A panel of experts reviews the literature on the effectiveness of coerced addiction treatment with various populations and provides policy suggestions for the use of coerced treatment.

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        • Vess, James. 2009. Fear and loathing in public policy: Ethical issues in laws for sex offenders. Aggression & Violent Behavior 14.4: 264–272.

          DOI: 10.1016/j.avb.2009.04.004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Explores legal and ethical issues pertaining to the highly controversial issue of how to protect the public from sex offenders while also respecting their rights.

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        Therapeutic Jurisprudence

        Therapeutic jurisprudence refers to the psychosocial effects of law, legal actors, judicial decisions, and legal processes on people involved in criminal justice, family law, or other legal systems. Madden and Wayne 2003 analyzes the use of therapeutic jurisprudence from a social work perspective. For articles on the effectiveness and ethics of therapeutic jurisprudence, see Birgden 2009 and Stinchcomb 2010.

        • Birgden, Astrid. 2009. Crime-prevention jurisprudence? A response to Andrews and Dowden. Canadian Journal of Criminology & Criminal Justice 51.1: 93–117.

          DOI: 10.3138/cjccj.51.1.93Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Defines and critiques therapeutic jurisprudence in the context of criminal justice. Views therapeutic jurisprudence as both preventative (protective) and humanistic.

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        • Madden, Robert G., and Raymie H. Wayne. 2003. Social work and the law: A therapeutic jurisprudence approach. Social Work 48:338–347.

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          Provides an excellent overview of therapeutic jurisprudence as a movement and a perspective. Considers social work roles in therapeutic jurisprudence as mediators, interdisciplinary team members, advocates, researchers, brokers, and policymakers.

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        • Stinchcomb, Jeanne B. 2010. Drug courts: Conceptual foundation, empirical findings, and policy implications. Drugs: Education, Prevention & Policy 17.2: 148–167.

          DOI: 10.3109/09687630802286901Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Explores the research and theory on the use of drug courts, including both policy and practice issues.

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        Welfare Law

        For an introduction to welfare law and links to further resources, see the Legal Information Institute’s Welfare Law page. Both the National Center for Law and Economic Justice and Southern Poverty Law Center provide resources on welfare law issues, with a focus on information to advocate on behalf of economically disadvantaged populations. Trattner 1998 offers a good historical perspective on the development of welfare laws.

        Key Cases

        Listed here are legal precedents related to: discrimination and equal protection (Brown v. Board of Education and Lawrence v. Texas), confidentiality, privilege, and the duty to report (Roe v. Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region and Tarassoff v. Regents of University of California), and criteria to provide expert testimony (Daubert v. Merell Dow Pharmaceuticals). The National Association of Social Workers’ Legal Issue of the Month series provides analysis of current legal issues, including recent court cases that are relevant to social work practice.

        Teaching Materials

        As more schools of social work are developing joint social work/law (MSW-JD) programs, certificates in forensic social work, and other social work/law specializations, more teaching resources are becoming available. Van Wormer and Roberts 2000 is a booklet containing sample syllabi for courses related to criminal and juvenile justice. Kozakiewicz 2008 offers a community-based model for introducing social workers to practice in legal contexts. National Association of Social Workers 1990 and Bocchino, et al. 2005 provide videos on how to be effective witnesses. For articles on social work and law programs, see Colarossi and Forgey 2006 or Duncan, et al. 2003.

        • Bocchino, Anthony J., John Chesney, and David A. Sonenshein. 2005. Selecting and preparing the expert witness. DVD. Notre Dame, IN: National Institute for Trial Advocacy.

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          Part of a series of training videos designed for litigation attorneys, but useful for forensic social workers interested in preparing for forensic investigations and court trials.

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        • Colarossi, Lisa, and Mary Anne Forgey. 2006. Evaluation study of an interdisciplinary social work and law curriculum for domestic violence. Journal of Social Work Education 42.2: 307–323.

          DOI: 10.5175/JSWE.2006.200400497Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Evaluates the effectiveness of a collaborative educational program between the School of Law and School of Social Work at Fordham University in New York.

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        • Duncan, Tess, Christine Piper, and Chris Warren-Adamson. 2003. Running rings around law? An ecological approach to teaching law for child-centered practice. Social Work Education 22.5: 493–503.

          DOI: 10.1080/0261547032000126434Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          English authors describe a model for teaching law to social workers in child welfare from an ecological perspective.

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        • Kozakiewicz, J. 2008. Social work and the law: A model approach to interdisciplinary education, practice, and community-based advocacy. Family Court Review 45.4: 598–608.

          DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-1617.2008.00226.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Describes an interdisciplinary approach to social work education in which social workers gain field experience in community-based agencies.

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        • National Association of Social Workers. 1990. The professional as a witness: Testifying with authority. VHS. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers.

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          Training video providing guidance on how to prepare to be an effective witness, with role-plays to demonstrate both effective and ineffective ways of providing testimony.

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        • Van Wormer, Katherine, and Albert Roberts. 2000. Teaching forensic social work: Course outlines on criminal and juvenile justice and victimology. Washington, DC: Council on Social Work Education.

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          Provides examples of course syllabi, readings, assignments, and tests for courses on criminal and juvenile justice.

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        LAST MODIFIED: 05/25/2011

        DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195389678-0024

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