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Ethics Within Youth Work Teams


Ethics within youth work teams shapes the work we do with young people. Ethical frameworks give you and your team guidelines. But ethics are not like rules that must be followed in every situation. Instead, your values inform ethical decisions.

So, in the world of youth work it's important to understand that there isn't a universal code of ethics. And this can make things challenging. However, working together as a team can make it easier.

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    What is ethics?

    The main purpose of ethics in youth work is to ensure you do no harm. Therefore ethical guidelines help you protect the best interest of the young people you work with. Your values help you do what's right and avoid what’s wrong in ethical dilemmas.

    So, here's the tricky part. There is no universal code of ethics. Different places and teams might have their own ethics. Therefore, it's important for your team to talk about and agree on the guidelines you'll follow.

    No single set of rules means that youth workers often must rely on their own judgment. And collective decision-making to determine what's ethical and what isn't. This can sometimes be challenging. But it's a vital part of the job.

    The power of teamwork in addressing ethical dilemmas

    Ethical dilemmas are situations where it's tough to decide the right thing to do. Because there are ethical principles that may conflict. In youth work, ethical dilemmas do pop up. And they're often not easy to resolve. That's where teamwork becomes even more critical.

    Sometimes, you might find yourself in a situation where it's not clear what the best choice is. For example, imagine a young person confides in you about a serious issue, but you're not sure whether to keep it confidential or report it to protect their safety. This is a classic ethical dilemma – privacy versus safety.

    Tips for managing ethical dilemmas as a team

    • Open communication - Talk with your team about the ethical dilemma you're facing. Share your thoughts, concerns, and the facts of the situation. Be honest and open about your feelings. Chances are, your colleagues have faced similar dilemmas and can provide valuable insights.
    • Consider different perspectives - Encourage your team to consider different viewpoints. Some team members might emphasize the importance of confidentiality, while others might prioritize safety. Understanding different perspectives helps you find balanced solutions.
    • Review your team's code of ethics - If your team has established its own code of ethics, refer to it for guidance. If not, this could be a great opportunity to revisit and update your code of ethics.
    • Seek supervision - In challenging situations, it is helpful to consult with a supervisor or trusted expert. They can offer guidance and support, drawing from their experience and knowledge.
    • Document your decision - Document the decision your team makes. This record helps ensure that you follow through with the agreed-upon course of action.
    • Continuous learning - Ethical dilemmas are opportunities for growth. Afterward, reflect on the situation as a team. What worked? What could have been handled differently? Use these experiences to improve your approach to ethical dilemmas in the future.

    To summarize, addressing ethical dilemmas as a team strengthens your commitment to maintaining ethical standards in youth work. The collective wisdom and support of your team members helps you navigate challenging situations while keeping the well-being of young people at the forefront.

    Remember, with the power of teamwork, open communication, and continuous learning, you can make a positive impact on the lives of young people.

    To learn more, check out YIPA’s training The Ethical Youth Worker.

    About the author

    Gaonu Yang is the grantee member advocate of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA), a non-profit association of youth-serving organizations. We're your source for exceptional, affordable, personal and professional online learning via The Professional Youth Worker.  Join us!

    To ask Gaonu a question or share your feedback about this blog, email

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