Professional practice necessitates the use of specialised skills to solve real-life challenges. In dealing with children and families, professional practice is further complicated by ethical scenarios that are ever present. Professional practitioners are from time to time entangled between justice-based ethics and care-based ethics (Johns, 2009). The responsibilities for children and families require a high level of skillset that is enhanced in several ways, professional refection being one of them. The professionals have to keep abreast with the most current legislation affecting children and families, as well as the changes in the professional code of practice. In dealing with children services, getting it right for every child (GIFREC) is a national program in Scotland designed to provide the guiding framework for professional practitioners with responsibilities for children working within this jurisdiction (Government of Scotland, 2018). The paperill explore the contemporary issues affectedn direct practice with children and families, how the early year’s practitioners use reflection to enhance their skills, and how they cope with ethical quandaries that arise in their line of duty.

The information sharing comes with a possible conflict between the ethical principle of confidentiality and the need to share confidential information regarding the backgrounds of the children in promoting their well-being. However, the information sharing policy is backed by a noble rationale in aiming at preventing some seemingly minor issues identified at early stages from turning into serious problems at later stages of life. To strike a balance between the two perspectives, there are rules that professionals are required to abide by during information sharing (Johns, 2009). The rules include the requirement that such information sharing must be done under the requirements of The Data Protection Act (2018) (Government of Scotland, 2018). The requirements are that such information must be used lawfully and transparently, and the subjects of such information must be protected. Also, the information to be shared must be that which is necessary and relevant to the nature of the child services. Also, there should be a record of the information shared and a clear justification of why such information has been shared. Finally, the child or the family, or the guardian of the child whose information is shared among the various child services must be made aware of the rationale behind such information sharing (Redmond, 2017).

Professional practitioners are by law required to consider whether it is suitable to share the information they have on a child with other professionals who may require it when performing other kinds of child services. For instance, a professional working in a foster home may identify that a child has undergone through some adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as violence and neglect, which affects their later growth and development stages.  ACEs affect how the child learns and copes with stress at later stages of life. Thus, such information should be shared with the early childhood development teacher to ensure that they understand the special education needs of the child. With such information, the teacher may recommend that the child undergoes counselling to help them build skills such as stress coping and how to socialise with their colleagues (Johns, 2009). The professional counsellor will also require to understand the child’s background in order to effectively provide the suitable guidance to support the child (Reamer, 2013).

The benefits of the bill include bringing about a level of consistency, coherence, and clarity in the nature of the services that are offered to the affected children all over Scotland. The law as spelt out in the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland), and the Data Protection Act (2018) provides the guiding principles of how the process should be conducted (Government of Scotland, 2018). The implication of the policy is that it promotes interoperability between different agencies offering various kinds of child services. Professionals are prompted to work together in sharing knowledge and information regarding the children with a combined objective of promoting the lifelong well-being of the child. Thus, professional practitioners are induced to embrace the principles of teamwork, as more positive outcomes are achieved through working together (Stanford, 2009).

Another contemporary issue affecting practitioners is the single planning framework that requires the children who require special attention to each have a unique “Child’s Plan”. The policy was captured in the Children and Young People (Scotland) (2014) and the implementation was scheduled to be conducted in the year 2018 (Government of Scotland, 2018). The Child’s Plan is targeted to the children who require some sort of special support that is not generally offered to all children. The children in need of special support include orphaned children, children raised by single parents, children with disabilities, and children who have suffered one or more ACEs. The components of a Child’s Plan include a highlight of the professional support that the child requires, explanations of the relevant actions required to provide the relevant support, the description of the professional services required by the child, the objectives of the support provided to the child, and a mechanism of how the outcome will be assessed and reviewed. Furthermore, the child’s plan details the lead professional who is responsible for monitoring the child’s development process (Redmond, 2017). The aspect of the Child’s plan affects how professionals work in fulfilling their responsibilities to children. The professionals must be familiar with such a Child’s plan where present, to ensure that the nature of the services they offer to the child is consistent with the particular needs of the child.

The lead professional is a practitioner such as a social worker who is assigned the responsibility of seeing that the child’s plan is properly managed as has been set. The lead professional is responsible for making sure that they inform the parent or guardian of everything that is happening at the various stages of the Child’s plan. As such they should strive to get the parents or guardians involved in the decisions pertaining to the welfare of the child (Johns, 2009). The lead professional is also required to be up to date with the progress of the child with respect to their plan. The professional ascertains that the program is up to date, accurate and is responsible for the regular review of the plan. Finally, the lead professional is required to work with the particular named person assigned to the child (Reamer, 2013). The named person refers to the particular chosen contact person whom the parents, guardians or other professionals dealing with the child can get in touch with for the relevant information concerning the support required for the child. The lead professional refers to a party chosen to oversee the services offered to a child based on their skill set and experience that gives them the know-how of how to assist the child. The lead professional works in conjunction with the named person, and parents or guardians of the child.The main challenge to the professional is understanding the child’s needs through interaction. Additionally, the family or guardians of the children might pose a challenge by proving to be difficult to work with. As such, the implication for policy is that professionals be trained on some of these difficulties so that they can learn to differentiate the difficulties posed by parents/guardians with identifying the needs of the child (Stanford, 2009).

The lead professional is normally appointed by one of the services providing support to the child. The most critical role of the lead professional is to ensure there is coordination and consistency in all the child services that are offered to the child (Banks, 2016). Thus, the lead professional acts as the link between the child and other various professionals offering different sorts of supporting services to the child (Banks, 2012). As can be observed, the professional practice for those involved with roles and responsibilities for children entails practitioners working more and more harmoniously and as a team. Contemporary early year’s care entails more than just the technical skills required to fulfil certain tasks but also involves managerial skills that help the practitioners work as a team comprising of the children, other professionals, and the parents or guardians. Practitioners also require management skills in the setting of the plans for support and services that the child requires, as well as coordinating and monitoring the support framework given to the child.

How do professionals with responsibilities for children use reflection as a tool to enhance their practice?

Reflection is an essential tool for enhancement of the practice amongst professionals in various fields. The professionals in their various areas of specialisation are able to apply reflection during the decision-making process. Reflective practice involves the synthesis of the experiences and routine occurrences in the past that gives an insight on how to approach a problem.  The practitioners dealing with minors deal with issues relating to how children understand different things differently from adults, and how they have difficulties processing information most of the timens, 2009). Reflection prompts a professional to make correct judgements concerning the desirable behaviours that should be imitated by children. Thus, desirable behaviours are shaped since the professionals realise what leads to unwanted characters amongst the clients. A deeper reflective analysis enhances effective learning process as the professionals learn how to extend the learners knowledge basing on the experiences.  The learning theory cycle proposed by Kolb (2014) describes the four stages of how the learning process is enhanced through experience and reflection (Wilding, 2008). The model stipulates that knowledge is attained through the reflection of the past events and forming conclusions. The practical approach to solve a problem links an individual experience with the theoretical knowledge.

The four stages stated by Kolb’s reflective cycle are Experience, Reflection, Conceptualisation, and Planning (Cheung and Delavega, 2014). Experience forms the basic foundation of the learning process as each individual encounter a unique circumstance that is directly or indirectly linked to future events. When professionals encounter a similar situation makes a reference to past events and come up with effective approaches to deal with the issue. The model by Kolbs acknowledges that the situations tend to rewind in the future.  The more experience a professional has reflects the strong capabilities to develop more effective strategies towards solving an issue (Kolb, 2014). Conceptualisation stage implies the development of a hypothesis from the past encounters that should be proven for future references. The hypotheses created in the mind forms a theoretical model of understanding why the situation happened. Planning is the final stage by Kolbs and entails testing of the hypothesis developed during the conceptualisation stage. However, one of the leading challenges of this cycle is that there are sometimes deviations which are created by unforeseen circumstances. As such professionals have a difficult time adjusting to these unforeseen issues. On the positive side though, the cycle acts as a model and a point of reference for the professionals and it helps childcare professionals compare the progress of the children under their care to the expected progress according to the cycle (Kolb, 2014). The future experiences can be against or in accordance with the hypotheses created in the mind (Cheung and Delavega, 2014). Appropriate and more relevant techniques are generated during reflections which leads to positive outcomes in intervention programs (Kolb, 2014). Thus, reflection provides a model for effective decision making and problem-solving approaches by the professionals.

Childcare professionals are required to undertake an administrative role in addition to the intervention role.  An administrative responsibility is more of a managerial aspect as the professional needs to explore the various alternatives to approach an issue. Sharing the experiences with colleagues provides a platform to explore an issue in a critical and multiple dimensions hence narrow down the approaches (Kolb, 2014). The reflective cycle by Gibbs examines how situations in the future can be improved through reflecting on the past experiences (Gibbs, 1988). The theoretical framework explores six stages of how past experiences can be used as tools for approaching future problems. The six stages of Gibb’s theory are Description, Feeling, Evaluation, Analysis, Conclusion and Action plan (Wilding, 2008). Description stage entails answering the questions about what happened and the roles played by the individuals involved. The description of the problem leads to the identification and definition of the individual roles and responsibilities (Cheung and Delavega, 2014). The definition of the roles in the problem context leads to a self-assessment as the practitioners realise whether they acted in a competent manner during the situation. Linking the implications of the event with the roles played actualises mistakes and failure to accomplish individual duties. Therefore, the practitioners through the self-assessment formulate mistake avoidance and improvement plans during the reflection process. The Feeling stage entails a critical analysis of the implication of the actions taken by the practitioners that influenced the event in either way. This critical analysis involves the practitioners engaging in a process of asking questions on how to better understand the situation. The outcome from the feeling stage is that the practitioners understand the event more, and the direction they would take in future in case they were in a similar situation. It therefore acts as a learning experience to the practitioners. The positive thoughts lead to desirable outcomes and vice versa. The professionals acknowledge and uphold the thoughts that bring positive changes after a critical analysis of their actions (Johns, 2017). The negative and positive implications of the actions are thereafter evaluated to replace the approaches that lead to undesirable outcomes. Evaluation step prompts the professionals to view the problem in multiple perspectives in order to tackle the issue in a more strategic manner. The fourth step of the Gibbs reflective cycle involves the analysis of the lessons learnt in both the positive and negative experiences (Gibbs, 1988). Lessons learnt from positive encounters equip the professional with skills that can be applied to similar situations while those from negative experiences illustrate the need to improve. The conclusion stage entails a deeper view of the past situation and what else could be done to bring about positive outcomes. The final step of the reflective cycle involves the development of the action plans that will improve the events in the future (DuBois and Miley, 2013).  The Gibbs reflective cycle describes how professionals can shape their actions and those of their clients to achieve better outcomes to the puzzling circumstances.

Rational decisions are achieved when a professional integrates experience in the action plans. Rational thinking makes the professionals plan on how they will engage the clients in the problem-solving process (Cheung and Delavega, 2014). For instance, the children and families can be made part of the solutions to contemporary issues in the society which leads to positive outcomes. Schon model demonstrates how reflection plays a critical role in finding solutions to problems (Schön, 2017). The model suggests that reflection is a two-phase process that occurs during and after an event. Each phase illustrates how professionals exercise creativity to bring about positive outcomes of an event. The reflective-in-action phase involves the actions and decisions taken during an event. The actions taken by the practitioners during an event influences the outcomes either positively or negatively (Johns, 2017). An event translates to a positive outcome if a professional in the field take the necessary caution and avoid the actions that can lead to negative outcomes. Reflective-on-action is the second phase of the model that involves identification of the lessons learnt from the previous events (Schön, 2017). A professional is able to solve a problem more appropriately when they have an experience of a similar situation in the past.  In Scotland, the professional dealing with minors must have relevant experience to enhance positive outcomes of the intervention. GIRFEC requires the practitioners to exercise competency and rely on the past experiences for guidance on how to solve problems (Government of Scotland, 2018). The theoretical knowledge is given minimal consideration in the evaluation of the professional competency due to the dynamic nature of the society. The two phases of professional reflection by Schon nurtures the habit of behaviour monitoring amongst the professionals. A reflection during an occurrence encourages the professionals to be aware of the implications of their actions hence they develop a habit of situational monitoring of their undertakingsWilding, 2008). The practitioners are able to draw professionalism principles by upholding the actions that led to positive implications and eliminate those that resulted in negative outcomes.

GIRFEC requires the practitioners dealing with minors to exercise competency and ensure that the action plans developed results to positive outcomes (Government of Scotland, 2018). The professionals need to engage the parents and the children as part of the solutions for the effective delivery of the services. The practitioners are required to have relevant skills and experience in handling the issues relating to children. Experience is derived from the past encounters hence the need for individuals to exercise reflection. The professionals learn to accept the positive and negative feedback by evaluating the implications of their action (Johns, 2017). Reflection enhances the integration of theoretical knowledge with the beliefs and experiences in order to find the most appropriate solution to contemporary issues. Thus, professional reflection provides an essential platform where the practitioners recognise their identity and perform an actual diagnosis of their approaches to practice.

Ethical issues affecting practitioners with responsibilities for children

Confidentiality is a common dilemma faced by professionals dealing with the minors especially those handling teenagers (Reamer, 2013). Confidentiality is defined as the state of keeping private the personal information concerning the clients (Duyvendak, Knijn, and Kremer, 2006). The practitioners are entangled in an ethical quandary when the personal information concerning the children needs to be shared to the parents for effective practice.  The practitioners in Scotland are required to integrate the parents and the children in the intervention plan so as to enhance positive outcomes. The Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill formulated in 2017 by the Scottish government requires the practitioners to share information concerning the children for effective results (Government of Scotland, 2018). Confidentiality integrates the ethical values and principles such as dignity, integrity and the human relationship (Redmond, 2017). Information privacy assures the children of their dignity and positively influence their willingness to be part of the intervention plan. Self-determination and high esteem results when the practitioners are able to confine the information from the public (Reamer, 2013). Practitioners are required to be transparent and gain trust from the children, parents, and society at large for positive outcomes (Acquisti, Brandimarte, and Loewenstein, 2015). However, it becomes a challenge to keep information private due to the conflicting demands of the laws, children, parents, and society. The laws require each stakeholder to have a certain responsibility when it comes to keeping the information private. Sometimes the lines, which need not to be crossed by the government when using this private information for the benefit of the children becomes, blurred especially when the parents are not well informed. This could result to violations because basically the demands are based on each party using the information while respecting the rights of the other. Therefore, practitioners should be competent and exercise creativity when entangled in the confidentiality trap.

The paradoxical change theory by Beisser (2004) holds that a positive result occurs when an individual accepts the current situation.  The theory recognises that humans are unique and possess the abilities that are hard to be imitated (Beisser, 2004). The theory explains the minimal role of the professionals and states that change can only occur when individuals recognise their unique identity. The clients by seeking the therapy from professionals experience an intrapsychic conflict.  The dilemma is a result of the conflicting interest between the clients and the professionals (Acquisti,  Brandimarte, and Loewenstein, 2015). Therefore, the professionals should encourage their clients to accept their current situation and take up full responsibilities in order to change for the better. The theory suggests that the practitioners and patients should have equal roles during the practice. Professionals by playing the role of an expert in the situation lead to a top-dog situation where the patient is viewed to be helpless and hence relies on the change agents (Paterson and Chapman, 2013). The practitioners are entangled in the situation where the interest of the patients contradicts their interests when a top-dog scenario is created. For instance, a patient might be in a situation where they do not understand whether or not they should progress with a medical procedure but then the interest changes when a family member or their insurance company is involved since the situations change. The practitioners should hence encourage the patients to accept the current situation in order to enhance the positive outcome of the intervention.  Encouraging patients to believe that they are the change agents helps the professionals to uphold integrity in the duties since they will avoid ethical dilemmas brought by the conflicting demands (Johns, 2017). The theory further states that personal experience plays a critical role in bringing positive change during an intervention. An effective therapist tends to nurture his skills and competency by accepting whom they are rather than trying to be something different (Banks, 2016). The experience and knowledge to approach a problem are nurtured through the individual reflection of past events and developing effective action plans that can be applied in the future. Therefore, engaging the clients and parents in the action plan helps to solve the confidentiality dilemma amongst the professionals.

Conflict of interest is a major ethical issue affecting professionals as they conduct their duties. Conflict of interest refers to the aspect where a particular decision by a professional is influenced by a personal benefit in a way (Duyvendak, Knijn, and Kremer, 2006). For instance, a professional involved in a particular child care service may have an attachment with a particular child through being related or knowing the family at a personal level. Also, the professional practitioner may also receive a gift from the child’s family causing him/her to treat the child differently from the other children. Conflict of interest is a serious concern since it adversely affects the quality of service delivered (Redmond, 2017). Conflict of interest is prevalent for professionals with responsibilities for children since many of them work in environments where they have relations with the children’s parents or guardians. These professionals know these parents personally and most of the time understand the challenges they go through and as such they might be biased in their approaches. Thus, it is quite crucial for social workers to have the ability to recognise the existence of a conflict of interest and have the skills to deal with such situations.

The professional code of conduct does not allow practitioners to accept any kinds of gifts from the people they serve (SSSC, 2016). The rationale between these ethical principles is that the exchange of gifts between practitioner and the parent or guardian of the child eliminates objectivity and can cause biases in how the practitioner treats different children (Banks, 2008). For instance, the practitioner may devote more time and resources to the child whose parents he knows personally and understands the financial challenges they go through. Such biases may develop consciously or unconsciously (Stanford, 2009). The aspirational of the professional code of conduct is that all the children should be treated fairly and equally regardless of their background. With a conflict of interest brought about by the monetary or other forms of reward given to the practitioner, it becomes almost impossible for all the children to receive the same level of service as is desired by the professional code of ethics (Paterson and Chapman, 2013).

When there is unequal treatment of the children, the objectives of the particular support are defeated and the situation may even become worse (Duyvendak, Knijn, and Kremer, 2006). The children receiving less favourable attention from the practitioner may develop negative feelings and may therefore be affected in regards to their relationships with their practitioners. For instance, in a class environment, the children may feel less obligated to participate in classwork because they have an idea that their teachers have their own favourites (Reamer, 2013). .o avoid such eventualities, professional practitioners must always aspire to be fair and rational in conducting their mandate (Reamer, 2013). Thus, conflict of interest must always be avoided at all costs by practitioners to avoid disentrancing the children involved.

From the theory of paradox and change, the conflict of interest manifests itself when the roles of the practitioners, the children, and the parent or the guardian are not clearly defined. The practitioner may be overly focused on how they want to change the children according to their experience and vision (Beisser, 2004). Such a scenario may thus be a source of conflict between how the child or the parent of the child aspires them to be and how the practitioner intends to change them. To maintain a high level of integrity in such a scenario, the practitioner must abide by the ethical principle of autonomy. With the principle of autonomy, the professional acknowledges and respects the child’s right of self-determination (Banks, 2016). Thus, the practitioner should always involve the child, the named person and the parent or guardian in situations that require important decisions to be made. The decisions made by the child or their legal guardians should be given a higher preference.


Professionals dealing with minors are required to perform self-assessment of the past events in order to improve the outcomes in future situations. Experience is one of the requirements when dealing with minors in Scotland due to the existing complexities during practice. Problem-based knowledge is enhanced when the professionals share their experience with colleagues. Kolbs, Gibbs and Schon theories demonstrate how reflection enhances the development of positive outcomes. The theoretical models propose that the professionals are exposed to multiple techniques of handling a situation through the experiences. Reflection enhances the effective knowledge acquisition since the professionals inspire the learners to base their conclusions and arguments from what they have ever encountered. Professionals perform an accurate assessment of their work through the reflection process. The practitioners are able to distinguish their roles and those of the clients through assessment of the past events. The professionals learn to be accountable for their actions through a critical analysis of their actions in regard to the implications of the situation. The ethical dilemma faced by the practitioners can be handled effectively through the integration of the past encounters with theoretical knowledge.




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