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The moral and ethical issues in the licensing of parents

Freeman Early childhood educators encounter many ethical issues in the course of their work with children and families.

When parents and physicians disagree: What is the ethical pathway?

Each of the Focus on Ethics columns in Young Children presents an ethical issue and asks our readers to determine how an early childhood educator might best respond to it. Is it an ethical issue? As we have written in NAEYC books about professional ethics, when faced with a challenging situation in the workplace, the first thing an early childhood educator needs to do is to determine whether it is an ethical issue.

Our experience tells us that this can be a difficult process, one that many are unsure about. If you answer yes to any of the items, you are facing an ethical issue. How you respond to it depends on whether it is an ethical responsibility or an ethical dilemma. Is it an ethical responsibility or an ethical dilemma?

Over the years that we have been conducting workshops and teaching courses about professional ethics, we have found that early childhood educators do not always know the difference between an ethical responsibility and an ethical dilemma, nor are they sure about how each should be approached.

To make this distinction clearer, we decided to use this March 2016 column to look at these two kinds of ethical issues.

The fact is, however, that instead of honoring these responsibilities, even well-meaning and conscientious early childhood educators are sometimes tempted to do what is easiest or what will please others.

  • In other words, the dependency and vulnerability of children might be part of what makes parenting so special, but those properties are also reasons to worry about the harms of incompetent parenting;
  • Nonmaleficence, or acting so as not to cause needless harm to others, is also a fundamental principle of medicine 1 , 2;
  • In other words, the following argument from analogy seems to hold;
  • A car is a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands;
  • The prospect of having a judge impose a treatment is an alternative that, it is safe to say, both parties would rather avoid.

We shall not participate in practices that are emotionally damaging, physically harmful, disrespectful, degrading, dangerous, exploitative, or intimidating to children. This principle has precedence over all others in this Code.

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You can be confident that when you have done the right thing, the Code is there to back you up. You can rely on it to help you explain why you made a difficult or unpopular decision.

It can be helpful to think of ethical responsibilities as being very similar to legal responsibilities in that they require or forbid a particular action.

  1. Is the same thing true of parenting? If I want to practice law, I have to earn a law licence.
  2. They could ask someone for a lift, or they could use public transport, or they could cycle or walk.
  3. I have relatively little to say about this argument. Two are particularly important.
  4. In other words, the following argument from analogy seems to hold. How you respond to it depends on whether it is an ethical responsibility or an ethical dilemma.

And sometimes legal and ethical responsibilities are the same—for example, mandating the reporting of child abuse. A dilemma is a situation for which there are two possible resolutions, each of which can be justified in moral terms. A dilemma requires a person to choose between two actions, each having some benefits but also having some costs.

In a dilemma the legitimate needs and interests of one individual or group must give way to those of another individual or group—hence the commonly used expression "on the horns of a dilemma," describing the two-pronged nature of these situations. The example of an ethical dilemma we often give is the case of the mother who asks a teacher not to let her child nap at school because when he sleeps in the afternoon he has a hard time falling asleep at night.

The teacher must choose between honoring the mother's request, which may have a detrimental effect on the child, or refusing the request, which will have a negative impact on the mother.

Ethical dilemmas are sometimes described as situation that involve two "rights. But it is also right to keep the child from napping to help a busy mother keep the child on schedule.

  • And sometimes legal and ethical responsibilities are the same—for example, mandating the reporting of child abuse;
  • Prentice Hall Canada Inc; 1994;
  • What is the rationale for all these licensing regimes?
  • This will hopefully also serve to reassure the parents.

When you encounter an ethical issue, it may be helpful to remember that it is either a responsibility or a dilemma—its cannot be both. A characteristic of an ethical dilemma is that it involves deliberation. It can rarely be resolved quickly or by simply applying rules and relying on facts.

You won't find easy solutions in any article or book for the dilemmas you face in your early childhood workplace. When you are certain that you have encountered an ethical dilemma, you can use the process described in the example that follows to help you find a justifiable resolution.

The book also provides examples of how the Code can be applied to a number of dilemmas that recur frequently in early childhood programs. As required by licensing and the USDA food program, the school serves milk at breakfast and lunch. Like a number of children in the class, Jane refuses milk and drinks water instead. Kristen allows children to make this choice. Kristen assures them that she will encourage Jane to drink her milk.

Kristen comforts her and allows her to drink water. This ethical issue, like others we have presented in previous columns, involves a conflict between requests made by a family member and what teachers think is good practice.

You might use this case as the basis for a staff meeting or an assignment for undergraduate or graduate students, or you might mull it over on your own or with a friend or colleague.

We recommend that you use the process we describe in Chapter 3 of Ethics and the Early Childhood Educator to help you reach a well-reasoned response that systematically applies the Code: Determine the nature of the problem Is it an ethical issue? If it is an ethical issue, does it involve ethical responsibilities or is it an ethical dilemma? If it is an ethical responsibility, what does the Code mandate that Kristen do?

If it is an ethical dilemma, Kristen can seek a resolution using the steps that follow.

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Analyze the dilemma Identify the conflicting responsibilities. Carefully review its Ideals and Principles—particularly those that apply to responsibilities to children and families. Based on your review of the Code and using your best professional judgment, describe what you think is the most ethically defensible course of action in this situation. When you have finished deliberating on this case and have decided on the best course of action for Kristen, send an email to the coeditors that includes your recommendation and a brief description of how you used the Code to reach this decision.

A Resource Guide forthcoming in spring 2016.