Impartiality and Social Work Responsibility: Social Worker Caught Lying in Court


Social workers are a rare breed, called on to do too much with too little. All the while they’re giving 110 percent to their jobs, they’re expected to be paragons of virtue: unassailable, unimpeachable, and impartial. What happens when a social worker isn’t impartial at all, and gives in to the very human impulse to take sides?

9 ABC reported in October that an Iowa City social worker had left the Iowa Department of Human Services in disgrace. That’s because she’s alleged to have repeatedly given false testimony against a mother and father who were, on the basis of that testimony, stripped of their parental rights.

“Chelsie Gray left DHS payroll on Sept. 23, two weeks after The Associated Press asked about her status,” reads the report. “…Gray wasn’t fired or forced to resign, and therefore the agency cannot disclose any information about her departure under Iowa law. The agency also declined to release the findings of a review of Gray’s cases that the state launched after learning about her false testimony last spring.”

At issue is the fact that Gray apparently falsified reports and gave testimony at trial that resulted in termination of legal parental rights to the parents of four Iowa children. The Iowa Department of Human Services has already been criticized for failing to protect some clients from child abuse. Two teenagers died at the hands of adoptive parents, all under the watch of the Iowa DHS. This has generated a torrent of negative publicity and heightened scrutiny on the department.

It was Chelsie Gray’s testimony specifically that the judge cited in the parental rights case. Later discrepancies in her testimony were the key to uncovering her false testimony. There’s been no word as to whether Gray suffered any consequences for these actions, nor are her motives clear. It seems likely that she felt the children in question were better served if taken from their parents… which meant, if that’s the case, that she didn’t care if she had to lie to do it.

Simply put, this is the nightmare scenario — the stereotype of the power-mad social worker who delights in arbitrarily ripping away parents’ children. The case could not be more damaging to the image of social workers nationwide, particular given the Iowa DHS’ other problems.

Social workers, now more than ever, must self-police. We must hold ourselves to the highest standards of impartiality and professionalism, no matter how difficult that may at times seem. Only against that gold standard can we continue to our jobs and do them well.

Have you ever witnessed unethical conduct on the job? Did you feel there was nothing you could do about it? Please share your thoughts and experiences with us now.

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