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Ethical boundaries for people who work with youth

Media Release:

Ethical boundaries for people who work with youth

Representatives of the people who work with youth are reminding employers about the need for a strong code of ethics in their workplaces following the announcement that Waipareira Trust is considering Clint Rickards for a youth development position.

New Zealand Aotearoa Adolescent Health and Development (NZAAHD) executive officer Sarah Helm said that there is a significant power imbalance between people who work with youth and the young people they serve. Therefore a code of ethics and employment processes had to meet stringent measures, she said.

"A well enforced code of ethics would consider what is an appropriate and inappropriate relationship between a youth worker and a young person. A sexual relationship with a young person would never be okay in our work because of the professional relationship."

There is a code of ethics that has been drafted for consultation with youth workers, and existing ones for social work and other professions.

"Ethical codes also consider issues like privacy and confidentiality, duty of care, self-reflection, and collaborative practice. They help to ensure the safety of the professional person and their clients"

Employers should also consider the criminal background of staff, which in some cases might make someone unemployable in our field, Ms Helm said.

"Mr Rickards has not been convicted of a crime. We must remember that he was found not guilty. However in his admission he had repeated sexual encounters with a young woman while he was in a professional position of power. He has yet to apologise for this, or admit that he made a mistake."

An employer of any practitioner who is being asked to work with youth should consider this concerning, and at the very least put some processes in place to ensure this wouldn't happen again.

"An employer of Mr Rickards who was considering him for a role with young people should be quizzing him on his attitudes to engaging in intimate relationships with any young people he meets in his work."

It is up to all services to ensure that all young people in their duty of care are as safe as possible, Ms Helm said. Employers also have a duty to ensure their staff are safe by putting procedures and mechanisms in place to prevent and minimise opportunities for abuse.


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