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Abstract

This study examines the effect of agency function or purpose on the handling of client privacy issues in social work agencies. Practitioners working in public and private agencies were compared. The data revealed that, more than those in private agencies, social workers in public agencies: (1) thought that their work would be more affected if they could not rely on outside sources for information about clients; (2) were more often requested to supply information about clients to outside sources; and (3) were more likely to reveal information about clients as a form of ethical dilemma resolution. It is suggested that compliance from clients is the primary social reward sought by practitioners in public agencies and that client information is used as an instrument of power in obtaining it. Practitioners in private agencies, on the other hand, seek different social rewards and tend to be more protective of client privacy.

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