A young child puzzled by an ethical dilemma
Connexions Professional Practice

Facing an ethical dilemma?

Every RECE faces situations which require making difficult decisions as it’s part of practising in a relationship-based profession. The College has developed a Practice Note on Ethical Decision-Making to help guide you in choosing a course of action to address an ambiguous situation or resolve an ethical dilemma.

Why is it important to make ethical decisions?

The profession of early childhood education’s core set of ethical values are care, respect, trust and integrity. The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice states that as an RECE, these values are fundamental to your practice and conduct.

Making ethical decisions enables you to act in the best interests of children and their families as you identify the situation and focus on the facts. This is part of what it means to be a professional who exercises good professional judgment.

How can this Practice Note help?

This Practice Note is a practical resource that outlines a process that RECEs can use to resolve ambiguous practice situations or ethical dilemmas or examine past experiences to support future ethical decision-making. It also provides links to further resources.

RECEs and employers may find it helpful to keep this resource easily accessible in the workplace. Consider using it in conjunction with the College’s case studies and scenarios that cover a range of practice settings, or with the examples below.

Examples of where the ethical decision-making process can be applied

Follow the steps in the Practice Note on Ethical Decision-Making to help you decide on how to proceed in these two scenarios.

An ethical dilemma: Balancing needs

Niko, an RECE, works in a preschool room. Jan is a 4-year-old who is in physical therapy to enhance his fine motor skills. Jan’s family requests that he does his fine motor exercises for 20 minutes per day. Niko agrees to work on this with Jan.

After a couple of days, Jan becomes visibly upset during one of the 20-minute exercise sessions and some of the other children laugh at him. Every day since then, Jan has been asking if he can stop and do the rest of the exercises later. Niko believes children should be encouraged to make their own choices and agrees to Jan’s idea.

Niko decides to have a conversation with the family to share that Jan is having a hard time focusing for 20 minutes at a time. Niko explains that Jan has been doing better when working on the exercises periodically throughout the day. The family is not pleased with the routine Niko has implemented and is adamant that Jan complete his exercises the way they originally requested.

Niko wants to take the family’s requests into consideration, but also wants to respect Jan and how this is affecting him. Niko is very conflicted in how to proceed.

An ambiguous situation: Just call Fatima

Over the past year in her role as a child care supervisor, Saroj, an RECE, has relied on Fatima, also an RECE, to replace her when she is off from work. Because this happens often, Fatima assumes that when Saroj is absent, she will be asked to take on this responsibility. This has become stressful for Fatima because she is never certain when she will be asked to act as the supervisor and she feels that she lacks certain knowledge and skills for this role. Fatima has also begun to wonder whether this entitles her to more pay and a different position title.

Saroj’s frequent absences are also putting Fatima in a challenging position with the other RECEs who have been working at the centre for the same amount of time as her. A few of her colleagues appear to resent Fatima, who is the only one Saroj asks to take on this leadership responsibility. Fatima knows that the other staff have been looking for ways to develop their leadership skills and this has made the environment tense. She is worried that the tension is starting to affect the children and families.

Fatima likes to support her supervisor, but she is uncomfortable because she hasn’t received proper training, it doesn’t increase her salary and she is being excluded by her colleagues. She knows she needs to address the situation, but is uncertain about how to proceed and what to say. Fatima doesn’t want to appear unwilling because she feels this puts her employment at risk. 

Additional resources that can help guide decision-making include the Practice Note on Professional Judgment and the Practice Guideline on Professionalism.