Professional Boundaries

Professional Boundaries

Professional Boundaries are the separation of personal and professional lives.  Blurring of boundaries can bring risks of damages and liabilities for the staff, co-workers, the agency, and the clients served.  Establishing and maintaining professional boundaries is important in the work we do.

How do boundaries become blurred? As Child Welfare professionals, we may play a variety of roles with clients—these include mentors, advocates, teachers, and mediators.  This can easily lead to dual relationships if the worker does not establish and maintain clear boundaries. Dual relationships occur when more than one kind of a relationship is formed between workers and clients or between co-workers.

Dual Relationships and Blurring of Boundaries 

Examples of dual relationships that should be avoided.


Ò  Receiving or giving gifts


Ò  Business and real estate transactions

Ò  Receiving discounts

Ò  Accept volunteer work

Ò  Awarding contracts

Ò  Loans and favors

Special Treatment

Ò  Outside of what all clients would normally have available to them

Ò  Beyond regular job duties

Religion and Politics

Ò  Discussing or promoting religious or political beliefs

Language and Behaviors

Ò  Obscene or discriminatory jokes

Ò  Use offensive conversations, swearing, and make sexual innuendos

Ò  Inappropriate e-mails and text messages


Ò  Romantic/sexual or personal relationships

Ò  Visiting homes outside of business

Ò  Date, socialize with, or invite clients to employee’s home


Ò  Transporting client outside of approved official business

Ò  Allowing client to drive personal vehicle

Ò  Allowing client or family member to drive company vehicle

Personal Information

Ò  Exchange personal phone numbers or share home address

Ò  Calls with clients outside of business

Ò  Self-disclosure


Ò  Discuss cases and confidential information outside of work

Ò  Access client files and information outside of job duties (HIPAA violation)

Substance Use

Ò  Use alcohol, tobacco, medication, or illegal substances while on duty

Establishing and Maintaining Professional Boundaries 

Keep our staff, agency, and clients safe by establishing and maintaining boundaries.

®     Clarify roles and responsibilities with clients and co-workers up front

®     Create an environment with constructive and open communication

®     Be aware of risks and liabilities

®     Be aware of positions of power versus positions of vulnerability

®     Anticipate and avoid boundary blurring and dual relationships

®      Avoid personal relationships between supervisors and supervisees

®      Avoid socializing with present and previous clients

®      Be aware that perceived boundary violations and dual relationships can be just as harmful

Staff should be familiar with their agency’s policies as they relate to professional boundaries.  Any staff member who violates policy may be subject to disciplinary action.  Employees are expected to immediately report unethical, illegal, or dangerous activities of clients, family members or staff.