Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to a question from readers. Today’s question was posted on a list serve for parents and family members of individuals with autism. The mom wrote,
“As far as data collection, I hear about the BCBA doing it but I have never seen it nor heard specific results. I requested the data and the BCBA told me that as an outside consultant she is not allowed to provide it.“
Having taught a course on Ethics and Professional Issues for behavior analysts, and in addition to offering on-going coursework related to ethical issues for Board Certified Behavior Analysts, hearing things like this really upsets me.
Guideline 2.0 Responsibility to Client
The Behavior Analyst Certifying Board (BACB) has developed a set of Guidelines that BCBAs and BCaBAs must follow. These guidelines are called the Guidelines for Responsible Conduct and they may be viewed here. One of the guidelines states that “the behavior analyst has the responsibility to operate in the best interest of the client“. When the client is a minor or incapacitated (i.e., unable to make decisions for him/her self), the client’s parents or guardians become the client.
In the case above, the BCBA is claiming that her responsibility lies with the school district who is paying her salary. Unfortunately, the school district is a third-party payer. While the BCBA has responsibilities to her employer, those responsibilities cannot override her primary responsibility to the client. In fact, the guidelines address this issues.
Guideline 2.05 Third Party Requests for Services
This guideline has two parts. First the guideline states that “When a behavior analyst agrees to provide services to a person or entity at the request of a third-party, the behavior analyst clarifies to the extent feasible, at the outset of the service, the nature of the relationship with each party. This clarification includes the role of the behavior analyst (such as therapist, organizational consultant, or expert witness), the probable uses of the services provided or the information obtained, and the fact that there may be limits to confidentiality.“
The guidelines go on to state that “If there is a foreseeable risk of the behavior analyst being called upon to perform conflicting roles because of the involvement of a third party, the behavior analyst clarifies the nature and direction of his or her responsibilities, keeps all parties appropriately informed as matters develop, and resolves the situation in accordance with these Guidelines.“
So, while the district is paying for the services, the client is the child and his/her guardian. When he client requests their data, the behavior analyst must make those data available.