History of the NASW Code of Ethics
The Original NASW Code of Ethics
- NASW’s Delegate Assembly approved the first edition of the NASW Code of Ethics on October 13, 1960.
- It defined the social work profession and the responsibilities of the social worker.
- It outlined fourteen responsibilities for social workers.
To view the original version of the NASW Code of Ethics, click here.
The First Revision
- The first revision of the original 1960 Code occurred in 1967, when a principle was added to address non-discrimination.
To view the 1967 version of the NASW Code of Ethics, click here.
The 1979 Revision of the Code
- Represented a significant revision to include 6 sections of standards, consisting of 82 principles and a preamble.
- It set forth principals related to the social workers’ ethical responsibility to clients, colleagues, employers and employing organizations, the social work profession and society.
- Introduced the enforcement of ethical practices among social workers using the Code as a basis and standard for the everyday conduct of social workers.
To view the 1979 version of the NASW Code of Ethics, click here.
Changes during the 90s
- In 1990, the Code was modified following an inquiry by the US Federal Trade Commission.Â This revision focused on principles related to solicitation of clients, fee setting and accepting compensation for referrals.
- In 1993, five new principles were added to the Code. They included principles related to social worker impairment and dual relationships.
- The last major revision of the NASW Code of Ethics was in 1996. The need for a new Code emerged due to the profession developing a wider understanding of ethical issues not addressed in the 1979 Code.Â Furthermore, developments in health care, litigations, publicity in the media all forced the profession to pay more attention to ethics.
- The 1999 revision was minor and clarified circumstances in which social workers may need to disclose confidential information without a client’s consent.
To view the 1990 version of the NASW Code of Ethics, click here.
To view the 1993 version of the NASW Code of Ethics, click here.
To view the 1996 version of the NASW Code of Ethics, click here.
To view the 1999 version of the NASW Code of Ethics, click here.
The most recent revision, in 2008, incorporated sexual orientation, gender identity and immigration status into the existing non-discrimination standards.
To view the 2008 version of the NASW Code of Ethics, click here.
Examining the Code’s Continued Relevance
- In 2006, NASW hosted a Social Work Ethics Summit to examine the continuing relevance of the Code. This was co-sponsored by the NASW Legal Defense Fund, the Social Work Ethics and Law Institute and the Wicher’s Fund.
- The Summit convened a small group of social workers representing diverse practice specialties, academia, research, licensing and regulatory boards, and attorneys to examine the 1999 Code of Ethics.
The Summit Recommendations
- Summit participants did not see a pressing need to revise the Code, but recommended a renewed focus on the development of ethics education resources to facilitate the proper interpretation and application of the Code.