Forum focuses on ethics, equity

2016 Excellence in Ethics AwardsFront row, from left: Kim Strom-Gottfried, Elizabeth DuMez, Allan Barsky, Ruth Lipschutz and Frederic Reamer receive the Excellence in Ethics Award during NASW’s 60th anniversary forum in October. Not pictured: Award recipient Natalie Holzman. Back row, from left: NASW CEO Angelo McClain and Dawn Hobdy, director of NASW’s Office of Ethics and Professional Review.

NASW held a daylong leadership forum in October to culminate the association’s 60th anniversary celebration in 2015, and to discuss ways NASW and its partners can address important issues and advance significant initiatives within the social work profession.

The 60th Anniversary Forum, held Oct. 23 in Washington, D.C., also recognized the 55th anniversary of the NASW Code of Ethics, presented six social workers with Excellence in Ethics Awards, and honored 19 newly inducted NASW Social Work Pioneers©.

NASW CEO Angelo McClain said the social work profession has much to celebrate and to be proud of. The forum, he said, offered the chance to reflect on how NASW has helped pave the way for positive change in society since 1955.

“It challenges leaders in the field to discuss how social workers can have the greatest impact on serving our nation’s families, helping achieve critical justice goals, and understanding the ethical implications of seismic changes in technology and globalization over the last decade,” McClain said.

Social work leaders, students and faculty from across the U.S. attended the conference, where they heard panel presentations that focused on family well-being; liberty and equity; and emerging issues regarding the Code of Ethics.

Social workers have made a difference in the lives of millions of people for more than a century, NASW President Darrell Wheeler said in his opening remarks.

He added that the panels’ goals were to explore the serious questions of today and challenge attendees to think deeply and from the heart.

“Our moderators and speakers represent many different facets of our professional community and the NASW family,” Wheeler said.

The first panel, “Family Well-Being Across the Lifespan,” was moderated by NASW member and Howard University professor Tricia Bent-Goodley. The panel addressed the increasingly complex continuum of services needed to serve individuals and families at all stages, Wheeler said.

Social workers have been at the forefront of efforts to serve marginalized groups in America, yet whether equity has been achieved is a question Wheeler posed as he described the second panel, “Liberty and Equity in the 21st Century,” moderated by past NASW President Gary Bailey.

The third panel, “Code of Ethics: Evolution and Emerging Issues,” explored how new technologies and globalization affect social work roles — possibly challenging core principals in the future — and how the application of the Code of Ethics changes and evolves. NASW member Allan Barsky, a former chairman of the association’s National Ethics Committee, moderated the panel.

During the forum, Wheeler recognized several past NASW presidents and executive directors, and current and previous board members, including past president Suzanne Dworak-Peck; past executive director and NASW Social Work Pioneer® Elizabeth J. Clark; and past president Terry Mizrahi.

“What we experienced was a substantive discussion with practice and academic leaders, not only looking back but looking forward — the outcome being an action plan which will be designed for future leaders and members to grow the association thoughtfully,” Dworak-Peck said.

Following the panel presentations, six social workers were recognized during an Excellence in Ethics Award presentation, led by McClain and Dawn Hobdy, director of NASW’s Office of Ethics and Professional Review. The six awardees are:

  • Allan Barsky
  • Elizabeth DuMez
  • Natalie Holzman
  • Ruth Lipschutz
  • Frederic Reamer
  • Kim Strom-Gottfried

McClain said these individuals have made significant contributions to the development of the Code of Ethics. Their efforts include training, publications, working with NASW chapters, and the promotion of high ethical standards across the profession.

“They have done this work to help advance the profession, and the professional association of NASW,” McClain said.

Hobdy called it an honor to have the opportunity to acknowledge and thank the honorees.

“There have been times in my thoughts — after I’ve worked hours with Allan on our procedures manual, when Ruth has traveled to D.C. to do a mediation for us, or when Natalie has come to D.C. — there are times in my head when I’ve said, ‘These folks are amazing,’” Hobdy said.

In closing remarks, Wheeler talked about the role social workers play in terms of being valued added proponents of a complex society that grapples with issues on many levels. He said it’s important that social workers do not lose sight of the core mission that brought the founding mothers and fathers together to create NASW.

“In order to be a truly integrated part of this profession, one must be a part of this association,” Wheeler said. “We have a mandate to give back to something meaningful.”

The panel portion of the forum was live streamed so those who were not able to attend in person could view it online. More than 80 sites logged in, including the University of Southern California, New York University and the University of Denver.

forum round tableDorothy Harris, left, a past president of NASW, and Richard Barth, dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland, take part in a roundtable discussion during an NASW forum in October. The event was the culmination of the association’s celebration of its 60th anniversary. Photo by Paul Pace, News staff

Social work goals

Roundtable discussions were held during the forum’s afternoon session, where participants talked about helping NASW and its partners advance five significant initiatives within the social work profession for the next five years. Social workers provided strategies and identified key stakeholders of the following goals through these discussions:

  • How can the NASW Cultural Competence Standards be used in social work to help reduce disparities and increase inclusion?
  • During this 55th anniversary year of the Code of Ethics, how can we further increase its influence, use and accessibility?
  • The Institute of Medicine’s July 2015 Report on Improving Psychosocial Interventions recommends establishing more rigorous evidence-based standards to deliver consistent mental health and substance abuse treatment in the United States. How can the social work profession influence this IOM effort?
  • The American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare has identified the top 12 social problems that could be solved with social work innovation in research, practice and policy. What action is required by all social work sectors to make tackling the Grand Challenges a priority for the profession?
  • The Improving Access to Mental Health Act was introduced in Congress in 2015. The bill will help seniors access behavioral health services by updating the way the Medicare program reimburses clinical social workers.

Getting the bill passed

McClain said association staff would compile the suggestions and seek more input through NASW’s media channels as well as devise an implementation plan. He gave a summary of some of the proposals offered during his closing remarks.

“Social work is still ready to take on big things,” McClain said, citing the need for more evidence-based practice models to build the social work knowledge base.

“We want to have collaborations, but let’s make sure we do the internal work in our association and in our schools so we can be stronger,” McClain said. “To accomplish these big things we’ve got to have partners at the federal and local levels, and work with them. Who better to inform them than social workers? And we want to make sure social workers have a seat at the table.”

He stressed the need for more social workers to take on the challenging role of public office as well.

In regard to undoing racism, McClain said authentic discussions on racism can move the needle forward to make a difference.

“We want those words ‘We the people’ to be real,” he said, adding that social work will also take on other social challenges, such as gun violence and its relationship to mental health.

Reflecting on NASW’s 60 years, McClain said, “It’s an obligation to us to carry the work forward and we’re ready to double down and take on these big things — as did those who have came before us.”

The forum concluded with an evening ceremony to induct the most recent NASW Social Work Pioneers©

By Paul Pace and Rena Malai