NASW announces updated standards

Two sets of NASW social work practice standards —Social Work Practice with Clients with Substance Use Disorders and the Social Work Practice in Child Welfare — have recently been revised.

NASW also has developed a new set of standards: Social Work Practice with Service Members, Veterans and their Families.

The NASW Standards for Social Work Case Management have been updated as well.

Tracy Whitaker, NASW director for the Center for Workforce Studies & Social Work Practice, said the standards are revised to reflect changes in practice, practice settings and language and shifts in client populations. The revisions are guided by a panel of expert social workers who are currently practicing in the area and who have solid knowledge of the applicability of the standards to practice.

Standards for Social Work Practice with Clients with Substance Use Disorders.

Social workers regularly encounter individuals, families and communities affected by substance use disorders. Effective service delivery requires that social workers be knowledgeable about the processes and dynamics of substance use, including abuse, dependency, and recovery. Social workers also need to have the knowledge and ability to work with clients to develop effective treatment plans using existing and emerging resources, including evidence-informed practices.

NASW Standards for Social Work Practice in Child Welfare.

These standards create guidelines for social work practice in child welfare, which may include prevention, parenting programs, family support programs, family-based services, family foster care, kinship care, residential group homes, adoption, and independent living.

NASW Standards for Social Work Practice with Service Members, Veterans and their Families.

As a supporter of Joining Forces — a national initiative with a goal to create better health, education and employment support for service members, veterans and their loved ones — NASW created standards especially for social workers who work with or who are likely to encounter clients who are veterans or active duty military.

This growing area of practice can help service members, veterans and their families adjust to changes and face the unique challenges that military involvement can bring about.

The social work profession has consistently led the response to the psychosocial needs of those who have served through the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense.

However, NASW believes that all social workers, regardless of primary practice area or setting, need to acquire basic education and training on the opportunities and challenges facing this population so that when they do work with a military-connected family, they will have tools and knowledge to inform their practice. The standards set an important precedent for all social workers engaging in this work.

The NASW Standards for Social Work Case Management.

Case management is a fundamental component of all social work practice, as well as a specialty area within social work, said NASW Senior Practice Associate Chris Herman.

“These standards apply to social work case management with any population and across employment sectors and practice settings,” Herman said.

During the revision process, NASW staff worked with a 10-member advisory panel with expertise in diverse practice settings and specialties. NASW members also provided input during a public comment period.

“The revision was particularly timely because of the growing emphasis on service coordination across service settings,” Herman said. “This focus is clear in health care reform, but it’s equally relevant in other spheres of practice. Social work case management plays an integral role in achieving this goal.”

Herman noted that the revised standards stress the person-centered nature of case management. “The social work case manager is a professional partner who helps clients use their strengths to achieve their individualized goals,” she said.

Moreover, she added, collaboration with other service providers and organizations and intervention at the mezzo and macro levels are increasingly important as both client circumstances and service systems become more complex.

To access all of NASW’s standards, members can go to the Practice section.