NASW Delegates Approve Goals for Next Three Years

group of people seated in audience with hands raised

By Paul R. Pace

NASW’s Delegate Assembly approved its priority goals for the next three years, as well as revisions to 14 public policy statements that had been under review. Delegates also considered two proposed changes to the NASW Code of Ethics.

The Delegate Assembly is the representative, decision-making body through which NASW members set broad organizational policy, establish program priorities, and develop a collective stance on public and professional issues. It comprises 220 elected delegates, including the national board of directors.

In addition, the NASW chief executive officer and executive directors from each chapter are nonvoting delegates, making a total of 277 members. The Delegate Assembly meets once every three years and approves all policies published in “Social Work Speaks.”

NASW has been conducting its Delegate Assembly virtually since 2008. The association hosted the culminating meeting of the Delegate Assembly in November at its national office in Washington, D.C.

“There were 12 staff members on site along with our national president, and we took precautions and safeguards to avoid exposure to the COVID-19 virus,” said Sue Jashinsky, chief administrative officer at NASW. “That was a new challenge for us. We usually hold the culminating meeting in August. Because of the pandemic, we moved it to November.”

Program Priority Goals

The following approved program priority goals will be effective from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2024.

Strengthen NASW’s standing as the pre-eminent resource for social workers: Strengthen NASW’s responsiveness to its members and standing as the pre-eminent, trusted resource for day-to-day practice support, professional development and advocacy for all professional social workers.

Maximize awareness of the value of social work: Promote awareness among key stakeholders that professional social workers are essential in addressing a broad range of individual, community and societal challenges.

Leverage the NASW enterprise for maximum social and racial justice impact: Vigorously and strategically advocate for the social work profession’s unique social and racial justice agenda.

Elevate the quality of social work: Promote excellence and innovation in social work practice.

Champion efforts to support the social work profession: Drive advocacy efforts to increase fair opportunities and compensation, improve working conditions and environment, and expand leadership roles for social workers.

Public Policy Updates

Fourteen public policy areas were up for review. Over the course of two years, policy panels—made up of members who are experts in the content areas of the policies—convened online to offer proposed revisions. Each revision proposal was put up for public comment for 30 days

The policy panels looked at the comments and made further revisions if needed. The delegates made their final vote on the proposed revisions. The revised policies will be published in the next edition of “Social Work Speaks.” Revised policy areas include:

  • Adolescent and Young Adult Health
  • Community Development
  • Confidentiality and Information Utilization
  • Crime Victim Assistance
  • Family Violence
  • Hospice Care
  • Parental Kidnapping
  • Rural Social Work
  • Voter Participation
  • Foster Care and Adoption
  • Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
  • Mental Health
  • School Safety
  • Sovereignty Rights and the Well-Being of Indigenous People

Changes to the NASW Code of Ethics

There were two proposed sets of changes to the Code of Ethics submitted for consideration. During the November meeting, delegates discussed the concepts of cultural competence, cultural awareness and cultural humility in section 1.05 of the ethical standards.

This was also debated during the 2017 DA. After much discussion, the delegates approved the renaming of the section from “Cultural Awareness and Social Diversity” back to “Cultural Competence.”

In addition, the delegates approved the addition of a new paragraph within that section that addresses the need for social workers to demonstrate cultural humility and cultural awareness:

Social workers should demonstrate awareness and cultural humility by engaging in critical self-reflection (understanding their own bias and engaging in self-correction); recognizing clients as experts of their own culture; committing to life-long learning; and holding institutions accountable for advancing cultural humility.

The delegates also considered proposed new language within the Ethical Principles’ Values section on Integrity. The proposed additional language was about self-care. The new language is in bold.

“Social workers are continually aware of the profession’s mission, values, ethical principles, and ethical standards and practice in a manner consistent with them. Social workers should take necessary measures to care for themselves professionally and personally in the workplace, their private lives, and in society. Social workers act honestly and responsibly and promote ethical practices on the part of the organizations with which they are affiliated.”

The delegates will reconvene February 19 to continue debate only on this proposal since the November meeting ran overtime and the presider determined that a quorum was no longer present by the end of the meeting. The revised NASW Code of Ethics will be published after the reconvened February meeting.

The next Delegate Assembly cycle starts July 1, with the culminating meeting scheduled for August 2023.

cover of Social Work Speaks, 12th edition

Social Work Speaks

Social Work Speaks (12th edition) is a comprehensive and unabridged collection of policies adopted and revised by the NASW Delegate Assembly in 2020. The policy statements set the parameters for NASW’s positions and actions on a broad range of public policy and professional issues.

Order Social Work Speaks at NASW Press