Professional ethics are at the core of social work practice. The NASW Code of Ethics offers a set of values, principles and standards to guide decision-making and everyday professional conduct of social workers. It is relevant to all social workers and social work students regardless of their specific functions or settings. The NASW Code of Ethics is best described as a “living” document. With an ever-changing world serving as the context, new social developments and issues have warranted several revisions of the Code.
The Code was last revised in 2008 and is currently used by most social work licensing boards.Â View the Code of Ethics by following this link.
Ethical Standard of the Month
The Office of Ethics and Professional Review profiles an ethical standard of the month every other month. This is an opportunity to examine specific standards from the NASW Code of Ethics, and related resources that promote the understanding and appropriate application of the Code.
The Ethical Standard of the Month is a great starting point for discussion and research related to specific standards in the Code and the implications for practice and general professional conduct.
1.01 Commitment to Clients
Social workersâ€™ primary responsibility is to promote the well-being of clients. In general, clientsâ€™ interests are primary. However, social workersâ€™ responsibility to the larger society or specific legal obligations may on limited occasions supersede the loyalty owed clients, and clients should be so advised. (Examples include when a social worker is required by law to report that a client has abused a child or has threatened to harm self or others.)
Commitment to clients is appropriately the first standard in the NASW Code of Ethics as it captures the essence of the social work professionâ€™s mission and values while balancing this commitment with the contextual factors that inform social work practice.
When approaching an ethical dilemma related to a client, more often than not, Standard 1.01 Commitment to Clients is applicable. This standard challenges the social worker to reconcile his/her primary responsibility to promote the well-being and interests of clients with the responsibility to uphold the legal requirements that protect the interests of society. When situations arise that require choosing between the clientâ€™s interests and that of the general public, arriving at a sound ethical decision can be challenging. At times the requirement to follow the law supersedes the obligation to the client; e.g., when the social worker is required to follow state mandated reporting laws and/or duty to warn obligations. In order to uphold Standard 1.01, it is imperative that social workers understand the legal requirements that govern their practice and apply them appropriately. This will require training, consultation and continuing education â€“ all necessary for ethical practice.
For additional information regarding this standard see:
Did You Know?
The NASW Social Work Ethics and Law Institute posts a “Did you know?” segment on our Facebook page. For weekly updates see: www.facebook.com/#!/socialworkethicslaw