At 150,000-plus members strong, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership organization for professional social workers worldwide. It serves as a governing body, support system, educational resource, and guide for its members in their professional career. One of the ways the NASW guides its members is through their distinguished Code of Ethics. It provides guidelines and standards for the successful social worker to live by, and these standards are generally accepted by social worker boards and governing bodies worldwide.
The NASW Code of Ethics was created and approved by the 1996 NASW Delegate Assembly and revised by the 1999 NASW Delegate Assembly as changing times, technologies and policies required. The Code was meant to show social workers in the organization, as well as social workers around the world, how to conduct themselves professionally and ethically. Adherence to the Code of Ethics is a requirement to become a member of the NASW. The Code is available in two languages (English and Spanish) and is made up of four primary sections.
Don’t forget that the NASW organization also holds regular meetings around the US and that these meetings include getting continuing education classes from interesting speakers and the ability to network with others around jobs. In fact, one of my first jobs in Florida I got was due to a contact I made at a meeting.
Here’s what you’ll learn in the Code of Ethics For Social Workers:
1) The Preamble, which states the mission of social work and a brief overview of its core values;
2) Purpose of the NASW Code of Ethics, which lists the six primary purposes of the code as well as an explanation of situations where ethical dilemmas may occur;
3) Ethical Principles, which lists social work’s six core values of service, social justice, client dignity and worth, importance of human relationships, integrity and competence and the corresponding principles which back those values up; and
4) Ethical Standards, which outlines standards for conduct as they pertain to clients, colleagues, their individual practice, social work in general, and society as a whole. These standards are not law, but rather goals and protections for every social worker.
Some people deem the Code as legalistic and exclusive, so that advice from other professional organizations that deal with ethics in social work aren’t considered or accepted, but that’s not the case. Just as with other membership organizations, they have criteria and standards for membership. Furthermore, people sometimes fail to realize that laws are generally meant for one’s protection, and in this case the Code is something that was desired by social workers.
The process of creating the Code was a democratic one involving not only the leaders but also practicing social workers who desired to share their views on the essential standards and provisions that they felt any such code should contain. The Code is also a means of global uniformity among social workers and protection from potential malpractice lawsuits, conflicts, difficult ethical situations and the like that could result when a social worker is uninformed and isolated.
It is the job of each social worker, as a member of the NASW, to engage in the highest standards of excellence, fairness and professionalism – and that what is intended by the Code of Ethics