The NASW Code Of Ethics

Social workers often face complex problems without clear solutions as they strive to help all people live fulfilling and productive lives. The world we live in poses resource constraints and ethical dilemmas to meeting that goal. Social workers have heavy caseloads, limited budgets and sometimes vexing social problems that make it difficult to meet all of their clients’ needs. How does one solve such issues, while staying true to one’s personal and professional values? The National Association of Social Worker (NASW) Code of Ethics provides some guidelines. What is NASW? NASW is the world’s largest professional organization of social workers, formed through the consolidation of seven social work organizations in 1955. The NASW works toward the professional development of its members, establishes standards of professional practice and advances sound social policy. The NASW Code of Ethics is the association’s primary standard of professional practice. The association organizes social work conferences, and publishes books and journals, such as the quarterly Social Work. NASW defines the mission of social work as: “to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs of those who are vulnerable, oppressed and living in poverty.” What is the NASW Code of Ethics? The NASW Code of Ethics is a document which broadly defines the core values and ethical principles at the heart of social work, in the view of the association. Rather than a set of rules strictly governing the behavior of social workers, it is a resource that an individual is expected to use in the process of making ethical decisions. Another purpose of the code is to establish a standard of ethical behavior which the general public can hold social workers accountable to. The code even details a process for evaluating allegations that members of the association have behaved unethically and taking disciplinary action when necessary. It is important to understand that the Code of Ethics is a professional standard for NASW members rather than a set of laws or rules governing the behavior of all social workers. While violations of the code may be adjudicated by the NASW through an internal process of peer review, the association has no power to police non-members. For this reason, social workers should also educate themselves about relevant laws, as well as other ethical and professional that may impact their work. Why Do I Need to Know About This? The NASW Code of Ethics becomes a valuable resource when a social worker requires guidance in the process of making an ethical decision. In making such decisions, the code should always be considered alongside other factors such as personal values, applicable laws and other professional standards of practice.