Ethic Audit

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Rhode Island College

Digital Commons @ RIC
Faculty Publications Faculty Books and Publications

7-1-2000

The Social Work Ethics Audit: A RiskManagement Strategy
Frederic G. Reamer
Rhode Island College, freamer@ric.edu

Recommended Citation
Reamer, Frederic G., "The Social Work Ethics Audit: A Risk-Management Strategy" (2000). Faculty Publications. Paper 173. http://digitalcommons.ric.edu/facultypublications/173

This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the Faculty Books and Publications at Digital Commons @ RIC. It has been accepted for inclusion in Faculty Publications by an authorized administrator of Digital Commons @ RIC. For more information, please contact hbenaicha@ric.edu.

The Social Work Ethics Audit: A Risk-Management Strategy
Frederic G. Reamer In recent years, social work's knowledge base related to professional ethics has expanded significantly. However, most practicing social workers concluded their formal professional education at a time when comprehensive ethics education was not a critical or mandated component of the curriculum. This article integrates current knowledge on social work ethics and introduces the concept of a social work ethics audit to aid social workers in their efforts to identify pertinent ethical issues; review and assess the adequacy of their current ethics-related practices; modify their practices as needed; and monitor the implementation of these changes. Key words: ethical standards; ethics; malpractice; NASW Code of Ethics; risk management

specially since the early 1980s, social work's loiowledge base related to professional ethics has burgeoned. Social work's literature on the subject has expanded considerably in several key areas: the nature of social work's core values and conflicts between personal and professional values; conflicts among social workers' professional duties and obligations (ethical dilemmas); ethical decision making; ethical misconduct and social worker impairment; and ethics-related malpractice and liability risks (leading to strategies to prevent lawsuits alleging negligence related to, for example, confidentiality, informed consent, social work interventions, boundary issues, and termination of services) (Barker & Branson, 1993; Besharov, 1985; Bullis, 1995; Gambrill & Pruger, 1997; Houston-Vega & Nuehring, 1997; Joseph, 1989; Loewenberg & Dolgoff, 1996; Reamer, 1990, 1994, 1999; Rhodes, 1986).

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As a result, contemporary social workers, supervisors, and administrators have access, in principle, to more sophisticated information than any previous generation of practitioners. In practice, however, many social workers completed their formal professional education at a time when comprehensive ethics education was not a critical component of the social work curriculum (Reamer, 1999). Consequently, social workers who wish to examine ethical issues germane to their practice settings have had to locate, peruse, and synthesize a wide range of literature on the subject, construct their own list of relevant issues and topics, and design their own ethics-related quality assurance strategies—a very labor-intensive, daunting process for most practitioners. The primary purpose of this article is to integrate current knowledge on social work ethics to aid social workers in their efforts to identify CCC Code: 0037-8046/00 $3.00 C 2000 National Association of Social Workers, Inc.

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pertinent ethical issues in their practice settings, review and assess the adequacy of their current practices, modify current practices as needed, and monitor the implementation of these changes. I refer to this process as a social work ethics audit—a process that can be conducted by individual practitioners and social services agencies to enhance quality assurance and promote ethics-related risk management.

portant aspects of organizational functioning, when they examine various aspects of an organization's operations. A comparable tool...
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