The NASW Code of Ethics maybe considered the most ambitious set of ethical guidelines in social work history. Ethical issues have always been a concern of the professional social worker. As early as 1919 there were attempts to draft professional codes of ethics (Reamer, 1998). There have been several social work organizations since, that have attempted to draft ethical codes, such as the American Association for Organizing Family Social Work and several chapters of the American Association of Social Workers. In 1960 NASW adopted its first code of ethics, five years after the association was formed. The first code consisted of only 14 proclamations, with another added in 1957. In 1979 a new code was adopted, this code was far more ambitious than the first. It included nearly 80 ethical principles divided into six major sections. The 1979 code was revised twice first in 1990 and again in 1993. In 1994 a Code of Ethics Revision Committee was appointed by the president of the NASW. Formal invitations were given to all NASW members along with to members of other various social work organizations. A draft was published in January 1996 along with an open invitation to all NASW members to submit comments to the committee. The code accepted in Aug. 1996, is undeniably the most complete set of ethical standards in social work to date, and continues to guide those in the social worker fields.
The Code is broken into four sections. The first Section, Preamble, summarizes the social work profession's mission which is "to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty." (NASW Code of Ethics) With awareness and consideration paid to the environmental forces that create, and contribute to the problems of living. The second section the Purpose of the Code gives an overview of the Code's main functions and a brief guide for dealing with ethical concerns or problems in social work practice. Next is the Ethical Principles which names the six core values, the root of the social work profession, which are service, social justice, dignity and worth of every human being, importance of human relationships, integrity and competence. Last are the Ethical standards that are broken into six parts. This section is the bulk of the Code and contains 155 specific ethical standards that are designed to guide social workers' in the field (Reamer 1998). It is significant that one recognize the importance of reading, understanding and using the Code in its entirety no matter the professional function (social worker, social work student, or volunteer in a social worker capacity), the setting in which one is working in or the cliental the professional is serving. As a summary may risk altering the meaning of the Code.
The Purpose of the Code of Ethics serves six principles:
The Code identifies core values on which social work's mission is based. 2.
The Code summarizes broad ethical principles that reflect the profession's core values and establishes a set of specific ethical standards that should be used to guide social work practice. 3.
The Code summarizes broad ethical principles that reflect the profession's core values and professional obligations conflict or ethical uncertainties arise. 4.
The Code provides ethical standards to which the general public can hold the social work professional accountable. 5.
The Code socializes practitioners new to the field to social work's mission, values, ethical principles, and ethical standards. 6.
The Code articulates standards that the social work profession itself can use to assess whether social workers have engaged in unethical conduct. NASW has formal procedures to adjudicate ethics complaints filed against its members. * In subscribing to this Code, social workers are required to cooperate in its implementation, participate in NASW adjudication...
References: Hull, Grafton H., & Krist-Ashman, Karen K. The Generalist Model of Human Service
Practice, Brooks/Cole-Thompson Learning, Pacific Grove, CA, 2004.
Mattison, Marian "Ethical Decision Making: The Person in the Process Vol. 45, Issue 3
Reamer, Frederic G. "The Evolution of Social Work Ethics," Social Work Vol. 43, Issue 6
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