How social workers conduct and deliver social services. Every social services agency and program must adhere to specific laws. For example, the establishment of child welfare laws and standards has altered how social workers respond to cases of child abuse.
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Field Education III
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SOCW 6520: Social Work Field Education III
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Week 6: Legal Considerations
Much like the social work code of ethics, laws stipulate how social workers conduct and deliver social services. Every social services agency and program must adhere to specific laws. For example, the establishment of child welfare laws and standards has altered how social workers respond to cases of child abuse.
This week, you explore the legal context of your professional practice. You also examine potential interactions that may violate the law, including approaches to prevent breaches of law in social work practice.
As you work, consider how the law may affect the way you interact with potential clients and the services offered by your agency.
Important Note: Please use the media player below to hear an audio course introduction that will give you more background information about the course topic. Also provided is a transcriipt for you to download and print out.
Walden University, LLC. (Producer). (2013). Legal considerations [Audio file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Note: The approximate length of this media piece is 1 minute.
Apply legal considerations in field education experience
Analyze challenges in adhering to legal considerations during field education experience
Analyze diversity in relation to social work practice
Analyze cultural competence in relation to social work practice
Apply social work practice skills
Read the Code of Ethics
The NASW Code of Ethics is a set of standards that guide the professional conduct of social workers. The 2021 update includes language that addresses the importance of professional self-care. Moreover, revisions to Cultural Competence standard provide more explicit guidance to social workers. All social workers should review the new text and affirm their commitment to abide by the Code of Ethics. Also available in Spanish.
The primary mission of the social work profession 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. A historic and defining feature of social work is the profession’s dual focus on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society. Fundamental to social work is attention to the environmental forces that create, contribute to, and address problems in living.
Social workers promote social justice and social change with and on behalf of clients. “Clients” is used inclusively to refer to individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers are sensitive to cultural and ethnic diversity and strive to end discrimination, oppression, poverty, and other forms of social injustice. These activities may be in the form of direct practice, community organizing, supervision, consultation, administration, advocacy, social and political action, policy development and implementation, education, and research and evaluation. Social workers seek to enhance the capacity of people to address their own needs. Social workers also seek to promote the responsiveness of organizations, communities, and other social institutions to individuals’ needs and social problems.
The mission of the social work profession is rooted in a set of core values. These core values, embraced by social workers throughout the profession’s history, are the foundation of social work’s unique purpose and perspective:
This constellation of core values reflects what is unique to the social work profession. Core values, and the principles that flow from them, must be balanced within the context and complexity of the human experience.
Purpose of the NASW Code of Ethics
Professional ethics are at the core of social work. The profession has an obligation to articulate its basic values, ethical principles, and ethical standards. The NASW Code of Ethics sets forth these values, principles, and standards to guide social workers’ conduct. The Code is relevant to all social workers and social work students, regardless of their professional functions, the settings in which they work, or the populations they serve.
The NASW Code of Ethics serves six purposes:
The Code offers a set of values, principles, and standards to guide decision making and conduct when ethical issues arise. It does not provide a set of rules that prescribe how social workers should act in all situations. Specific applications of the Code must take into account the context in which it is being considered and the possibility of conflicts among the Code’s values, principles, and standards. Ethical responsibilities flow from all human relationships, from the personal and familial to the social and professional.
*For information on the NASW Professional Review Process, see NASW Procedures for Professional Review.
Furthermore, the NASW Code of Ethics does not specify which values, principles, and standards are most important and ought to outweigh others in instances when they conflict. Reasonable differences of opinion can and do exist among social workers with respect to the ways in which values, ethical principles, and ethical standards should be rank ordered when they conflict. Ethical decision making in a given situation must apply the informed judgment of the individual social worker and should also consider how the issues would be judged in a peer review process where the ethical standards of the profession would be applied.
Ethical decision making is a process. In situations when conflicting obligations arise, social workers may be faced with complex ethical dilemmas that have no simple answers. Social workers should take into consideration all the values, principles, and standards in this Code that are relevant to any situation in which ethical judgment is warranted. Social workers’ decisions and actions should be consistent with the spirit as well as the letter of this Code.