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 ot Ethics sets tort n 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 opulations they serve.
The NASW Code of Ethics serves six purposes: 1 . The Code identifies core values on which social works 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 is designed to help social workers identify relevant considerations when professional obligations conflict or ethical uncertainties arise. ISBN: 0-536-1211 5-X 279 4.
The Code provides ethical standards to which the general public can hold the ocial work profession accountable. 5. The Code socializes practitioners new to the field to social works 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 proceedings, and abide by any NASW disciplinary rulings or sanctions based on it. 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. Further, the NASW Code of Ethics does not specify which values, principles, and tandards 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. There are many instances in social work where imple answers are not available to resolve complex ethical issues. 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. In addition to this Code, there are many other sources of information about ethical thinking that may be useful. Social workers should consider ethical theory and principles generally, social work theory and research, laws, regulations, agency olicies, and other relevant codes of ethics, recognizing that among codes of ethics social workers should consider the NASW Code of Ethics as their primary source.
Social workers also should be aware of the impact on ethical decision making of their clients’ and their own personal values and cultural and religious beliefs and practices. They should be aware of any conflicts between personal and professional values and deal with them responsibly. For additional guidance social workers should consult the relevant literature on professional ethics and ethical decision making and seek appropri- 1 . For information on NASW adjudication procedures, see NASW Procedures for the Adjudication of Grievances. 80 ate consultation when faced with ethical dilemmas. This may involve consultation with an agency-based or social work organization’s ethics committee, a regulatory body, knowledgeable colleagues, supervisors, or legal counsel. Instances may arise when social workers’ ethical obligations conflict with agency policies or relevant laws or regulations. When such conflicts occur, social workers must make a responsible effort to resolve the conflict in a manner that is consistent with the values, principles, nd standards expressed in this Code.
If a reasonable resolution of the conflict does not appear possible, social workers should seek proper consultation before making a decision. The NASW Code of Ethics is to be used by NASW and by individuals, agencies, organizations, and bodies (such as licensing and regulatory boards, professional liability insurance providers, courts of law, agency boards of directors, government agencies, and other professional groups) that choose to adopt it or use it as a frame of reference. Violation of standards in this Code does not automatically imply legal liability or violation of the law.
Such determination can only be made in the context of legal and Judicial proceedings. Alleged violations of the Code would be subject to a peer review process. Such processes are generally separate trom legal or administrative procedures and insulated from legal review or proceedings to allow the profession to counsel and discipline its own members. A code of ethics cannot guarantee ethical behavior. Moreover, a code of ethics cannot resolve all ethical issues or disputes or capture the richness and complexity involved in striving to make responsible choices within a moral community.
Rather, a code of thics sets forth values, ethical principles, and ethical standards to which professionals aspire and by which their actions can be Judged. Social workers’ ethical behavior should result from their personal commitment to engage in ethical practice. The NASW Code of Ethics reflects the commitment of all social workers to uphold the profession’s values and to act ethically. Principles and standards must be applied by individuals of good character who discern moral questions and, in good faith, seek to make reliable ethical Judgments.