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NASW Delegate Assembly Approves Revisions to the NASW Code of Ethics

CodeCover-2018 (002)The Delegate Assembly of the National Association of  Social Workers (NASW) on August 4, 2017 approved the most substantive revision to the NASW Code of Ethics since 1996. After careful and charged deliberation, the Delegate Assembly voted to accept proposed revisions to the Code that focused largely on the use of technology and the implications for ethical practice.

The NASW Code of Ethics continues to be the most accepted standard for social work ethical practice worldwide. With emergent technological advances over the last two decades, the profession could not ignore the necessity for more clarity around the complex implications of new forms of communication and relationship building through technology. As such, in September 2015 an NASW Code of Ethics Review Task Force was appointed by the NASW president and approved by the NASW Board of Directors.

A special thank-you to Task Force chair:

  • Allan Barsky, JD, MSW, PhD, National Ethics Committee (past chair)

Task Force members:

  • David Barry, PhD, National Ethics Committee (past chair)
  • Luis Machuca, MSW
  • Frederic Reamer, PhD
  • Kim Strom-Gottfried, PhD
  • Bo Walker, MSW, LCSW, National Ethics Committee
  • Dawn Hobdy, MSW, LICSW, director, Office of Ethics and Professional Review

And NASW staff contributors

  • Anne Camper, JD, NASW general counsel
  • Andrea Murray, MSW, LICSW, senior ethics associate
  • Carolyn Polowy, JD, former NASW general counsel

The Task Force was charged with examining the current Code of Ethics through the lens of specific ethical considerations when using various forms of technology. In September 2015, they embarked on a year-long process that involved studying emerging standards in other professions and examining relevant professional literature, such as the Association of Social Work Boards’ (2015) Model Regulatory Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice. In addition, Task Force members considered the technology practice standards that were concurrently being developed by a national task force commissioned by NASW, Council on Social Work Education, Clinical Social Work Association, and Association of Social Work Boards. A year later the proposed amendments were presented to the NASW membership for review, and many member comments were incorporated prior to finalization.

The approved Code of Ethics revisions reflect a collaborative and inclusive effort that drew from a diverse cross-section of the profession. The August 4 approval by the Delegate Assembly marks significant progress in the profession’s ability to respond to our ever-changing practice environment.

The new version of the NASW Code of Ethics comes into effect January 1, 2018. In the meantime, training and technical assistance opportunities will be made available through the Office of Ethics and Professional Review and the NASW website.

Our sincere appreciation again to the task force, NASW staff, and committed members across the globe who contributed to this momentous accomplishment.

 

2017 Approved Changes to the NASW Code of Ethics

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When does the new NASW Code of Ethics go into effect? 

A: The new NASW Code of Ethics goes into effect on January 1, 2018.

Q: Where can I get a copy of the revised NASW Code of Ethics?

A: Copies of the revised NASW Code of Ethics will be available by November 1, 2017. You can preorder a copy by calling NASW Press at 1-800-227-3590.

Q: Which sections of the NASW Code of Ethics were updated?

A: The sections of the NASW Code of Ethics that were revised include:

The Purpose of the Code
1.03 Informed Consent
1.04 Competence
1.05 Cultural Competence and Social
Diversity
1.06 Conflicts of Interest
1.07 Privacy and Confidentiality
1.08 Access to Records
1.09 Sexual Relationships
1.11 Sexual Harassment
1.15 Interruption of Services
1.16 Referral for Services
2.01 Respect
2.06 Sexual Relationships
2.07 Sexual Harassment
2.10 Unethical Conduct of Colleagues
3.01 Supervision and Consultation
3.02 Education and Training
3.04 Client Records
5.02 Evaluation and Research
6.04 Social and Political Action

Q: What educational resources are available to explain the latest revisions to the NASW Code
of Ethics?

A: Several resources will be available, including an online training, an NASW chat, a blog, code
revision consults, and a posting of the changes with the explanations on the NASW Web site.

Q: Which social workers are accountable to the NASW Code of Ethics?

A: Most social workers are held accountable to the NASW Code of Ethics, including NASW
members, licensed social workers, employed social workers, and students.

Q: Do these changes affect social workers who aren’t members of NASW?

A: Yes. The NASW Code of Ethics sets forth the values, principles, and standards that guide the
profession as a whole, not just NASW members.

Q: Who was responsible for revising the NASW Code of Ethics?

A: An NASW Code of Ethics Review Task Force was appointed by the NASW President and approved by the
NASW Board of Directors.

Q: How am I held accountable if I do not implement these changes by the effective date?

A: If you are a member of NASW, you may be held accountable through the NASW Office of Ethics
and Professional Review process, if someone files an ethics complaint against you. You may also
be held accountable by a state licensing board if a licensing board complaint is filed against you.
Furthermore, you may be held accountable by your employer or your university, which may
take disciplinary actions for not implementing the changes. Finally, you may be held
accountable through a court of law that looks to the NASW Code of Ethics to establish the
standard for professional ethical social work practice.

Q: Have social work schools, employers, agencies, etc., been made aware of the changes?

A: NASW is working diligently to notify the social work profession and stakeholders using various
communication channels, including print, social media, and Web-based notices.

Q: Who do I contact if I have additional questions?

If you have additional questions, please contact the Office of Ethics and Professional Review at 800-638-8799 ext. 231 or ethics@socialworkers.org 

 

22 comments

  1. In the FAQ it is written that the new code of ethics will be available November 1, 2018. I anticipate that the date really is meant to be 2017 as the update will go into effect January 2017. Thank you.

  2. I don’t understand. These changes go into effect on Jan 1 , 2018 but we cannot get a copy of changes until nov1. 2018. That makes no since to me.

  3. Thank you, I am pleased with the upcoming changes. As Social workers we must keep up with technology, and live by our codes of ethics.

  4. Cynthia M. Siqueiros

    Where can I order the revised edition?

    • Q: Where can I get a copy of the revised NASW Code of Ethics?
      A: Copies of the revised NASW Code of Ethics will be available by November 1, 2018. You can preorder a copy by calling NASW Press at 1-800-227-3590.

  5. Ivelisse Lopez-Gonzalez

    The information about the new NASW Code of Ethics states that copies will be available Nov. 2018, but the Code will be effective January 2018. Is that correct or is it Nov. 2017?

  6. Thank you for the update. I look forward to implementing the new changes.

  7. Will the changes be available on NASW electronically in January 2018, or sooner?

  8. Thomas A. Caffrey, Ph.D.

    Has the Code (new or old) addressed the question of duty-to-protect? That is, a social worker’s right or obligation to breach confidentiality in order to warn authorities or a 3rd party that a client has said she or he will seriously harm the 3rd party?

  9. How about posting a copy of the DA minutes with content containing the approved amendments?

  10. I look forward to seeing the revised Code of Ethics. A couple questions:

    1. When will we have online access to the new code?

    2. Will there be a crosswalk identifying the changes and how they compare between current and new versions?

  11. We’re can I get a copy of this?

  12. I am also wondering when an electronic version will be made available.

  13. Will the electronic version be available to non-members of NASW? If not, how do those folks learn the new guidelines?

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