The Code of Ethics of Social Workers - Essay Sample

Published: 2023-12-15
The Code of Ethics of Social Workers - Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Sociology Social work
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1338 words
12 min read

All social workers are guided by the National Association of Social Workers' (NASW) code of ethics during their professional conduct. The basic objective of social work practice is to improve the wellness of humans and assist meet the primary wants of all individuals, with a keen eye on the needs and inspiration of people who are poor, vulnerable, and mishandled (NASW, 2017). Social work focuses on the environmental factors that make, contribute to, and address the challenges. Social workers have the mandate to encourage social justice and social alteration with the clients or on their behalf. The social worker in Maria's case has an ethical dilemma concerning who to take information from between Sara and Maria. The social worker has not clarified the person who will be considered a client between Maria and Sara. The other ethical dilemma is that of self-determination where the social worker does not trust Maria to make a decision due to her depressed state. Additionally, the social worker is confused about whom to be committed to between Sara and Maria, especially given that it is Sara who is approaching them.

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Social workers are guided by various ethical standards while executing their duties. In Maria's case study, the social worker will be directed by the ethical standards of commitment to the client, self-determination as well as conflict of interest (NASW, 2017). Regarding commitment to the client, the social worker has a duty to promote the wellness of Maria. This ethical standard is relevant to the case since the interests of Maria are fundamental. Maria has undergone various issues that are prompting her to commit suicide besides killing her children. Nonetheless, the social worker's duty to the whole community or a particular legal obligation might, on fewer occasions, supplant the loyalty owed to Maria (NASW, 2017). For instance, the social worker is mandated by the law to report Maria's intentions of hurting herself and the children.

The ethical standard concerning self-determination is relevant to the case since Maria should be assisted to make decisions. The social worker must respect and elevate Maria's rights to self-determination and help her to identify and clarify her objectives. However, the social worker may limit Maria's rights of self-determination when, in the social worker's judgment, Maria's actions or potential activities pose a severe, predictable, and imminent danger to herself and others (NASW, 2017). In Maria's case, she has had depression since the previous year due to domestic violence. Since Maria has had several suicide attempts in the past, the social worker should withstrain her rights to self-determination.

The other ethical standard that applies to Maria's case is a conflict of interest. Under this ethical issue, the social worker is required to pay attention to and evade conflicts of interest that may disrupt impartial judgment and professional discretion (NASW, 2017). The social worker must tell Maria when any form of conflict of interest develops and make efforts to solve the problem in a manner that puts Maria's interests at the forefront as well as protects them strongly. Occasionally, safeguarding the client's interests may call for the abandonment of the professional relationship and proper referral of the client (NASW, 2017). The school counselor in Maria's case had to refer the case to the Department of Children and Family. This ethical standard also discourages social workers from taking unfair advantage of any professional association to exploit the clients. Further, social workers refrain from engaging in multiple or dual relationships with current or former clients where there is a danger of exploitation or probable harm to the client (NASW, 2017). In cases where dual or multiple relationships are inevitable, the social worker should take necessary measures that safeguard the client. The social worker is responsible for creating clear, correct, and culturally sensitive borders. Dual or multiple relationships happen when the social worker associates with clients in more than one relationship, either consecutively or simultaneously. In situations where social workers offer service to more than two people who relate to each other either as couples or a family, the social workers must clarify with the parties involved the persons who will be considered clients and the nature of the professional obligations of the social workers to the several persons receiving services (NASW, 2017). In Maria's case, there is a conflict of interest since Sara in the one seeking social services and not her mother. Social workers who expect a conflict of interest amongst the people receiving services or who expects the need to work in potentially conflicting duties like testifying in a divorce or child dispute case must clarify their duties with the involved parties as well as take the correct steps to reduce any conflict of interest (NASW, 2017). Additionally, social workers should refrain from using technology like emails, text messages, videos, and telephone to communicate with clients for non-work related goals. Consequently, social workers should know that uploading personal information on web sites or any other media may harm professional or dual relationships. Communication via technology with clients based on religion, gender, sex, race, and ethnicity might compromise their capability to work efficiently with certain clients (NASW, 2017). Lastly, social workers must abstain from accepting requests from or having individual relationships with clients on social media platforms to prevent boundary confusion, incorrect multiple relationships, and harm to clients.

Some of the above ethical standards conflict with each other. The commitment to client standard and the self-determination standard conflict with self and each other. It is said that the social worker should remain committed to the client and put the client's interests first. Moreover, the self-determination standard asserts that the client should be allowed to make his own decisions. The conflict arises when conditions are made to divert from the interests of the client and judgments made from the social worker's perspective.

Personal values that relate to the case include social justice, dignity, integrity, and competence. Dignity dictates that social workers should treat their clients with care while respecting the individual differences and diversity of cultures and ethnicity (CSWE, 2015). The social worker should help clients to address their own wants. Integrity requires the social worker to remain honest, responsible, and to promote ethical practices (Tulale University, 2018). Integrity guides a social worker to know their values and ethics that guide their practice. Social justice is a value that directs one to act on behalf of the vulnerable and help them meet their needs (Tulale University, 2018). Competency dictates that any social worker should act to contribute to the knowledge base of their practice. A social worker must strive to learn new skills to help clients address their problems (CSWE, 2015). While the social worker is required to uphold integrity, there are some cases where the social worker must work based on their own judgment. For example, when Sara warns the social worker for sharing her information with the Child Protection Officer (CPO), the social worker saw it worthwhile to forward the information to the CPO to address the issue. The personal values only try to emphasize what the code of ethics stipulates. The personal values only shape a small degree of my understanding. Since personal values are almost similar to the code of ethics, they guide me simultaneously.

To solve Maria's problem, the CPO would request her and Sara to be clients with dual relationships. The CPO will have to address Sara's fears differently to the information given by Maria. Treating the two separately will eliminate Maria's opinion that only her children are considered and not her. The CPO will need to be competent to handle any arising matters. The CPO might also request Maria and Sara to decide who will be considered the client. With these steps, every party will be contented about the way the case is being handled.


Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). (2015). 2015 educational policy and accreditation standards for baccalaureate and master’s social work programs.

National Association of Social Workers (NASW). (2017). Code of ethics of national association social workers.

Tulale University. (2018, Mar 10). Social work: Core values and ethics.

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