Carolyn I. Polowy, Sherri Morgan, W. Dwight Bailey, and Carol Gorenberg
Confidentiality of client communications is one of the ethical foundations of the social work profession and has become a legal obligation in most states. Many problems arise in the application of the principles of confidentiality and privilege to the professional services provided by social workers. This entry discusses the concepts of client confidentiality and privileged communications and outlines some of the applicable exceptions. While the general concept of confidentiality applies in many interactions between social workers and clients, the application of confidentiality and privilege laws are particularly key to the practice of clinical social workers in various practice settings.
This article defines cultural competence and culturally competent practice and focuses on cultural awareness, knowledge acquisition, and skill development as key components. It traces the historical development of cultural competence in the disciplines of psychology and social work, pointing out how cultural competence has become a professional standard. Cultural competence has also been recognized on the federal and state health and human services levels. Cultural competence is viewed on the practitioner, agency, and community levels as well as the micro, mezzo, and macro dimensions. Among the implications for practice are the issues of cultural competence and cultural competencies, the ethics of cultural competence, social context, and biculturation and multiculturalization. Cultural competence research is briefly surveyed, as is the relationship between cultural competence and critical race theory.
S. J. Dodd and Andrea Savage
Evidence-informed practice (EIP) is a model that incorporates best available research evidence; client’s needs, values, and preferences; practitioner wisdom; and theory into the clinical decision-making process filtered through the lens of client, agency, and community culture. The purpose of this article is to define and describe the evidence-informed practice model within social work and to explore the evolution of evidence-informed practice over time. The article distinguishes evidence-informed practice from the more commonly known (and perhaps more popular) evidence-based practice. And, having outlined the essential components of evidence-informed practice, describes the barriers to its effective implementation. Critical contextual factors related to the implementation of evidence-informed practice at the individual level, as well as within social work organizations, are also addressed. Finally, implications both for social work practice and education are explored.
This entry discusses some topics in social work and social welfare history. It covers different approaches to that history, such as an emphasis on social control functions of social welfare; a stress on the “ordinary people” involved in historical events; or particular attention to the stories of women, people of color, and other groups who have often been excluded from formal sources of power. It notes the importance of using original sources in writing history, and explains the various steps involved in researching and interpreting these sources.
Frederic G. Reamer
The possibility of practitioner impairment exists in every profession. Stress related to employment, illness or death of family members, marital or relationship problems, financial problems, midlife crises, personal physical or mental illness, legal problems, substance abuse, and professional education can lead to impairment. This article provides an overview of the nature and extent of impairment in social work, practitioners’ coping strategies, responses to impairment, and rehabilitation options and protocols. Particular attention is paid to the problem of sexual misconduct in social workers’ relationships with clients. The author reviews relevant ethical standards and presents a model assessment and action plan for social workers who encounter an impaired colleague.
The International Federation of Social Workers is an international organization representing the interests of social workers around the world. This organization works in cooperation with global regional social work bodies, national organizations, and other associations to organize international events, publish policy statements, encourage cooperative initiatives, and link to other international bodies. It is active in human rights and social development and in the promotion of best practices and high professional social work standards.
Elizabeth J. Clark
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership association of professional social workers in the world with nearly 145,000 members. Formed in 1955 by uniting seven predecessor organizations, NASW has a dual mission of protecting and advancing the profession of social work and of advocating for social justice issues. The NASW national office is based in Washington, DC, with chapters in each state, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. There are also separate chapters in New York City and metropolitan Washington, DC, as well as an international chapter for U.S. social workers living abroad.
Ann A. Abbott
The professional review process delineates procedures for hearing complaints of alleged professional misconduct by members of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). It provides mechanisms for conducting hearings and alternate dispute resolution via mediation, monitoring professional behavior, and sanctioning and developing corrective actions for NASW members who are in violation of the NASW’s Code of Ethics. The process, originally developed in 1967, has been modified over time to reflect the best identified means for conducting fair hearings and carrying out the most appropriate interventions.
Practitioners who were presumed to be competent may develop difficulties that interfere with job performance. Such professionals are considered impaired and may suffer from compassion fatigue, substance abuse, mental disorders, and other forms of distress associated with daily living. Practicing while impaired is unethical and can potentially be harmful to clients. Colleague Assistance Programs from professional associations or diversion systems and legal sanctions imposed by state regulatory boards are forms of intervention strategies that are employed. Self-care strategies and consciousness-raising among professionals are the best forms of prevention.
Selena T. Rodgers
Racism is pervasive, endemic, and historically rooted in systematic assumptions inherent in superiority based on race and requires the critical attention of all social workers. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has made strides in tackling racism as demonstrated by the social worker and civil rights activist Whitney Young Jr. (1921–1971), other pioneers, and more recently, the NASW zero-tolerance racism policy. Undergirded in empirical discussion, this article leads with the etymology of race(ism), followed by a discussion of Racial Formation Theory and Critical Race Theory. The article gives a historical sketch of racism, followed by examples of its contemporary indicators—throughout social institutions—in the United States. Racism is pervasive and impinges on micro-level and macro-level systems. It is, therefore, beyond the scope of this article to address how racism impacts each group in America. Social work scholars and other experts have provided extensive empirical documentation about the historical trauma and sufferings of other racial groups (e.g., Native Americans/Native peoples/American Indians, Mexican Americans) discussed elsewhere. Specifically, the racism endured by blacks in America is the emphasis of this article. Themes of “colorism” and historical trauma are provided to contextualize advances in national reform and encourage a broader conversation about the racism that blacks experience globally. In addition, this article highlights strides by the social work profession to eradicate racism. Implications for social work are discussed.
Maria Rodriguez and Jama Shelton
Social media are defined as applications and websites that allow users to share content, usually of their own making. Social media users include individuals and organizations across a broad range of social strata. Key social work organizations, such as the National Association of Social Workers and the Association of Social Work Boards, have begun noting the proliferation of social media usage in education and practice and have begun developing guidelines to govern their use. The American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, in their Grand Challenges of Social Work initiative, highlighted social media as an important area of growth for research and education. Despite the field’s nascent enthusiasm, practical and ethical concerns persist. This article defines social media; discusses its usage in social work practice, research, and education; and discusses the ethical and practical considerations in each domain.
Tomi Gomory and Daniel Dunleavy
Social work is perhaps most distinctive for its clear and outspoken commitment toward improving the well-being of society’s vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, while still emphasizing the importance of respecting and defending personal rights and freedoms. Though there is a fundamental necessity for coercion, or its threat, for eliciting civil social behavior in a well-functioning society, it is professionally and ethically imperative that social workers make explicit our rationales for, justifications of, and the evidence used to support or reject coercive practices in our work. Social work’s engagement with coercion inevitably entails the ethical and social policy arguments for and against its use, as shown in a review of the empirical evidence regarding its impact on the professions’ clients, exemplified by three domains: (1) child welfare, (2) mental health, and (3) addictions. Recommendations for future improvements involve balancing the potential for harm against the benefits of coercive actions.
Frederic G. Reamer
Social workers have become increasingly aware of malpractice and liability risks. Disgruntled clients, former clients, and others may file formal ethics complaints and lawsuits against practitioners. Complaints often allege that social workers departed from widely embraced ethical and social work practice standards. This article provides an overview of the concept of risk management and common risks in social work practice pertaining to clients’ rights, confidentiality and privacy, informed consent, conflicts of interest, boundaries and dual relationships, digital and electronic technology, documentation, and termination of services, among others. The author describes procedures used to process ethics complaints, licensing-board complaints, and lawsuits. In addition, the author outlines practical strategies, including an ethics audit, designed to protect clients, third parties, and social workers.
June Gary Hopps and Tony B. Lowe
The profession addressed a panoply of social problems that grew larger in an ever-expanding geopolitical environment, where social equity or justice was often a remedial value. Social welfare institutions and programs, initially private and later both public and private, filled the societal void, bringing social care to the disadvantaged. Lay caregivers formed the foundation for a nascent, but now over 100 year old, profession. Growth was sustained for over 50 years from the 1930s to 1980s, when progressive thought was challenged with conservative ideology. The challenge for contemporary social welfare and a maturing social work profession is how to navigate a changing milieu, highlighted by complex human conditions, in the face of real and contrived shortages, increasing class stratification, political polarization, and heighten judicial scrutiny. Workforce realities—education, technology, and integration of new diverse practitioners throughout the practice continuum—which can address demanding fields (that is, aging, health, child welfare), focused on evidence to move the human condition forward.