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Article

D. Lynn Jackson

Until the 19th century, abortion law was nonexistent and abortion was not seen as a moral issue. However, by the turn of the 20th century, abortion was legally defined and controlled in most states. The landmark Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade (1973), marked the legalization of abortion but did not end the controversy that existed. Legislation at both the federal and state levels has added restrictions on abortion, making it difficult for women to exercise their reproductive rights. Social work's commitment to promote the human rights of women compels social workers to be aware of and involved in this issue.

Article

M. Jenise Comer and Joyce A. Bell

The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the regulation of social work practice. The Association was created to protect clients and client systems from harm caused by incompetent, unethical, or unlicensed social work practice. The primary and most important responsibility of ASWB is to develop and maintain a national exam that is valid, reliable, and legally defensible. The Association contracts with a test vendor to administer the exam in an identical, secure environment to social work candidates for licensure in the United States, Canada, the U.S. Virgin Island, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the District of Columbia. Accomplishing the task of providing a reliable and valid exam involves a complex process of recruiting and training. The volunteers and staff are competent to complete the arduous task of constructing and reviewing different forms of the exam for each level of licensure. The test vendor and a consulting psychometrician provide supervision and analysis of test data to confirm the test performs at or above industry standards for a high stakes exam, which determines entry to practice based on a passing score. ASWB staff members also engage in several activities that support state and provincial boards to advance regulation and safe practice. The purpose, mission, and history of ASWB will be presented in detail, along with focused attention on the exam and additional services provided to the regulatory community. Future issues will identify the Board of Director’s 2019 Strategic plan. Opportunities, challenges, and threats to professional regulation include attention to international social work practice regulation, license mobility, and deregulation.

Article

Social workers are increasingly working in authoritative settings—that is, settings where they have the power to mandate conformity by the client to the normative and often legal requirements of the organization. Such settings may be residential, such as jails, prisons, and rehabilitation facilities, or community-based organizations that are part of the criminal justice system, the mental health system, the health system, and the child welfare system. The exercise of power derived from the authority vested in the setting’s objectives may and often does alter the total life situation of an individual, such as when a client is compelled to move to supervised care without the client’s consent. Under an outpatient civil commitment order or mental health court supervision, the patient may be told where to live and with whom to associate as well as be required to participate in interactive treatment and to take medication. In authoritative settings, social workers are working with “involuntary” clients—clients who understand, whether or not it is explicitly stated, that the social worker possesses the power to effect unwanted change in their life circumstance. Since the early 1990s, the field has been developing new ideas and skills that are equally useful in working with voluntary and involuntary clients. In the process, social worker authority is now viewed less as a way to gain client compliance and, instead, is understood more as an opportunity to build partnerships with clients that lead to changes that are enduring and more meaningful to clients.

Article

Larry W. Foster

Bioethics and biomedical ethics are defined. Common bioethical concepts, exemplary moral values, fundamental ethical principles, general ethical theories, and approaches to moral reasoning are reviewed. The scope of topics and issues, the nature of practice situations in bioethics, and social work roles on organizational bodies that monitor and respond to bioethical issues are summarized, as are trends in bioethics. Practice contexts, from beginning to end of life, are highlighted with biopsychosocial facts, ethical questions and issues, and implications for social work—a profession uniquely positioned in giving bioethics a social context.

Article

Kristin M. Ferguson

Considerable definitional vagueness exists regarding civil society, in part due to the concept's long history and multiple underlying schools of thought. Issues of multiculturalism and social justice are central to the term. Civil society is also a global concept, referring to the supranational sphere. The social work profession can benefit from collaborative action with local civil society associations in working to dismantle structural inequality and enhance opportunities for disadvantaged populations.

Article

Elaine Congress

Social work values and ethics provide the foundation for social work practice around the world. Almost all countries where social work is a recognized profession have a Code of Ethics. Although there are many similarities among Codes of Ethics in different countries, cultural and societal differences have influenced their content and focus. The extent to which Codes of Ethics have a direct effect on social work practice has been debated. While Codes of Ethics reflect societal and national differences, what is universal and fundamental to social work practice from a human rights perspective should prevail.

Article

Anne Williford and Marie Villescas Zamzow

This article offers an introduction to macro social work practice interventions. Specifically, it seeks to: (a) identify the difference between direct service (micro) and macro practice; (b) describe historical and contemporary foundations for macro practice; (c) establish a connection between macro practice and core social work values; (d) describe specific examples of macro social work practice using 21st-century social justice issues as exemplars; and (e) identify roles needed for macro social work practice. This article emphasizes the need for macro social work practice to create much needed change in the areas of social, environmental, and economic justice. It will examine the trend in social work that has increasingly placed emphasis and value on micro practice, which has marginalized macro-level social work as a result. Society continues to confront seemingly intractable social justice issues and is, in the early 21st century, experiencing a critical reckoning of how systems of oppression continue to exact violence against vulnerable populations. This article uses examples of social, environmental, and economic justice issues with specific recommendations on how to adopt an anti-oppressive macro practice framework.

Article

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.

Article

Donald M. Linhorst

Consumers of health and mental health services are afforded numerous legal rights. Broad categories of rights include self-determination, access to health information, protections for mental health consumers who are hospitalized, and a right to community integration. Two areas of consumer rights are emerging: a greater emphasis on human rights, and the right of consumers to participate in developing and implementing programs and services within the organizations from which they receive services. Various means for enforcing rights exist in both the private and the public sectors. Social workers play critical roles in ensuring that consumer rights become a reality.

Article

Michael C. Gearhart

The American criminal justice system is comprised of four main components: law enforcement, the judiciary, corrections, and legislature. These components work together to investigate crimes, arrest individuals, weigh evidence of guilt, monitor individuals who are found guilty, and make laws. Though the criminal justice system is meant to administer justice in an equitable manner, a number of controversial policies and practices exist within the criminal justice system. These practices are typically rooted in historical biases that continue to create disparities today. Social work has a long history of reforming the criminal justice system. However, modern disparities illustrate that there is still work to be done. The skills of macro social workers are foundational to present-day advocacy efforts and emerging criminal justice practice, highlighting the enduring significance of macro social work practice in criminal justice reform.

Article

Contemporary community engagement pedagogies require critical frameworks that facilitate diverse groups working collaboratively toward socially just outcomes. Critical frameworks acknowledge different ways of knowing and experiencing the world, as well as many means to achieve the desired outcomes. Indigenous values focused on relationship, respect, reciprocity, responsiveness, relevance, and responsibility inform key community engagement principles that are often applicable across many groups. Instructors who center Indigenous and other perspectives of groups that experience marginalization and oppression in social work curriculum are able to create community-engaged and socially just outcomes via institutional change and knowledge production efforts. Contemporary community engagement work embedded in social work values requires frameworks that are strengths based, center historically underrepresented groups working toward social justice on their own terms, and include an analysis of power, positionality, systemic causes of disparities, needed institutional changes, and critiques inclusion assumptions.

Article

Terry L. Cross

Cultural competence emerged as a concept in the 1980s; took form as a set of organizational, educational, advocacy, policy, and practice constructs in the 1990s; and has since matured into a broad rubric that addresses social justice and service delivery quality, equity, access, and efficacy for people and groups of diverse backgrounds. Cultural competence, sometimes referred to as cultural competency, ethnic competence, cross-cultural competence, or multicultural competence, has become an essential element of social work at every level of the field, from direct practice to social policy. The history, literature, policy developments, controversies, and implications of cultural competence are discussed. The evolution of cultural competence and its role in social work is examined and summarized in this entry.

Article

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.

Article

W. Patrick Sullivan

The psychosocial catastrophe that accompanies serious mental illness negatively impacts individual performance and success in all key life domains. A person-in-environment perspective, and with a traditional and inherent interest in consumer and community strengths, is well positioned to address psychiatric disabilities. This entry describes a select set of habilitation and rehabilitation services that are ideally designed to address the challenges faced by persons with mental illness. In addition, it is argued that emphasis on a recovery model serves as an important framework for developing effective interventions.

Article

Patricia Findley

The role of disability rights has developed and evolved over the course of the United States’ history. The definition of disability has broadened as well as the pursuit for equal treatment, inclusion, and more accessible environments. Key pieces of legislation such as the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act demonstrate a course of steps toward these more empowering themes of independence for those with disabilities. Disability advocates are strong in their message of “nothing about us, without us.” The disability rights movement helped to propel culture shifts and has promoted inclusion of individuals with disabilities. Despite the intention of disability policy to move the nation to more accessible, inclusive, and less discriminatory environments, more work is still needed to support the rights of those with disabilities.

Article

Uschi Bay

Ecological social work requires a shift in thinking for social workers because it does not place humans at the center of its concerns. Rather, ecological social work puts the interrelationship between humans and nature at its center. This radically de-centered view of humanity aims to bring consideration of the planet and all of its environmental systems into decision-making to ensure the sustainability of natural resources for the long term. Ecological principles can guide social work practice, research, and education in ways that promote a transition to sustainable practices in every sphere of life. Widespread ecological consciousness is advocated as an important focus for change by some social work authors promoting this approach. A global consciousness is understood to enable humanity’s capacity to deal with the growing concerns about the survival of planet Earth as a suitable habitat for humans, animals, and plants. Humanity’s activities are understood to contribute to the ongoing degradation of fresh water, fertile soils, and pollution of the atmosphere. Drastic changes in the way humans behave and relate to the Earth are considered necessary at the global, national, and local levels. Social workers are thus called on to engage with others in taking on significant roles in many areas of practice to facilitate these crucial societal transformations.

Article

Debora Ortega and Jessica Rodriguez-JenKins

Empowerment practices are rooted in empowerment theory and fundamentally focus on power as a source of equity and inequity. Based on transformation ideology, empowerment is a counter to perceived and objective powerlessness. Amelioration of client problems contain both personal and structural dimensions and are accomplished through multilevel interventions. In this approach to practice, the professional is not the central power figure who assesses, designs, implements, and intervenes on behalf of the client. Rather, historically marginalized people, families, and communities are considered experts in their experience of problems. Empowerment practices are rooted in an understanding of power (personal, social, and structural), consciousness transformation, interactive systems, importance of relationships, and the long history of societal dehumanization of marginalized communities. In this model, social work research is characterized as a form of practice that is influenced by larger social inequities and can be used to reproduce inequity or create partnerships for change with marginalized communities.

Article

Ellen L. Csikai

As medical technology advances producing the ability to prolong life almost indefinitely, individuals and families are asked to make increasingly complex choices about what treatments best correspond to their conceptions of how they wish to die. These decisions create a need for attention to medical aspects as well as psychosocial consequences. Social workers play pivotal roles in ensuring access to needed information and resources and in safeguarding individuals' rights to self-determination in end-of-life decisions. This entry discusses issues related to advance care planning, the process of end-of-life decision making, and social work roles with individuals, families, and health care providers.

Article

Christina L. Erickson

Environmental justice in social work is the study and practice of assuring all people are protected from environmental burdens and are able to live, work, learn, and play in safe and healthy communities. Reducing the burdens and increasing the benefits of nature and human-made infrastructures are important social work efforts toward environmental justice. Awareness of environmental injustices followed the social movements of Civil Rights, recognition of environmental degradations, and efforts to save large swaths of land and endangered species in the Wilderness Act. Environmental justice is intertwined with social and economic justice, and the pursuit engages social workers in local to international struggles for access to nature’s benefits, and freedom from hazards that are shielded from people who are economically wealthy. Moreover, environmental justice calls wealthy individuals and communities to realign resource consumption to reduce environmental degradation and increase environmental sustainability.

Article

Frederic G. Reamer

Social workers’ understanding of professional values and ethics has matured considerably. During the earliest years of the profession’s history, social workers’ attention was focused primarily on cultivating a set of values upon which the mission of the profession could be based. More recently, social workers have developed comprehensive ethical standards to guide practitioners and decision-making frameworks that are useful when practitioners face difficult ethical dilemmas. Today’s social workers also have a better understanding of the relationship between their ethical decisions and potential malpractice risks.