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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

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

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.

Article

Haluk Soydan

This entry regards intervention research as an essential part of social work as a profession and research discipline. A brief history of intervention research reveals that use of intervention research for the betterment of human conditions is contemporary with the genesis of modern social science. Advances in intervention research are attributed to the comprehensive social programs launched during the 1960s in the United States. A contemporary and generic model of intervention research is described. It is argued that it is ethical to use intervention research and unethical not to use it. Assessment of some of the recent advances in policy making and science gives an optimistic picture of the future of intervention research.

Article

Malpractice claims against social workers are a reality. Although social workers are trained as students in the importance of adhering to the NASW Code of Ethics, the results of ethics and other practice violations are increasing liability and risk. Social workers have a strong commitment to clients, to communities, and to social justice, but attention to ways of reducing risk, including malpractice insurance and ethics audits, is critical to reducing the numbers of malpractice and ethics complaints against social workers and, ultimately, to enhancing the profession.

Article

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.

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.

Article

Jeane W. Anastas

Social work researchers hold themselves to ethical standards for social science and biomedical research involving human beings, which are compatible with social work ethics. This article describes (a) the general ethical principles guiding research involving human subjects; (b) mechanisms for the ethical review of studies involving human beings; (c) ethical issues in research on vulnerable populations, such as children and adolescents, prisoners, indigenous people, recipients of care, and other socially marginalized groups; and (d) plagiarism, authorship, and conflict of interest. Current topics in the responsible conduct of research include changes in the federal guidelines for research involving human subjects, research using the Internet including Big Data research, participatory action and community-based research, and decolonizing research methodologies.

Article

Edward R. Canda and Sherry Warren

This entry provides an introduction to mindfulness as a therapeutic practice applied within social work, including in mental health and health settings. It describes and critiques mindfulness-based practices regarding definitions, history, current practices, best practices research, and ethical issues related to using evidence-based practices, acquiring competence, addressing social justice, and respecting diversity.

Article

This entry provides a brief introduction to social work's approach to spirituality and religion, focusing on definitions, history, current practices, ethical and human-diversity issues, relevance to clients, practice applications, best-practices research, and controversies. Emphasis is given to a spiritually sensitive and culturally competent approach to social work that honors diverse religious and nonreligious spiritual perspectives of clients and their communities. Although American social work is the focus, some international developments are included. References and websites are listed to facilitate identification of resources for addressing spiritual diversity in practice.

Article

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.

Article

Suzanne Pritzker and Shannon Lane

Political social work is social work practice, research, and theory involving explicit attention to power dynamics in policymaking and political mechanisms for eliciting social change. It is an ethical responsibility for social workers. Political social work takes place in a variety of fields and settings and includes influencing candidates and their agendas, working on campaigns, expanding political participation, working in full-time political positions, and holding elected office. Political participation among social workers is higher than in the general public, although much variety exists within groups of social workers, and the activities that social workers engage in tend to be more passive than active. This article discusses the role of social work education in preparing generalist and specialist political social workers, and the presence of both challenges and opportunities for political social work in the context of current practice.

Article

Tracey Marie Barnett

Community-based participatory research (CBPR) embraces a partnership approach to research that equitably involves community members, organizational representatives, social workers, and researchers in all aspects of the research process. CBPR begins with a research topic of importance to the community and has the aim of combining knowledge with action and achieving social change. It is community based in the sense that community members become part of the research team and researchers become engaged in the activities of the community. Community–researcher partnerships allow for a blending of values and expertise, promoting co-learning and capacity building among all partners, and integrating and achieving a balance between research and action for the mutual benefit of all partners. Various terms have been used to describe this research, including participatory action research (PAR), action research (AR), community based research (CBR), collaborative action research (CAR), anti-oppressive research, and feminist research.

Article

Joan O. Weiss

The recent explosion of genetic and genomic knowledge that was a product of the Human Genome Project has extraordinary implications for social workers and their client population. Genetics and genomics are interdisciplinary fields. Their scope reaches beyond the doctor’s office and beyond medical professionals. Social workers must recognize how vital their role is in helping clients come to terms with being at risk for a genetic condition or facing the uncertainty of a genetic diagnosis in the family. Understanding the psychosocial and ethical implications of genetic testing is important for all social workers, no matter where they are practicing. Social workers need to know the basics of genetics and genomics and take an active part in protecting their clients from genetic discrimination.

Article

Frederic G. Reamer

Digital, online, and other electronic technology has transformed the nature of social work practice and education. Contemporary social workers can provide services to clients through online counseling, telephone counseling, video counseling, cybertherapy (avatar therapy), self-guided web-based interventions, electronic social networks, e-mail, and text messages. In addition, increasing numbers of social work education programs are using distance education technology to teach their students. Social work administrators store electronic records in the “cloud” and community organizers use online social networking sites to facilitate their work. The introduction of diverse digital, online, and other forms of electronic social services has created a wide range of complex ethical and related risk management issues. This article provides an overview of current technology used in social work, identifies compelling ethical issues, and explores risk management issues. The author identifies relevant standards from the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics; model regulatory standards adopted by the Association of Social Work Boards; and practice standards adopted jointly by the National Association of Social Workers, Association of Social Work Boards, Council on Social Work Education, and Clinical Social Work Association

Article

Frederic G. Reamer

Ethical standards in social work have matured significantly since the profession’s formal inauguration in the late 19th century. As in most professions, social work’s principal code of ethics has evolved from a brief, broadly worded document to a detailed, comprehensive guide to ethical practice. This article summarizes the diverse purposes and functions of professional codes of ethics and the historical trends and changes in social work’s codes of ethics. The key components of the NASW Code of Ethics—the code’s preamble, broad ethical principles, and more specific ethical standards—are described.

Article

Sandra Edmonds Crewe and Julie Guyot-Diangone

This article provides an overview of the phenomenon of labeling and stigma. Research studies are used to illuminate the many ways devalued or discredited identities negatively affect the health and well-being of stigmatized groups and additionally burden the socially and economically marginalized. In addition to conveying an understanding of the social process by which a stigma is developed and the role that culture plays in defining and determining any given stigma, this article offers ways in which social work professionals may counter stigma through education/awareness campaigns and in routine client interactions. Anti-stigma work is presented from social justice and ethical perspectives. Stigma as a social construct is discussed, along with its link to discrimination and prejudice. The article helps to unpack the meaning of stigma, including descriptions of the various forms, levels, and dimensions it may take, affecting all spheres of life, including the social, psychological, spiritual, and physical.

Article

Yen Yi Huang and Andy Yung Hsing Kao

Lu Guang (1913–2001) spent his career in social work as a government officer and educator in Taiwan, where he devoted his efforts toward community development by organizing university students to initiate projects for underserved communities. He was known especially for his pioneering research in the field of social indicators and quality of life in the 1980s. Professor Lu helped to draft the Volunteer Service Act in 1989 and served as one of the founders of the United Way of Taiwan. He was also in charge of a research project on the code of ethics in 1991, which laid the foundation for the Social Work Code of Ethics in Taiwan.

Article

Jared Sparks

Personalized health care (PHC) is a broad term that describes how we leverage our growing understanding of the human body and developing technology to provide more effective health care. PHC requires that health care providers consider prevention and treatment in the context of available advanced technologies, best practices, and known variables that define us as individuals. These variables or characteristics may run the gamut from genetic, to biologic, to environmental, to even personality, personal values, and choice. By considering how these characteristics interact with specific illnesses and available interventions, outcomes can be improved. The purpose of this article is to: describe PHC’s current conceptualization including relationship with personalized medicine and patient-centered models of care, discuss its development and application by specific stakeholders, and review pertinent economic, legislative, and ethical issues.

Article

Paul A. Abels

Chauncey A. Alexander (1916–2005) was Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers from 1967 to 1982 and founder and president of the First Amendment Foundation. He was instrumental in developing an International Code of Ethics for social workers.