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Ethical Standards in Social Work
A Review of the NASW Code of Ethics, 3rd Edition
Frederic G. Reamer
ISBN: 978-0-87101-530-3. 2018. Item 5303. 336 pages.
Book Type:

The third edition of Ethical Standards in Social Work offers the social work profession the only in-depth analysis of the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. The code provides social workers with a comprehensive summary and analysis of ethical standards in the profession and an explicit statement of the profession’s principal mission and core values. This revised edition includes extensive discussion of new and revised ethics standards, especially pertaining to social workers’ use of digital and other technology to deliver services, communicate with clients, manage and store information, and provide information to the public. The appendix includes challenging ethics cases. This practical guide is designed to help social workers make sound ethical decisions and minimize the risk of professional malpractice and disciplinary action.


Special features:



  • Essential ethics content that is a required element in social work education programs

  • Extensive application of the NASW Code of Ethics to case examples

  • Evolution of ethical issues in the social work profession

  • Relevant curriculum content in the areas of clinical practice; social policy; social work administration; community practice; research and evaluation; and cultural, ethnic, and social diversity

  • Cutting-edge content on ethical challenges associated with social workers’ use of digital and other technology


Preface ............................................................................................................ vii
1 Ethical Standards in Social Work: An Introduction ............................................ 1
2 Ethical Responsibilities to Clients.................................................................... 27
3 Ethical Responsibilities to Colleagues............................................................ 119
4 Ethical Responsibilities in Practice Settings................................................... 153
5 Ethical Responsibilities as Professionals........................................................ 199
6 Ethical Responsibilities to the Social Work Profession................................... 219
7 Ethical Responsibilities to the Broader Society.............................................. 243
Afterword...................................................................................................... 255
Appendix A: NASW Code of Ethics.............................................................. 257
Appendix B: Case Examples ......................................................................... 281
References..................................................................................................... 295
Index ............................................................................................................. 311
About the Author ......................................................................................... 327
Ethical standards in social work have been transformed. Like all other professionals,social
workers’ understanding of ethical issues has matured dramatically. When the National
Association of Social Workers (NASW) published its first code of ethics in 1960, the entire
set of 14 guidelines fit on one side of one page. The current NASW Code of Ethics - ratified
by the NASW Delegate Assembly in 2017 and implemented in 2018, consists of 172 ethical
standards and six broad ethical principles.In the time between,social workers have developed
stronger grasp of the profession’s core values, the ways in which these core values sometimes
conflict in practice, and the ethical dilemmas that can occur in the profession. In addition,
social workers have become more familiar with patterns of ethical misconduct engaged inby
a relatively small number of the profession’s members.
The NASW Code of Ethics, which constitutes a marked change in the profession’s understanding of and approach to ethical issues, reflects this remarkable transformation. It embodies what has been learned about ethics throughout social work’s history - most of which has
emerged since 1980, when the broader field of applied and professional ethics began to
burgeon.
This book has several purposes. First, it provides social workers with a detailed overview
and discussion of the NASW Code of Ethics. It includes a summary of the evolution of ethical
issues in the profession; discussion of the profession’s core values, mission, and broad ethical
principles; and explanations and illustrations ofthe profession’smore specific ethicalstandards.
My hope is that the material will provide the profession with a useful educational tool for both
experienced and fledgling practitioners.
In addition,this book should be useful to social workers who seek advice and consultation
on ethicalissues.AlthoughEthicalStandardsinSocialWorkcannot provide formulaic solutions
to all ethical issues and should be supplemented by other literature and resources pertaining
to social work and professional ethics, it can provide social workers with an overview of the
relevant guidelines and issues to help them navigate their way through ethical thickets.
Ethical Standards in Social Work should also be useful to social workers and others who
rely on the NASW Code of Ethicsin relation to ethics complaints and lawsuitsinvolving social
workers. Members of NASW ethics committees and state licensing boards, as well as those
engaged in litigation involving social workers, will find this book helpful in identifying prevailing ethical standards in the profession.

This edition updates the literature and examines a number of emerging issues in more
depth (for example, boundary issues, social workers’ use of technology, and involvement in
end-of-life decisions). It also includes an updated appendix that provides readers with an
opportunity to apply the NASW Code of Ethics. Chapter 1 provides an overview of ethical
issues in social work, relevant historical developments, and the purposes and core contents
of the NASW Code of Ethics. The remaining chapters focus on the code’s standards pertaining to social workers’ ethical responsibilities to clients, to colleagues, in practice settings, as
professionals,to the social work profession, and to the broader society.The chapters on ethical
standards provide a summary and analysis of key ethical issues,often including case examples.
During the years in which I have paid serious attention to ethical issues in social work,
beginning especially in the mid-1970s,I have been amazed by the exponential growth of interest in the subject among social workers.The reasons for this growth are complex, and they are
both reassuring and distressing (see chapter 1). The net result, however, is that contemporary
social workers have a better understanding of ethical issues in the profession than have those
in any preceding generation, and that is good. Although I have learned a great deal over the
years about these issues,I do not claim to have definitive answers to all ethical quandaries.My
hope is that the commentary and analysis in this book will provide readers with thoughtful
and thought-provoking guidance as they wrestle with difficult ethical questions and issues.
(The views and opinions expressed in this book are my own and do not necessarily reflect the
views and opinions of NASW.)
Serving as chair of the NASW Code of Ethics Revision Committee that drafted the 1996
code and on the task force that updated the code adopted in 2017 was a genuine privilege. I
will always count this work among my most treasured professional experiences.
There is no question that the NASW Code of Ethics is a vital component of social work’s
identity and integrity: The code serves as a lodestar for this remarkably diverse and honorable
profession.
FredericG.Reamer,PhD, is a professor in the graduate program ofthe School ofSocial
Work, Rhode Island College. His research and teaching have addressed a wide range of
humanservices issues,includingmentalhealth,health care,criminaljustice,publicwelfare,
andprofessional ethics.Dr.Reamerhas servedas a socialworker incorrectional andmental
health settings and has lectured extensively nationally and internationally on the subjects
of professional ethics and professional malpractice and liability. Dr. Reamer received the
Distinguished Contributions to Social Work Education award from the Council on Social
WorkEducation(1995),thePresidentialAwardfromNationalAssociationofSocialWorkers
(1997), the International Rhoda G. Sarnat Award from the National Association of Social
Workers (2012),andtheExcellence inEthicsAward from the National Associationof Social
Workers (2015).In 2016,Dr.Reamer was named a SocialWorkPioneer by theNational
Association of Social Workers.
Dr.Reamer’sbooks includeRiskManagementinSocialWork:PreventingProfessional
Malpractice, Liability, and Disciplinary Action (Columbia University Press); Heinous Crime:
Cases, Causes, and Consequences(Columbia University Press); On the Parole Board: Reflections
on Crime, Punishment, Redemption, and Justice (Columbia University Press); The Social Work
Ethics Casebook (NASW Press); A Guide to Essential Human Services (NASW Press); Criminal
Lessons:Case Studies andCommentary onCrime and Justice(ColumbiaUniversityPress);Social
WorkValues andEthics(Columbia University Press);Boundary Issues andDual Relationshipsin
the Human Services (Columbia University Press); Ethical Standardsin Social Work:A Review of
theNASWCodeofEthics(2nded.)(NASWPress);TheSocialWorkEthicsAudit:ARiskManagement Tool (NASW Press); Teens in Crisis: How the Industry Serving Struggling Teens Helps
and Hurts Our Kids (Columbia University Press; with Deborah H. Siegel); Finding Help for
Struggling Teens: A Guide for Parents and the Professionals Who Work with Them (NASW Press;
with Deborah H.Siegel);Ethics Education in Social Work (Council on SocialWorkEducation);
The Foundations of Social Work Knowledge (Columbia University Press; editor and contributor); Social WorkResearch and Evaluation Skills(ColumbiaUniversity Press);The Philosophical
FoundationsofSocialWork(ColumbiaUniversityPress);AIDSandEthics(ColumbiaUniversity
Press;editorandcontributor);EthicalDilemmasinSocialService(ColumbiaUniversityPress);
Rehabilitating Juvenile Justice (Columbia University Press; coauthor, Charles H. Shireman);
and The Teaching of Social Work Ethics (The Hastings Center; coauthor,Marcia Abramson).