Understanding the Code of Ethics in Social Work Practice

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Social workers are required to consider the code of ethics when working with clients in a therapeutic or direct practice relationship. However, we want to examine and discuss the implications of utilizing the code of ethics while working along the full continuum of social work practice from micro to macro. Most have heard about ethical issues relating confidentiality, dual relationships, and sexual relationships, but what do ethical dilemmas look like when working in communities, advocacy, or public policy? What ethical obligations do social workers when working in social justice versus working in one on one relationships with clients?

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Heather McCabe

We will explore how practitioners and students view ethical obligations around macro practice and social justice issues. Our guest expert is Heather McCabe, Assistant Professor of Social Work at Indiana University. She served as a medical social worker at a pediatric tertiary care hospital for several years before returning to school for her law degree.

She also served as the Director of the Public Health Law Program  and then Executive Director for the Hall Center for Law and Health at the IU School of Law – Indianapolis before coming to her current position.  Professor McCabe’s research is primarily in the areas of public health, health policy, health disparities, health reform, and disability related policy.  She is particularly interested in exploring the effects of multidisciplinary education and collaboration in her work.

Questions to be explored:

  1. Do you think about the NASW Code of Ethics applying to community organizing, policy practice, advocacy? If so, how?
  2. If you see multiple clients with the same systemic issue, do you have any ethical obligation to address the issue?
  3. What types of bills do you see as impacting your clients? What responsibility to you have to advocate for/educate about them?
  4. Do you advocate for policy in your day to day work? Give an example.
  5. How do we continue encouraging social workers to see practice as a continuum, which includes macro practice?

Resources:

  • Reisch, M. & Lowe, J.I. (2000). “Of means and ends” revisited: Teaching ethical community organizing in an unethical society. Journal of Community Practice, 7(1), 19-38.
  • Hardina, D. (2000). Guidelines for ethical practice in community organization. Social Work, 49(4), 595-604.
  • Harrington, D., & Dolgoff, R. (2008). Hierarchies of Ethical Principles for Ethical Decision Making in Social Work. Ethics and Social Welfare, 2(2), 183–196. doi:10.1080/17496530802117680
  • National Association of Social Workers. (2008).  Code of ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. Washington, DC: NASW Press.
  • Rome, S.H.,Hoechstetter, S., and Wolf-Branigin, M. (2010). Pushing the envelope: Empowering clients through political action. Journal of Policy Practice, 9(3-4), 201-219.
  • Rome, S.H. (2009). Value inventory for policy advocacy. In E.P Congress, P.N. Black, and K. Strom-Gottfried (Eds.) Teaching Social Work Values and Ethics. Alexandria, VA: Council on Social Work Education.

About us:

#MacroSW is a collaboration of social workers, organizations, social work schools, and individuals working to promote macro social work practice. Macro social work practice focuses on changing larger systems, such as communities and organizations. It encompasses a broad spectrum of actions and ideas, ranging from community organizing and education to legislative advocacy and policy analysis. The chats are held bimonthly on Twitter on the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 9 p.m. EST (6 p.m. PST).

The Network For Social Work Management Launches New Policy Fellows Program

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LOS ANGELES, CA  – The Network for Social Work Management, a professional, international organization whose mission is to strengthen social work leadership in health and human services, has launched a Policy Fellows Program.

The Policy Fellows Program has been established to encourage social workers to engage proactively with policies that directly affect them and the communities they serve, as well as to encourage social workers in management positions to be at the forefront of policy.

The eight-month program will allow fellows to take the next step in leadership by focusing on leadership and professional skill development as they prepare a poster presentation on a policy issue they are passionate about.

Fellows will also be placed with mentors to coach and guide them through the course of the eight months and prepare for their presentation. Fellows are encouraged to attend The Network for Social Work Management’s annual conference to be held June 16-17, 2016 in Los Angeles, CA.

“This program gives our members the ability to advance their skills by providing them with a platform to brainstorm, collaborate and innovate on what it means to be a social work leader in today’s environment”, said Lakeya Cherry, Executive Director of the Network for Social Work Management.

Applications for the program are due by October 8th, 2015. For more information on participating as a mentor or a fellow please visit www.socialworkmanager.org/policy-fellow or contact the Network directly at info@socialworkmanager.org. You can also find the them on FacebookTwitter or Linkedin

OSU School of Social Work Dean Is Not Silent on the #BlackLivesMatter Movement

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Over the past year, we have witnessed massive protests around the world spawned by human rights violations, declining labor rights, and austerity cuts to public services. The plight for many Americans struggling with poverty and located in low-income neighborhoods are not being spared the same fate in our “land of plenty”.

These protests have brought to light the use of police forces and government resources being used to further suppress the voices of the poor and what appears to be an acceptable disdain for policing communities of color. Many have predicted this period in our history will be remembered as the third reconstruction, but how will social work be remembered regarding the most important issues in our life time?

Since Ferguson and the development of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement, it is my opinion that social work leadership is failing to engage and participate in discussions on behalf of vulnerable populations with very little political power. Largely, I have been disappointed in the social work profession as whole for the lack of any organized national efforts to advocate on a range of social issues affecting the clients we serve.

However, I was able to get a glimpse of what a top down effort could look like when social work leadership leads an effort instead individuals being forced to act autonomously without social work leadership support. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Ohio State University College of Social Work Dean Tom Gregoire who lead a #BlackLivesMatter March for their community. Here is what Dean Gregoire had to say about why it was important for him to get involved.

SWH: Why was it important for you and the School of Social Work to lead a march on the #BlackLivesMatter Movement?

We have all be moved by the events of the past year and wanted a tangible demonstration of support for our students, faculty, and staff colleagues. It is important to hold conversation about emergent social topics.  But as social workers, it is also important at times to transcend talk. By marching we “walked our talk” and provided a demonstration of our concern and support that transcended conversation.

SWH: How are student’s processing in the classroom the racial tension and angst manifesting in a variety ways across the country?

I believe that a lot of our community is in pain regarding the level of racial tension and violence. We feel the need to communicate our concern and support. Although we hosted a public forum on these issues, we did not think we were doing an effective enough job of providing the vehicles for classroom attention to the issues that are manifesting nationwide.  I believe that left our entire community wanting more, and looking to us for a strong statement. So we took a walk together.

SWH: How did the use of social media help to increase awareness of your school’s on the ground efforts with the #BlackLivesMatter March?

Social Media played a critical role.  We made a decision to participate in the walk on Wednesday, and then marched together on Saturday, only three days later.  All of our communication was via social media. Social media was important in allowing those who wanted to support the walk but were unable to attend.  Via social media our impact and reach was much broader, and allowed far great involvement.  To further carry the message we created a Storify to tell the social media story of our day, https://storify.com/osucsw/blacklivesmatter-march

SWH: How do you think social work institutions and members of our profession can engage in the large discussion on poverty and institutional racism within the systems we work?

Social media is an important vehicle for carrying the message. It is not constrained by traditional media, and its much more real time. We are not dependent on the mainstream for getting our message out.  I also think it’s important to be open to conversation that moves us toward solution. It is important to be a witness and a voice in the face of social injustice and a voice.  As social workers we need to transcend complaint alone and lean into difficult issues with an expectation of leading change.  Finally,

SWH: What do you feel are the biggest barriers and challenges for social workers to engage and/or have an impact on the social issues of our day?

Courage and curiosity are two important precursors to having an impact on important social issues. Courage allows us to believe that we can make a difference, and helps us be patient for the enduring effort.  Curiosity is the path to new solutions   Rather than thinking we have all the answers, a willingness to see a problem in a completely different way is the only path to new strategies. We need more sentences starting with “what if?” and fewer with “yes but”.

We are often dragged into zero-sum arguments, ones that pit vulnerable groups against each other.  Should limited resources go to support needy children, or older adults?  Is the oppression of people of color more urgent than attacks on the rights of the LGBTQ community?  When we are arguing among ourselves we are not advancing.  Nothing preserves the status-quo better than when the people who need it changed are fighting among themselves.

New Field Placement Model With Crittenton Earns Award from CSU Fullerton for its “Teaching and Mentorship” Culture

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Fullerton, Calif. – Crittenton Services for Children and Families (CSCF) is proud to announce the agency’s nomination and selection as this year’s recipient of the Most Committed Partner award by both the CSUF Social Work Department and the CSUF Center for Internship & Community Engagement (CICE).

Each year CICE hosts its annual Community Engagement Awards as a way to highlight students, faculty and community partners in their efforts to strengthen the bonds of engagement that connect the University and the community. CICE’s main mission is to bring faculty, students, and community partners together to create high impact practices for student success.

“Our collaborative partnership with CSUF extends learning from the classroom to the community, giving students experiential learning opportunities that will build their skills, their resumes, and their ability to positively impact the world around them. It is truly a win-win,” said Joyce Capelle, Chief Executive Officer, CSCF, “We are honored to have worked alongside outstanding faculty and staff of CSUF for more than a decade, in order to provide students practical work experience while at the same time making a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable youth.”

Under the “Stellar Support of Students” category the CSUF Department of Social Work nominated Crittenton as an organization that has made a difference in the career trajectory of students via mentorship.  As part of the non-profit’s mission, Crittenton, has made it a part of its strategic plan to make the idea of a “teaching institution” a reality and part of the overall agency culture. For its efforts in guiding and mentoring students, Crittenton has been recognized for going above and beyond its duties as an experiential learning host site.

In addition, as of 2015 both Crittenton and CSUF celebrate a 10-year anniversary of working together to serve vulnerable children and their families curtail the effects of child abuse, neglect, and trauma.

Since the inception of this evidenced-based field placement opportunity for social services, human services, and social work students have been able to take ample opportunity to earn academic units, licensing requirements and gain valuable work experience at a nationally accredited agency.

In fact, throughout this 10-year partnership period, roughly 121 undergraduates and 35 graduate students from CSUF have been given the opportunity to take part of a non-profit’s mission with a connection to a proud national child welfare legacy that goes back to 1883. Nearly 30 CSUF students have been hired as Crittenton employees via this partnership.

At the helm of this internship program collaboration with CSUF is executive team member and CSUF Alumna, Denise Cunningham, Senior Vice President of Crittenton Services.

Cunningham has been a strong advocate of community partnerships between Crittenton and higher education institutions, and has also served in the capacity of a mentor. Her commitment to student success is such that as of this year the CSUF Social Work Department has appointed her Chairperson of the department’s advisory council.

To build tomorrow’s workforce in the human services fields it takes the acquisition of knowledge in the classroom in tandem with developing skill-sets in the community. Crittenton’s partnership with CSUF is an excellent example of this collaborative approach to developing effective practitioners and future change agents.

Selma 50 Years Later, Then Back to Work

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Obama Family leading the 50th Anniversary March- Photo Credit Whitehouse.gov

 

President Barack Obama, in what may be his most eloquent and thoughtful speech, helped us to understand the profound place in history held by those who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965 in pursuit of social and economic justice. In Selma, Alabama 50 years later, it was their encounter with the forces of bigotry and hate that helped change the course of history.

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President Barack Obama share a moment with Georgia Congressman John Lewis during the commemoration of Bloody Sunday.

It was the determination of the protesters to endure the most vile and despicable slurs imaginable, to withstand flailing police batons, ferocious dogs, and battering waves of water pouring from hoses, that moved the needle ever so slightly from oppression towards freedom. We are constantly reminded by injustice in Ferguson and other places that the battle is far from over.

As the President stated, this is no time for cynicism, no time for complacency or despair. Many Americans of good will believe the social contract that the Framers had in mind was not one that favored a few who would reap a disproportionate share of the benefits of a society whose prosperity depends on the work of many.

I came of age in the 1960s, and it was a turbulent time—Vietnam, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Jr., Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King. There were riots, uprisings on college campuses, and, yes, black men were still being lynched. Yet through the turmoil there was always a sense of community—a belief that people were better off if we stuck together. We were told that we either swim together or drown alone. Events like Woodstock brought thousands of young “hippies” together for marathon sessions of the best that music can be. Not surprising, the 1960s was the heyday of community social work.

We hardly got into the next decade when another turning point arrived in a tragic day at Kent State University. It occurred one day before my 20th birthday on May 4, 1970—four unarmed students were shot dead by the National Guard and nine others wounded. The age of law and order had arrived with a vengeance. After all, it was the slogan that propelled Richard M. Nixon into the White House. He was soon to be followed by President Ronald Reagan and a new era of conservatism that swept the country. Community was too close to communism and socialism to be an acceptable form of lifestyle. It was the individual that was paramount.

Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama
Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama

Robert Ringer’s Looking Out for Number Onethe tome du jour—became a New York Times #1 bestseller, and supply-side economics heralded Ayn Rand’s great man theory. Unions and collective bargaining began to wilt from constant attacks from corporations and their Republican allies. We were all competing for the American Dream when we should have been working together to achieve it universally.

The President reminded us that the single most powerful word in our vocabulary must be we. We can get a lot more done than me. At the risk of sounding like Rodney King, it is time that we put aside our differences and begin to look for common solutions to major problems. The commemoration of the historical Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama is cause for neither celebration nor despair. It should, however, energize us to go the extra mile—as the old folks used to say—to see what the end’s going to be.

We must believe that things can get better. We must believe that we can have a more egalitarian society. Economic inequality reaches a point where it becomes evil because it robs so many children of their chance for a meaningful future. The only weapon we have to fight this injustice is political power. We must use it or lose what little hope we have today of achieving some measure of social and economic fairness.

Twitter Chat Tackles Questions about Social Work and Politics

How actively involved should social workers be in the political arena? This was one of the themes that set the agenda for Thursday night’s Twitter chat hosted by the Network for Social Work Management using the hashtag #MacroSW. The Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy was asked to take the lead in this latest chat and we focused on our work on the Hill with the Congressional Social Work Caucus.

The other key question during the Twitter chat is the focus of a media campaign around Social Work on the Hill Day featuring the hashtag #YSocialWork. What motivates young people to pursue careers in social work? Social work jobs are often labor intensive and emotionally stressful. Our work is often undervalued—both in compensation and in public opinion.

Before we delve into the details about the Twitter activity, I want to clear the air about this being a macro social work event. While there has always been tension in social work about the amount of emphasis given to direct services and macro social work practice, there has never been an argument about whether one area of practice is more important than the other.

Those of us who would like to see an expanded emphasis on macro social work practice do not want it to occur at the expense of direct service practice. In fact, we acknowledge the need for more direct services social workers in the coming decades. Yet, at the same time, we recognize the need for more social workers as administrators, community organizers and participating at various levels of policy.

There is a need to expand the number of social workers in the United States. However that expansion should include social workers seeking careers in politics and policy as well as traditional roles managing human services organizations. After decades of the ascendency of conservative ideology that has focused on individual achievement, laissez-faire economics, and the destruction of socialism, social workers have become the guardians of the American Dream as an ideal that should be available for all Americans regardless of ethnicity, class or gender. That means being actively involved in the political systems that generate the policies, laws, and regulations that determine access to opportunity and achievement.

Having said that, Thursday’s Twitter was fascinating as social workers of all ages, from every corner of the country—micro and macro—participated in a stimulating exchange about our personal experiences with social work and shared ideas about where the profession needs to go in the future. Many had not heard about the Congressional Social Work Caucus founded by Congressman Edolphus Towns in 2010.

Having been made aware that such a caucus exists, the next question was: so what? How does the profession and social workers benefit by having a Social Work Caucus? Hopefully, these questions may stimulate ideas that will influence what the Social Work Caucus does in the coming years. Few were familiar with the Social Work Reinvestment Act, so making them aware was worth doing the chat.

The #YSocialWork campaign is the brainchild of MSW student Shauntia White at the National Catholic School of Social Service at the National Catholic University of America. Social media maven Deona Hooper, founder and editor-in-chief of Social Work Helper, is leading the effort to launch a campaign leading up to Social Work Day on the Hill. The beauty of this collaboration is Ms. White, who is studying to become a clinical social worker, has organized what many would label a “macro” event—a forum on the Social Work Reinvestment Act—that is being sponsored largely by the Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work.

One comment made during the Twitter chat credited the virtual event with turning the mindset of “I’m just a lone social worker,” into one of “I’m a powerful social change agent.” Although we were connecting in a virtual space many participants remarked about the energy and enthusiasm they were sensing from the Twitter comments. I will end with a comment by blogger Sean Erreger who wondered what it would be like if the Twitter chat participants were all in the same room. Ending with: “Powerful stuff happening here.”

[mratajczak/macrosw-twitter-chat-how-social-workers-can-engag” target=”_blank”>View the story “#MacroSW Twitter Chat: How Social Workers Can Engage Congress ” on Storify]

The Struggles of Being a Macro Student and How We Can All Be Supportive

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We all know that social work is a versatile field. There are many opportunities within the field to do a variety of things on a variety of levels. We all should know that all levels of work are necessary in order to successfully implement the mission of social work. Even though all levels of social work are necessary, many schools and social workers tend to put efforts in micro level initiatives. There is certainly a need for these initiatives, but focusing the majority and almost all resources on micro efforts can be a struggle for many macro students. Without proper support and resources, macro students can have a hard time during the time in a program.

Here are some of the examples of struggles I have come across and discovered for macro students. These struggles compliment and repeat some of the issues released in the Rothman Report , which you all should read if you have not had the chance.

  • Forced Micro Experiences: Everyone knows that every social work program has some forced micro component. There are some program implementing macro components in requirements, but it is predominantly micro. This probably has to do heavily with state licensure exams content and schools accommodating to their requirements. If a student knows they want to do macro work, why are they forced into micro opportunities? Yes, there are skills that all social workers need to know, but schools can certainly accommodate to the needs of macro students. Social work is what you make of it, and you can’t make much of the opportunities if you are forced into certain ones
  • Minimal Exploration Opportunities: While you are a student, you should be exploring the career fields you would like to pursue. Since social work students have a short amount of time to obtain their degree, it is hard to explore various macro opportunities if you spend half the time in a micro setting. Trying out new experiences if how we learn and how we develop our career aspirations. Without time to explore, schools are feeding us down a certain path.
  • Lack of opportunities with Social Work Programs: There are a numerous opportunities out there macro students and in some ways more flexibility, but social work program tend to focus their efforts on micro students based on the overwhelming amount of micro students and faculty. Micro classes are offered more often and micro opportunities are encouraged.
  • Quality of opportunities: With a micro focus, many schools focus their resources on those opportunities and the macro courses suffer. This causes many macro students to go outside the program to search for quality education and opportunities or not even enter the programs. I know my decision to enter my social work program was based on the macro education, and I dismissed many schools with poor macro concentrations.
  • Trouble with post-graduation employment: Since the quality of macro educations are many times sub-par, the students leaving the programs are then sub-par and may not be able to attain the macro job opportunities they desire and have to settle for a micro job. If a student has a primarily micro background, then they won’t be qualified for macro jobs without proper experience or if they obtained the job, they perform poorly. Macro students are losing positions to other professionals because their programs are preparing them better and allowing for flexibility.
  • Risk of Being Classified as an UNFIT Social Worker: This is an interesting point, but also sad at the same time. I will repeat myself again that not all social work is focused on clinical intervention, and if we only focus on clinical treatment, societal problems will not be addressed. Micro work is not for everyone. I certainly do not want to perform therapy, and I should not feel incompetent as a social worker because of it. I have heard of incidences of macro students being kicked out of their programs because they do not want to perform therapy or asked to do micro work and their field supervisors claim they are unfit social workers. There is even a person in my school that tells students to withdraw from the program if they do not want to do therapy in their field placements which is ridiculous. I don’t have to be a good therapist to be a good social worker.
  • The Constant Questioning of Goals/Intentions: Every student gets asked “What do you want to do with your degree?” This is a reasonable question to engage in conversation and learn about the individual, but for macro students it can be a challenging subject. Many experienced social workers constantly suggest ideas and have an expectation of social workers that they force on current students. Macro social work sometimes does not cross their radar as “real” social work. Also, a micro focused curriculum and field experience forces does not help students pursue macro social work. If macro students are constantly being told what they want to do is not social work and being forced into opportunities they do not want to do, then why should they purse a social work degree?
  • The Struggle to Stay Motivated: As we all know, social change takes a long time and a lot of effort. If macro students who desire to pursue social change are surrounded by people who do not want to contribute or are too burned out from their clients, then macro students can struggle with staying motivated to want to implement change. Instead of giving support, micro social workers can limit macro students’ perceptions of social workers and diminish their motivation.

There are ways that each one of us can help continue to promote macro social work and encourage students to pursue this tract. Here are some ways EVERYONE can help:

  • Never limit your definition of social work: Social work is what people make it, and as long as it is promoting social justice and ameliorate society, then it should count as social work. Never tell someone their work does not matter nor it’s not social work because you don’t think it is.
  • Ask to Help rather than give Advice: This is an issue in many fields, especially social work. Experienced social workers and fellow peers should be asking students how they can help them, rather than giving unsolicited advice. Of course, advice that is welcomed is very useful, but don’t just assume a student wants or needs to hear your perspective on social work. It can be more harmful than helpful.
  • Start Connecting: I wrote in a previous article that all social workers need to be networking! If we keep connecting people with each other, than people can find support and resources in ways they could not have on their own.
  • Unite together: I know this may seem cheesy, but many students think doing stuff on your own is easier and shows strength, but asking for help sometimes is necessary. Getting together with fellow students or asking alumni for support could be really beneficial. If students are having problems, people should offer to help or at least provide support as much as they can. A unified front is stronger than several smaller individual ones.
  • Encourage instead of Discourage: Discouragement is definitely a struggle for many macro students, and it is important to support them in their exploration process. Remember, all levels of social workers are needed, and we need to ensure all are supported through their education process.
  • Challenge and Help Change: If you think your program does not do a good job supporting macro social work students, speak up and ask for the reasons. Sometimes it’s intentional, and sometimes it is not. If things about be better, try to offer solutions or create a task force that could help. Change doesn’t happen without a challenge first.
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