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Code of Ethics Spotlight: Cultural Competence and Social Diversity

culturally competent practice Returning to our ongoing tour of the NASW Code of Ethics, we arrive at section 1.05, Cultural Competence and Social Diversity. It reads as follows:

(a) Social workers should understand culture and its function in human behavior and society, recognizing the strengths that exist in all cultures.

(b) Social workers should have a knowledge base of their clients' cultures and be able to demonstrate competence in the provision of services that are sensitive to clients' culture and to differences among people and cultural groups.

(c) Social workers should obtain education about and seek to understand the nature of social diversity and oppression with respect to race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, political belief, religion and mental or physical disability.

In short: understand and respect cultural differences and know your biases. Here's what the NASW has to say about the subject in a short article and as standards for practice. For a still more in-depth look at the topic, there's always Doman Lum's Culturally Competent Practice  (link goes to the Google Books preview).

Question: How might this section show up on the social work licensing exam? Answer: Every which way you can think of. Expect exam items that present enticing answers for biased folks...that touch on the DSM's list of culture-bound sydromes  (link goes to Quizlet cards)...and that otherwise aim to ascertain whether or not you've taken code section 1.05 to heart.

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Code of Ethics Spotlight: Reporting Unethical Conduct

reporting colleague unethical behavior Here's a section of the NASW Code of Ethics that doesn't seem particularly complicated, but still may show up on the licensing exam. Maybe that's because of it's simplicity. From the Ethical Responsibilities to Colleagues section of the Code, here's 2.11 Reporting Unethical Conduct:

(a) Social workers should take adequate measures to discourage, prevent, expose, and correct the unethical conduct of colleagues.

(b) Social workers should be knowledgeable about established policies and procedures for handling concerns about colleagues' unethical behavior. Social workers should be familiar with national, state, and local procedures for handling ethics complaints. These include policies and procedures created by NASW, licensing and regulatory bodies, employers, agencies, and other professional organizations.

(c) Social workers who believe that a colleague has acted unethically should seek resolution by discussing their concerns with the colleague when feasible and when such discussion is likely to be productive.

(d) Social workers should defend and assist colleagues who are unjustly charged with unethical conduct.

Part of what the licensing board is aiming to do is ensure licensed social workers aren't unnecessarily combative--that they play well with others.  What do you do if you suspect a colleague is acting unethically? The FIRST, BEST, MOST appropriate answer is...to talk to the colleague (per C above). Social workers are helpers and talkers. Be ready for an exam item that checks to make sure you understand that.

For more on this topic, see this entry from the NASW's Ethical Dilemma of the Month series. For licensing exam practice, sign up with SWTP!

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Code of Ethics Spotlight: Termination of Services

termination social work ethics Continuing through some of the hot spots in the NASW Code of Ethics, here's section 1.16 which begins like this:

Termination of Services

(a) Social workers should terminate services to clients, and professional relationships with them, when such services and relationships are no longer required or no longer serve the clients' needs or interests.

It goes on from there for a stretch (a through f). It's not uncommon to see questions about how and when to terminate with clients on the social work licensing exam. There's an Eye on Ethics column on this topic alone. The gist: avoid abandoning clients. Anticipate endings and prepare for them. Refer, refer, refer.

You've probably had to do this some time in real life--interns quickly get experience with termination. Take another look at the code section. Soon, you'll be able to terminate with your exam prep. Good luck!

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Social Work Exam Resource: Ethics Corner

Black checkFrom Ruth Lipschutz, LCSW and the folks at NASW Illinois, here's a long-running series of articles about ethics questions that may make for good exam prepping: Ethics Corner. (The link goes to Google since there didn't seem to be a catalogue of past posts on the host site.) Lipschutz answers questions from social workers about ethical situations both sticky and straightforward. Here's the first part of a vignette from a piece about the ethical challenges of social media for social workers:

Alex is a social worker for a non-profit agency that provides services for young adults, ages 18 to 21 years old. An issue of concern for the agency is frequent missed appointments. As one means of addressing this issue, the director wants to list the agency as a "check in" site on Foursquare. She believes the social game play aspect of the site is a way to engage the youthful population that is served, as well as increase visibility for the agency...

Good, ethical idea or...?

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Code of Ethics Spotlight: Physical Contact

physical contact nasw code of ethics Here's a section of the code worth reviewing. It may seem simple at first, but can get complicated once you get into the details--section 1.10, Physical Contact:

Social workers should not engage in physical contact with clients when there is a possibility of psychological harm to the client as a result of the contact (such as cradling or caressing clients). Social workers who engage in appropriate physical contact with clients are responsible for setting clear, appropriate, and culturally sensitive boundaries that govern such physical contact.

A licensing exam item might ask about the appropriateness of hugging a client. The guideline here is, it depends. You can rule out "never okay" and "always okay" answers. Now you've got a 50/50 chance of picking the right answer from the two likely to be remaining. Remember the code here--no physical contact "when there is a possibility of psychological harm to the client." That is, when retraumatization or boundary issues are in play. Don't retraumatize. Don't hug vignette clients who have problems with boundaries. Like that.

Here's Allan Barsky in going into more detail in Ethics and Values in Social Work (via Google Books). Click through to read. But feel free not to--remember that overstudying can make a whole different type of trouble for your social work exam prep as studying too little.

Good luck!

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