Melissa and the Code of Ethics: Social Workers and Secrets

Social Work is the professional activity of helping individuals, groups, or communities enhance or restore their capacity for social functioning and creating societal conditions favorable to this goal-NASW Board of Directors official definition.

From time to time I will talk about social work because I plan on being a practicing social worker in the somewhat near future. Today’s social work post regards THE CODE OF ETHICS.

Every social work student has had the code of ethics drummed into her/his head and can probably cite almost all the values outlined in the Code of Ethics and explain them at length. The same could be said about the ethical principles of social work. Every social work student who has a field placement will also be able to give you an example in which one of the values or principles had clearly been broken or tested. Finally, each social student has their pet social work values and principals.

Which leads me to tonight’s post. The Ethical Principal known as 1.07 or Privacy and Confidentiality. I would love to quote it to you but it has 18 parts. This long principal is my favorite which makes sense considering that I wish to work with the HIV/AIDS community. 1.07 gets complicated in this field because a person’s status determines how they are looked at by everyone else. We have come a long way from calling the GRID (Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease) but chances are there still protesters who believe AIDS is God’s punishment for 911. Those are just the extremes, one must still consider the attitudes that are in between. The attitudes that are moderate but ignorant because it easier to believe hype than read facts. It is easier to see a status instead of a person.

Yes, 1.07 is very important to this population and not just because it protects the client. This principal also understands that the social worker takes on a great responsibility with this career. It is not just about the client but also the community and the law. You are expected to inform the client beforehand the limits of the confidentiality which means you run the risk of losing a client who needs your support. I suppose it’s my favorite principal because of it’s difficulty. In one conversation at the Coney Island across from the office (if you live/work in Detroit, there is a Coney Island in walking distance) the rule could be broken easily. If it’s misinterpreted  (which I have no idea how it could be) then you’ve crossed a line in which you are risking more than your client.

It’s also important to realize that privacy is not just about what is communicated in that session. There is a measure of care you take when helping different populations. You don’t post “COME TO MY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SHELTER WHERE WOMEN WHO GOT BEAT COME TO STAY” all over the city. You don’t contact a victim of alleged sexual assault and refer to the police report on the voicemail in case they aren’t home. Certain support groups have to advertised in a certain way that reaches your audience but doesn’t invite ‘guests.’

So that’s it’s for this blog. I’ll do better wrapping these up as I go along. I love social work.

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Melissa and the Code of Ethics: Social Workers and Secrets

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