The National Association of Social Workers with more than 140,000 members, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world. Started in 1955, Its goals are to build and develop the field of social work and the individual professionals, to create and maintain professional standards and to promote social work policies. The organization accomplishes this through several “arms.”
NASW Code of Ethics
The NASW developed a Code of Ethics which has become the “Bible” for social work practitioners. The various parts of the code are the impetus for NASW programs. The code is intended to serve as a guide to every-day conduct of social workers. One of the primary dictums of the code is the respect social workers must have for their fellow workers and for the clients they serve.
Education, according to the code, is a primary way to achieve this respect. Social workers are prompted to educate themselves about cultural and societal diversity. That leads the workers to understand the repression of rights of individuals in respect to
• Sexual orientation
• Gender identity
• Marital status
• Political beliefs
• Immigration status
• Mental or physical disability
Not only are social workers to learn about these factors, they are to oppose and act to prevent discrimination or exploitation of any person. The code is an important program of the NASW because it unifies the members in how they practice. It gives then a reference point when ethical or personal issues arise during the performance of their duties by identifying the relevant values in the uncertainty.Members of the NASW understand that the Code of Ethics is just a guide and violation of its standards does not imply they have done anything illegal. NASW advocates review committees to resolve these issues.
How the NASW is Governed
The NASW is governed by an assembly of 277 elected delegates which set policy and establish priorities in the organization programs. It also determines what position the organization (and thus most of the nation’s social workers) will take on public and professional issues. Every state has a NASW chapter. Members are expected to pay dues to the organization. For MSW and DSW members, that fee is $190 annually. BSW members pay $125. There are also dues for student members which are lower.
The NASW’s Role in Education Standards
One of the first standards the Code of Ethics identifies is education. After social workers graduate from college, they become licensed. That license, however, is an indication that the social worker meets minimum requirements to practice. After obtaining their license, social workers get further education, experience, and specialization in different aspects of social work. To receive recognition of excellence, or to further their careers they can elect to become certified. For 50 years, the NASW has offered credentials through the NASW Credentialing Center. Education is also the reason for the NASW Foundation. The charitable arm of the NASW offers scholarships and fellowships to students who wish to explore specialties or further their educations in social work.
NASW’s Educational, Advocacy, Employment, & Professional Resources
The NASW also has publications and books, as well as actual courses from its continuing education center. The center is an online tool that social workers can access at any time to gain continuing education credit. Many of the courses are teleconferences and workshops on specialty areas of interest. The NASW website offers a portal into colleges with credited courses as well.
Another offering of the NASW website is a jobs portal where members can find employment. The site has a link to a jobs list, but it also offers tips on building resumes and self-marketing. There is even a section devoted to techniques to use on a job interview.
Although the NASW is not a political organization, it does involve itself in political advocacy. It also informs its members of impending legislation and how it will affect their careers or their clients.
The NASW provides standards for professional review, and it administers the reviews. The website details how to report a violation or register a complaint. From that point, the organization proceeds with a protocol for censuring or sanctioning licensed members. In other words, the NASW acts as a regulatory organization of social workers through the NEC, or National Ethics Committee. At the other end of the sanction spectrum, the NASW offers legal resources, some financial, to its members.
One of the greatest NASW benefits is the amazing website. This online resource serves high school students exploring career paths and practicing social workers who want to get better at what they do. It answers questions and offers tools and encouragement.