NASW Releases New Cultural Competence Standards for Social Work Practice

Guidelines help social workers improve services for diverse communities and clients

WASHINGTONAs the United Nations Conference on Racism concludes this week in South Africa, the nations social workers are renewing their commitment to eradicating discrimination and intolerance in the agencies and communities in which they work, and with the clients they serve.

"Racism is imbedded in our society and unless we identify specific instances and work to remove them, we are part of the problem rather than part of the solution," says NASW President Terry Mizrahi. "Our Code of Ethics calls us to advocate for changes in policy and legislation that improve social conditions and promote social justice. NASW applauds the efforts of the United Nations to shine a light on the worlds injustice, and is honored to participate on the Council of Organizations - United Nations Association."

To aid these discussions, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) through its National Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity (NCORED) has released a new publication for its members and partner organizations called Standards for Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice.

Recognizing that cultural bias affects everyone at some level, NASW urges all professional social workers to constantly re-evaluate their own attitudes and personal experiences with people of different genders, social classes, religious and spiritual beliefs, sexual orientations, ages, mental and physical abilities. Incorporating cultural competence standards into practice will help social workers respond effectively, knowledgeably, sensitively and skillfully to diverse client populations who seek their help.

"NASW supports an inclusive society in which racial, ethnic, social, religious, sexual orientation, and gender differences are valued and respected," adds Dr. Elizabeth Clark, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers. "As social workers, we often hold jobs where we confront the damaging effects of racism and discrimination on people, such as poverty, inadequate health care, substandard education, homelessness, incarceration and violence. Our profession requires continual self-examination, learning, and change to ensure our services promote equality and remain bias-free. "

The Standards for Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice address several key areas of social work practice, including ethics and values, self-awareness, cross-cultural knowledge, cross-cultural skills, service delivery, empowerment and advocacy, workforce diversity, professional education, language diversity, and cross-cultural leadership. By publishing this and other practice guidelines, NASW seeks to:

  • Maintain and improve the quality of services provided by social workers, and programs delivered by social service agencies.
  • Establish professional expectations so social workers can monitor and evaluate their practice.
  • Provide a framework for social workers to assess culturally competent practice.
  • Inform consumers, governmental regulatory bodies, and others, such as insurance carriers about the professions standards for practice.
  • Establish specific ethical guidelines for social work practice in agency or private practice settings.
  • Provide documentation of professional expectations for agencies, peer review committees, state regulatory bodies, insurance carriers and others.

For more information about the Standards for Cultural Competence and other topics, please contact NASW Public Affairs at (202) 336-8236 or see the Standards online: Standards for Cultural Competence.
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