Code of Ethics
2021 Revised NASW Code of Ethics Now in Effect: New Self-care, Cultural Humility/Competency Provisions Added
The NASW Code of Ethics has been updated with new language that addresses the importance of professional self-care and revises the Cultural Competence standard. It went into effect for all social workers June 1.
A living document, the code responds to the needs of the profession, which are influenced by ever-changing world conditions and trends. The latest changes affect all social workers.
NASW is committed to advancing professional ethics and is offering the following new resources:
Join NASW's free 90-minute webinar: "2021 Revisions to the NASW Code of Ethics: Self-Care and Cultural Competence." If you want to earn CEs, NASW members pay a discounted rate of $20; Nonmembers can earn CEs at the $25 rate. Remember, anyone can watch the webinar free of charge. The registration link will be available shortly, and the free training will be available on-demand.
Read the Frequently Asked Questions[PLEASE MAKE AN ETHICS PAGE ON THE WEBSITE AND POST THE FAQ so the landing page can link to it] to learn more about the rationale for the 2021 approved revisions and other important details.
Buy English or Spanish translations of the code at https://naswpress.org/. NASW is updating its web pages to post the new code but wants you to be the first to know about 2021 ethics resources to support the profession.
Frequently Asked Questions
When does the 2021 revision of the NASW Code of Ethics go into effect?
The 2021 NASW Code of Ethics goes into effect on June 1, 2021.
Where can I purchase a copy of the 2021 revised NASW Code of Ethics?
The NASW Code of Ethics is available for sale at
What sections of the NASW Code of Ethics were revised?
The 2021 amendments are limited to the following sections of the Code: Purpose of the NASW Code of Ethics, Ethical Principles (namely, the Value of Integrity), and standard 1.05, Cultural Competence.
Will licensing boards now approve self-care content for continuing education credit?
NASW is not a licensing body and therefore has no jurisdiction over state licensing requirements. Social workers should contact their state licensing board to determine how the recent revisions to the NASW Code of Ethics will impact licensure, including prelicensing testing, and continuing education requirements. To find out more about state licensing requirements visit the Association of Social Work Boards at aswb.org.
How can social workers advocate for professional self-care, especially when working in host settings, i.e. non-social work organizations? Many social workers are employed in settings that are not primarily social work organizations. As such, employers may not be aware of specific professional requirements impacting social work practice. Standard 3.09 of the NASW Code of Ethics guides social workers to adhere to commitments made to employers and employing organizations; however, when an employer’s directives conflict with the NASW Code of Ethics, it is imperative that social workers educate their employer about ethical and other obligations specific to social workers and the implications for social work practice in the context of the organization. Educating employers about social workers’ ethical obligations is a win–win situation for both social workers and employers. How do we hold social work professionals and organizations accountable regarding self-care? The self-care language in the NASW Code of Ethics is aspirational and not prescriptive. Adherence to professional self-care cannot be easily measured and is therefore seen more as a goal that social workers and organizations should STRIVE to uphold and achieve.
What resources are currently available for developing a professional and personal self-care plan and promoting professional self-care?
SELF-CARE DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC www.socialworkers.org/Practice/Infectious-Diseases/Corona virus/Self-Care-During-the-Coronavirus-Pandemic
JUSTICE AND JOY: SELF-CARE IN 2020 www.socialworkers.org/News/Social-Work-Talks-Podcast/EP61- Justice-and-Joy-Self-Care-in-2020
SELF-CARE AND AVOIDING BURNOUT www.socialworkers.org/News/Social-Work-Talks-Podcast/EP17- Self-Care-and-Avoiding-Burnout
SEARCH SELF-CARE IN NASW’S SOCIAL WORK CE ONLINE INSTITUTE FOR THESE AND OTHER SELF-STUDY CONTINUING EDUCATION CREDIT PROGRAMS: https://naswinstitute.inreachce.com
• The 3 S’s: Supervision, Self-Reflection, and Self-Care
• Mindfulness and Self-Care
NASW PRESS PUBLICATIONS https://naswpress.org/product/53484/burnout-and-self-care-insocial-work
Visit www.terrickahardy.com for more on professional self-care.
Why was the term “cultural competence” reinstated as the title of standard 1.05?
The reinstatement of the title and other revisions to standard 1.05 of the NASW Code of Ethics were approved based on the recommendations of the National Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity. They argued that the approved amendments would provide more emphatic language that operationalizes how cultural competence is demonstrated. The term “cultural competence” can be seen as an umbrella that encompasses other relevant characteristics including cultural awareness, humility, and sensitivity.
How do we hold social work professionals and organizations accountable on cultural competence?
Social workers should educate themselves and the organizations in which they work about the important provisions in the NASW Code of Ethics concerning cultural competence. The pursuit of cultural competence requires training, supervision, consultation, and other professional and personal development opportunities to identify and address implicit bias, discrimination, and racism in the many forms it may show up in practice. Individual social workers and organizations can advance accountability through formal and informal systems that continually review the demonstration of cultural competence or lack thereof. Furthermore, standard 2.10, Unethical Conduct of Colleagues, charges social workers to prevent, address, and expose unethical conduct of colleagues by first discussing concerns with the colleague if feasible; if not feasible, social workers should explore available channels for filing a complaint.
What other NASW resources are available to support the advancement of cultural competence in social work practice?
STANDARDS AND INDICATORS FOR CULTURE COMPETENCE IN SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE https://naswpress.org/product/53592/nasw-standards-andindicators-for-cultural-competence-in-social-work-practice
NASW ETHNICITY AND RACE PRACTICE TOOLS www.socialworkers.org/Practice/Ethnicity-Race/EthnicityRace-Tools
SEARCH CULTURAL COMPETENCE IN NASW’S SOCIAL WORK CE ONLINE INSTITUTE FOR SELF-STUDY CONTINUING EDUCATION CREDIT PROGRAMS: https://naswinstitute.inreachce.com/
NASW PRESS PUBLICATIONS https://naswpress.org/product/53641/multiracial-culturalattunement
Ethics Courses coming soon!
NASW-VA consistently offers ethics-qualifying courses, please visit our calendar of events to view our current course offerings.