The profession of social work was founded on a set of core values and principles that still guide its unique purpose and perspective today. These core values include service, social justice, inherent dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. For more than 100 years, social workers have helped millions of people challenge their circumstances and change their lives, and pushed institutions to value and support persons in need.
According to the NASW Code of Ethics, social work core values are defined as:
Service Social work's primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems. Social workers elevate service to others above self-interest. Social workers draw on their knowledge, values, and skills to help people in need and to address social problems.
Social Justice Social workers challenge social injustice. Social workers pursue social change, particularly with and on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups of people. Social workers' social change efforts are focused primarily on issues of poverty, unemployment, discrimination, and other forms of social injustice.
Dignity and Worth of the Person Social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person. Social workers treat each person in a caring and respectful fashion, mindful of individual differences and cultural and ethic diversity. Social workers support client self-determination, that is, the right of individuals to make choices about their futures.
Importance of Human Relationships Social workers recognize the central importance of human relationships. Social workers understand that relationships between and among people are an important vehicle for change. Social workers engage people as partners in the helping process. They seek to strengthen relationships among people in a purposeful effort to promote, restore, maintain, and enhance well-being of individuals, families, social groups, organizations, and communities.
Integrity Social workers behave in a trustworthy manner. Social workers are continually aware of the profession's mission, values, ethical principles, and ethical standards and practice in a manner consistent with them. Social workers act honestly and responsibly and promote ethical practices on the part of organizations with which they are affiliated.
Competence Social workers practice within their areas of competence and develop and enhance their professional expertise. Social workers continually strive to increase their professional knowledge and skills and to apply them in practice. Social workers should aspire to contribute to the knowledge base of the profession.
The full NASW Code of Ethics can be found on the NASW Web site at http://www.socialworkers.org/.