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Personal Values and Social Work Ethics

Giselle Riker
Student ID #: 004300610
Wayne State University

Author Note


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This paper was prepared for SW 3010 section 001 taught by Professor Chad Allee and submitted
on November 22, 2013.
Most people would agree that an individual has to have a pretty strong set of values and
morals in order to make a successful social worker. That individual must also be able to identify
and comply with the values presented in the NASW Code of Ethics. It is so strange to think that
some people may not be able to relate to the values in the Code because in my opinion they are
all so positive and worthwhile it doesnt make sense to me why a person wouldnt agree with
them. But thats just how it is, different people value different things and many simply do not see
helping others as an important aspect of life, whereas for me and other social workers, helping
others is one of the most important thing. Social workers are really one-of-a-kind because we
dedicate our lives to putting other people before ourselves. Every social worker has a unique
story and characteristics that he or she brings to the table, and it is important for us to
acknowledge our backgrounds and how they shape our personal values and biases. Without
doing this, I really dont think anyone will be working up to their full potential.
For me, it has always been important to maintain a good moral character because that is
what I have been taught my whole life by my family and my religion. Integrity has always been
the most important value in my life, even before I was interested in social work. I really strive to
be a honest person that people can trust and rely on. Not only that, but I really try to stay true to
myself in everything I do. I spent the majority of my life caring way too much about
relationships and what other people thought of me, so much so that I could never really be
myself and find my identity as a teenager. But when I was sixteen I had a breakthrough and
realized that I didnt need to base my happiness off of other people, all I needed to do was be
myself and live my life with passion. This realization has helped me so much and I have since


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become a stronger, braver, and more independent person. I only hope that one day I can help
others discover the strength within themselves like I did.
Around this time, I began looking into future career options and after seeing the
opportunities I could have with a degree in social work, I decided to make it my major in college
because it seemed to be the best fit for me. I have always wanted to base my life around altruism;
I try to look for the good in people and have always felt a great deal of sympathy towards people
that have not been readily accepted by society (e.g. drug users, individuals with mental illness,
and the LGBTQ population) and I feel like it is my purpose in life to try and help these
marginalized groups. My dad had a serious cocaine addiction while I was growing up which
ultimately tore apart my family. Although it broke my heart that he abandoned me and my mom
several times for a substance, I never stopped loving him. I may not have understood why it was
happening back then, and the experiences have definitely had many negative effects on my
personality development, but there has never been a point in my life where I resented my father
for what he did. In recent years I have began to understand how broken he really is: he had an
awful, abusive childhood and so many unresolved emotional problems from those dark days that
he never got any help for, so it makes sense why he turned to drugs to self-medicate. My heart
aches when I think of all he could have accomplished in life if he had only gotten help before
everything got out of hand. So now Im hoping that by studying social work I will be able to help
people like my dad overcome their problems and finally see the light within themselves. I just
want to be the kind of person that my family so desperately needed when I was young, someone
to support and facilitate positive change for those who need it most.
I think the one population I have almost no desire to work with is the geriatric population.
Its not because I do not have any sympathy for them; I know how great of a need there is for


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geriatric social workers, but as of this point in my life, I really cannot see myself being
comfortable in a position where I had them as my clients, nor do I think I would be able to
provide the best service to them. I am not exactly sure why Im so uncomfortable with this
population, but I think it is because they are the one group I relate to the least because Im still so
young, and my experience with this age group has been extremely limited throughout my life,
aside from my relationships with my grandparents. Theres nothing that my religion
(Christianity) teaches that prevents me from working with elders, it fact it is encouraged that they
be respected and taken care of, but I have always felt uncomfortable around elders for ever since
I was little. I can distinctly remember going to a nursing home with my class when I was in
elementary school and being absolutely terrified of the old, incoherent people that I had to sing
Christmas carols to. The smell of the building made me nauseous and seeing all these people
holed up in there seemingly waiting for death made my skin crawl, and I would probably still
have similar feelings if I were to enter a nursing home now.
I didnt interact with elders again until my first job as a cashier at Wendys, which turns
out to be a restaurant that the 65+ population love to frequent. Of course there were some very
sweet older people that came in that always managed to put a smile on my face, but they seemed
to be outnumbered by the number of demanding and impatient elders that came in. I began to
automatically dread all interactions I had with the elderly before they even started. I absolutely
hate that I have this tendency to stereotype based on age and its a flaw I want to fix so badly. I
am usually a pretty patient person, but the elderly are the one group that I have basically zero
patience for. That may stem from the fact that one of my pet peeves is repeating myself, and I
usually have to do that quite a bit when Im speaking with elders. But in all honesty, I think my
aversion to working with elders comes from a lack of understanding and my own personal fear of


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becoming old. Its not even about age, its the thought of potentially becoming immobile, no
longer being able to do things for myself, and losing my mental ability and memory. Working
with elders would force me to be face to face with these fears everyday, and that is definitely
something I do not feel ready for at this point in my life.
In order to effectively assist a member of the older adult population, the most important
thing for me to always remember would be the fact that my client is still a person not very
different from me; being elderly does not make he or she any less human. I would first sit down
and obviously get to know as much about the client as I could in the time provided i.e. their
current family connections, the time period and area they grew up in, and basically any
information that would help me better understand their current situation and become sensitive to
the potential causes of their current behavior and attitudes, and then in my head find ways that I
relate to them and therefore be more empathetic to their plight. The next step would be to assess
the problems they are having and explore the causes for these problems. Then by utilizing the
strengths perspective, I would focus on the positives of the clients personality and history, such
as their resiliency and their current potential, especially encouraging the notion Youve made it
this far so dont let anything stop you now. That is one thing that I have always admired about
elders, they have lived through so many years of trials and tribulations yet still so many of them
get up everyday and try to make the most of their remaining life, even if living is now more
physically painful and emotionally lonely. Im exhausted after 20 years, so sometimes it blows
my mind how many older adults can keep going after all theyve been through. Once I can help
my client see all the positives about themselves, I would work with them to create a plan of
action to overcome their problems and connect them with services to fit their needs.


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In my work with the older client, I would utilize the NASW value dignity & worth of
the person. As I explained in the previous section, focusing on the strengths of the older client
would really help me to provide he or she with beneficial service, and it would help me get past
my aversion to working with this population. Elders are important members of society and
amazing people that still have so much potential and a whole lot of wisdom to share. Even if they
do require more of my patience to work with, I need to learn to be willing to give it because they
are absolutely worth the extra effort. The second ethical code that I would utilize would be the
importance of human relationships. Elders are especially at a point in their lives where
their relationships are dwindling due to an increased number of loved ones like their friends,
siblings, and spouses dying. Even if they do have children and living family members they still
are often left to spend a lot of time alone because their family members are too busy living their
own lives. Elders are living out one of the most physically taxing time periods in the life span
and the last thing they need during this time is to be alone. So simply by building a personal
connection with a client, or help them to strengthen their current relationships or create new
ones, I may be able to impact an elderly clients life more than I could have ever imagined.
If I was able to refer my client to another worker that I believed would be better able to
service them, I would go about it by sitting down with the client and calmly explaining that the
referral was in no way a reflection of my feelings toward the client as a person, and also make
sure they are aware it is not my intention to give up on them. I would want them to know it is
because of my own personal issues and shortcomings, that I dont believe I can relate to them
well enough to provide them with the help they deserve, and that I only want to do what I think
would ultimately be in the clients best interests. I would then provide them with as much
information as I can about their new worker, including their background and qualifications and


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why I think he or she would be a better fit for the client. Lastly, I would make sure that the client
knows that if it doesnt work out with the new social worker, he or she are more than welcome to
come back to me, and we can either continue together or once again find a new placement.
Thinking about how I would use the Code of Ethics while working with elders has helped
me to realize just how beneficial the ethical standards and values really are, and how applicable
they will be to my career in the future. I still would prefer not to work with elders simply because
I know I would not be able to provide them the best service, but after all the thought I put into it
for this assignment, I think I could probably do it with direction from the Code of Ethics and my
own set of values. I realize that it will be a challenge to work with any type of people that go
against my own lifestyle or beliefs, and I know its inevitable that I wont be able to see all my
clients be successful. I am hoping that throughout the course of my education and career I will
gain exposure to many different types of people and therefore grow in cultural competence and
sensitivity, so I can provide good service to everyone, including groups that I would not have
been comfortable with before. This will definitely not be easy, and Im sure I will always have
some personal biases, but I just have to remember to always be cognizant of the guidelines and
values presented in the Code of Ethics and hopefully they will give me the strength and wisdom
needed to deal with difficult clients or situations. By deciding to become a social worker, I have
made a commitment to serving others in need, and it shouldnt matter if I dont agree with what
they do or who they are, if they need me I should be there for them.