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NASW Standards for

Social Work Practice in

750 First Street, NE
Suite 700
Washington, DC 20002-4241

NASW Standards for
Social Work Practice in

National Association of Social Workers Contents
Elvira Craig de Silva, DSW, ACSW
President (2005-2008) 5 Background
9 Definitions
Elizabeth J. Clark, PhD, ACSW, MPH 10 Standards for Professional Practice
Executive Director 10 Standard 1. Ethics and Values
10 Standard 2. Qualifications
Child Welfare Standards Work Group 11 Standard 3. Continuing Education
Allison Blake, PhD, MSW 12 Standard 4. Advocacy
Priscilla Gibson, PhD, ACSW, LICSW 13 Standard 5. Knowledge Requirements
Jayne Pietrass, MSW 17 Standard 6. Confidentiality of Client Information
Ramon Salcido, DSW 18 Standard 7. Supervision
Nelly Rojas Schwan, LCSW, ACSW 19 Standard 8. Cultural Competence
Susan Wells, PhD, MSW 20 Standard 9. Collaboration
Millicent Williams, ACSW 21 Standard 10. Focus on Prevention
22 Standard 11. Engagement
NASW Staff 22 Standard 12. Comprehensive Service Planning
Nancy Bateman, LCSW-C 26 Standard 13. Child Protection
Nancy McFall Jean, MSW 27 Standard 14. Out-of-Home Care
28 Standard 15. Permanency
30 Standard 16. Social Work Administrators
©2005 National Association of Social Workers. in Child Welfare
All Rights Reserved.
34 References
36 Resources
S o c i a l Wo r k P ra c t i c e
i n C h i l d We l f a re


The child welfare system serves some of our

nation’s most vulnerable and troubled children
and families. The goal of child welfare services
is to provide an array of prevention and
intervention services to children and families,
particularly children who have been or are at
risk of abuse or neglect; children with special
medical or mental health needs; delinquent
children; and children who do not have adult
caregivers. This “system” has been dubbed by
some experts as merely an amalgamation of
programs with efforts to prevent out-of-home
placements, reunify families, and provide long-
term care and solutions to families in need.
Regardless of how it is characterized, the child
welfare system is designed to support families
and to protect children from harm.

Historically, social workers have played a key

role in the child welfare system by protecting
children at risk and supporting families in
need. Indeed, the social work profession is
strongly rooted in the tradition of social
reform, much of which was directed toward
alleviating the problems of children in
postindustrial society. Voluntary agencies and
government services for children were created
by concerned citizens and public officials
during the past 70 years.

The National Association of Social Workers The implementation of ASFA has had
(NASW) led the field in the development of profound implications on social work practice
best practices for social workers in child as the delivery of services has become more
welfare. The NASW Standards for Social Work outcome-based, with a focus on staff and
Practice in Child Protection (NASW, 1981) supervisors who have the values, knowledge,
served as an initial effort to formulate cultural competence, and skills necessary to
standards in this important and continually assist the families they serve. This law sets
evolving area of practice. Because it is essential specific guidelines and timeframes for moving
that these standards reflect and promote sound children from unstable, out-of-home
social work practice, they have been revised placements to permanent, loving homes.
and expanded beyond child protection to
reflect changing practices and policies for As the next decade unfolds, a range of
social work practice in a variety of child economic, social, and political factors will affect
welfare settings. These standards can be the child welfare system and the number of
regarded as a basic tool for social work children needing adoption and other types of
practice in child welfare that might include supportive services. These forces are likely to
family preservation and support, out-of-home challenge current policy and practice and place
care, family foster care, kinship care, residential greater demands on the child welfare system to
group homes, adoption, independent living, respond to the needs of a growing number of
child day care, adolescent pregnancy and foster children who cannot be reunited with
parenting services, hospitals, and nontraditional their birth families, a disproportionate number
settings such as faith-based facilities. of which are children of color. Public policies
will need to address the growing number of
Since the NASW child protection standards children in the child welfare system, which is a
were published in 1981, there have been many truly troubling phenomenon.
profound changes in the child welfare system.
Many of these were driven, in part, by high- Workforce Issues
profile child death cases and an overwhelmed Practitioners and researchers are continually
foster care system, resulting in increased challenged by the difficulties agencies face in
attention to the needs of these vulnerable recruiting and retaining a competent child
children. There were also several important welfare workforce. Recent studies indicate
shifts in law and policy, particularly with the that social work degrees are the most
passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act appropriate degrees for the field of practice
of 1997 (ASFA). ASFA focused on the safety, (Child Welfare League of America, 2003b).
permanency, and well-being of children in the A social work–educated workforce has been
child welfare system, for example, by further directly linked to better outcomes for children
tying funding to agency performance and and families and to lower staff turnover in
stipulating time frames in cases of out-of- child welfare settings.
home care.

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As the country has grappled with the Definitions
continuing crisis in its public child welfare
system, states are increasingly turning to Child Welfare
recruitment and retention strategies aimed Child welfare encompasses programs and
at increasing the number of BSW and MSW policies oriented toward the protection, care,
social workers practicing in these systems. and healthy development of children. Within
Efforts to accomplish these goals have a national, state, and local policy and funding
included loan forgiveness, enhanced training framework, child welfare services are provided
opportunities, employer payment of licensing to vulnerable children and their families by
renewal fees and continuing education units, public and nonprofit agencies with the goals
and improved supervisory practices (Cyphers, of ameliorating conditions that put children
2001). In addition, the past several years have and families at risk; strengthening and
seen continued support for federally funded supporting families so they can successfully
partnerships between schools of social work care for their children; protecting children
and the public child welfare systems to support from future abuse and neglect; addressing the
the reprofessionalization of this workforce. emotional, behavioral, or health problems of
children; and when necessary, providing
permanent families for children through
adoption or guardianship (Liederman, 1995).

Out-Of-Home Care
Out-of-home care is an array of services,
including family foster care, kinship care,
and group residential care for children who
have been placed in the custody of the state
and who require living arrangements away
from their birth parents (Child Welfare
League of America, 2003a).

Permanency Planning
This is a guiding principle of child welfare
practice intended to limit placement into,
and the time spent in, out-of-home care.
It includes an array of social work and legal
efforts directed toward securing safe,
nurturing, life-long families for children
(Child Welfare League of America, 2003a).

Note: The terms “social worker” and “social worker in child

welfare” will be used interchangeably throughout the document.

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Standards for Professional Practice are met by completion of BSW and MSW
programs within colleges and universities
Standard 1. Ethics and Values accredited by the Council on Social Work
Social workers in child welfare shall Education (CSWE), must include knowledge
demonstrate a commitment to the values about the history and development of social
and ethics of the social work profession, work, including child welfare. Furthermore,
emphasizing client empowerment and social workers in child welfare should have a
self-determination, and shall use the NASW proven ability to apply this knowledge to
Code of Ethics (1999) as a guide to ethical intervene constructively in family,
decision- making. organizational, or social systems. These
interventions should support the child and
Interpretation family in addressing identified needs and
The NASW Code of Ethics establishes the difficulties to prevent harm to the child and
ethical responsibilities of all social workers to maximize the family’s chances for positive
with respect to themselves, clients, colleagues, functioning and stability.
employees and employing organizations, the
social work profession, and society. Acceptance Currently, hiring requirements for social
of these responsibilities guides and fosters workers in child welfare vary. In some
competent social work practice in all child agencies, only MSWs are hired; in others,
welfare tasks and activities. As an integral not even a BSW is a prerequisite to practice.
component of the child welfare system, social Child welfare requires knowledge and skills
workers have a responsibility to know and in assessment, active engagement,
comply with local, state, and federal intervention, the use of authority, and an
legislation, regulations, and policies. Legal expert ability to negotiate and manage
and regulatory guidelines as well as appropriate community resources.
administrative practices may conflict with
the best interests of the child and/or family. Standard 3. Continuing Education
In the event that conflicts arise, social workers Social workers are responsible for their
are directed to the NASW Code of Ethics continued professional development in
(1999) as a tool in their decision- making. accordance with the NASW Standards for
Continuing Education (2002) and state
Standard 2. Qualifications licensing requirements.
All social workers practicing in child welfare
should hold a BSW or MSW degree from an Interpretation
accredited school of social work. Continuing education is an essential activity
for ensuring quality social work services for
Interpretation consumers. By consistent participation in
The knowledge requirements considered educational opportunities beyond the basic,
fundamental to all social work practice, which entry-level professional degree, social workers

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are able to maintain and increase their empowerment of children and their families
proficiency in service delivery. New knowledge in both urban and rural settings. System
is acquired, skills are refined, professional changes can be implemented by making
attitudes are reinforced, and individuals’ lives changes in direct practice as well as by
are changed. Social workers who practice in making changes in laws or policies.
child welfare shall continue to stay current on
knowledge and understanding basic to the Emphasis on system reforms should seek to
social work profession, particularly concerning make child welfare services more responsive
the findings and implications of research for to children and their families, communities,
the most effective practice interventions. and diverse cultures. Such advocacy should
emphasize the strengths and assets approach
Social workers in child welfare shall attend in the development of social services and child
continuing education opportunities that welfare programs, as well as the use of
challenge existing theories and use multiple documented evidence regarding the most
methods of learning to ensure the integration effective programs and policies for children
of theory into practice. These opportunities and their families.
should be consistent with the social work
licensing requirements set forth by the state Standard 5. Knowledge Requirements
in which they practice. They should include Social workers in child welfare shall
a specified number of continuing education demonstrate a working knowledge of current
units (CEUs) in social work ethics each year. theory and practice in child welfare to include
compliance with state and federal child
Standard 4. Advocacy welfare laws.
The professional social worker in child welfare
practice is expected to advocate for resources Interpretation
and system reforms that will improve services Social workers in child welfare shall possess
for children and their families, as appropriate, knowledge related to child development,
within the context of their job. parenting issues, family dynamics, and the
community/local systems where the client
Interpretation resides. Recommended areas of knowledge
Social workers in the field of child welfare include:
should use a range of skills to advocate for
and with clients for policies that promote Child Development
the welfare of children and child protective ■ effects of deprivation of parental care
services. Advocacy should be directed at ■ effects of physical, sexual, and emotional
improving administrative and public policies abuse and neglect on children
to support children and their families. Such ■ effects of partial separation from parents,
advocacy should move toward the as in day care, and of total separation, as in

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foster family care, and issues of loss, anger, ■ relationship of the parents’ childhood
grief, and identity experiences on their capacity to parent
■ effect on children of repeated changes in ■ specified needs and training for foster
living arrangements, adverse community parents
conditions, and cultural or interracial ■ community and cultural attitudes toward
problems parents who cannot carry their full parental
■ issues of bonding and attachment with responsibility.
adoptive families or foster families
■ opportunities for children who live Family Dynamics
independently, such as those who “age out” ■ dynamics of families who abuse or neglect
of foster care, to obtain education, training their children and the impact of domestic
and development of job-related skills violence
■ importance of working with children in ■ impact of socioeconomic stress upon
nontraditional environments in which they families
feel comfortable ■ evaluation of risk to the child
■ ways to provide peer education and increase ■ concept of family culture, and an assessment
decision-making and leadership skills for of family strengths
children ■ emotional aspects of parent-child
■ effect of lifelong connections for children; relationships
for example, the impact of long-term ■ problems involved in divided allegiance in
mentoring. cases of parental conflict, separation,
divorce, or in placement.
Parenting Issues
■ methods of child rearing and child care Community/Local Systems
including basic health care ■ political, legal, and judicial structures,
■ responsibilities, obligations, duties, and processes, and practices
rights of parents ■ needs of people from different cultural,
■ factors affecting parental capacity to meet ethnic, and religious backgrounds and sexual
their children’s needs preferences and the community resources
■ cultural differences affecting child rearing that are available to address these needs
■ positive guidance, discipline strategies, and ■ purpose and structure of public and
formation of ideas and values voluntary social and child welfare servicing
■ parental feelings and attitudes associated agencies; the functions and the relationships
with asking for help in relation to the child among federal, state, and local agencies
or the impact of partially or fully ■ functions of, and services provided by,
surrendering their childrearing function schools, health, mental health, and medical
■ effects on children of parental personality agencies, including special education
disturbances, mental illness, substance services, child guidance services, parenting
abuse, and marital conflicts and life enrichment courses

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■ interrelationship between the individual, the disciplines with relevant expertise. Social
family, the neighborhood, and the workers should seek consultation when issues
community arise as to whether the child is of an age to
■ child abuse and neglect prevention strategies consent. When consulting with colleagues
through family advocacy (for example, about clients, social workers should disclose
legislative and educative efforts), and the the least amount of information necessary to
appropriate use of the media to promote achieve the purposes of the consultation
public awareness of the needs of children NASW Code of Ethics (1999).
and families and available community
resources. Compliance with Agency Policies and
Compliance with Child Welfare Laws Social workers in child welfare are expected
Social workers practicing in child welfare have to conform to the policies and procedures
a dual responsibility to keep current about that are set by the agency. However, the
practice models and to stay abreast of new assumption of this standard is that the agency’s
laws and regulations that have an impact on policies and procedures and the professional
child welfare practice. This can be social worker’s practice are compatible. In the
accomplished through continuing education event that some incompatibility arises between
programs, professional journals, and state and the two entities, social workers shall conform
federal resources. Child welfare organizations to the NASW Code of Ethics (1999).
must ensure information on new laws and
their requirements are shared with staff in a Standard 6. Confidentiality of Client
timely manner. Also, social workers in child Information
welfare must be aware of changes to state, Social workers in child welfare shall maintain
federal, and local laws affecting practice with the appropriate safeguards for the privacy and
children and families and should be competent confidentiality of client information.
to explain legislative and legal changes to the
individuals they serve. Interpretation
Social workers must protect client information
Consultation at all times. Access to written client
Social workers in child welfare should seek information (paper and electronic) is limited
the advice and counsel of colleagues whenever and maintained securely. Social workers shall
such consultation is in the best interests of use private offices/areas when meeting with
clients. Social workers should seek clients or discussing client information. Social
consultation from colleagues who have workers in child welfare shall conform to the
demonstrated knowledge, expertise, and NASW Code of Ethics (1999) and to relevant
competence related to the consultation state and federal regulations to ensure that
subject. Consultation should include advice client information is protected.
and counsel from social workers and other

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Information obtained by the social worker workers in direct practice, including a
from or about the client shall be viewed as specified number of CEUs in social work
private and confidential, unless the client gives ethics each year. Supervisors in child welfare
informed consent for the social worker to should possess enhanced knowledge and skills
release or discuss the information with another in the field and must have a graduate degree
party. There may be other exceptions to from a social work program accredited by
confidentiality as required by law or CSWE. They must be licensed and shall have
professional ethics. Social workers should be a minimum of two years experience in the field
familiar with national, state, and local directly related to the work of the staff they
exceptions to confidentiality, such as mandates are supervising. The supervisor must provide
to report when the client is a danger to self or clear performance expectations and periodic
others and for reporting child or elder abuse performance evaluations that allow the social
and neglect. Clients should be informed of the worker to evaluate his or her own practice.
agency’s confidentiality requirements and The supervisor should allow time to provide
limitations before services are initiated. workers with guidance and decision-making
on complex cases, as necessary.
Standard 7. Supervision
Social workers who act as supervisors in child Standard 8. Cultural Competence
welfare shall work to develop and advance the Social workers in child welfare are expected
social workers’ skills and ensure quality service to be knowledgeable about cultural
delivery to clients. competency practices and standards as
described in the NASW Standards for
Interpretation Cultural Competence (2001).
Social workers who act as supervisors in child
welfare shall provide the necessary skills to Interpretation
ensure the professional development of the Social workers in child welfare should use
social workers in their charge. Social workers social work methods and skills that include
who act as supervisors should ensure quality knowledge of the role of culture, race, and
service delivery, provide for the in-service ethnicity in the helping process. Supervisors
training needs of their staff, and assess the should develop training for social workers on
needs of the persons served. They must also culturally competent practice. When providing
possess knowledge of the political, legislative, services, social workers may need to explore
and economic factors that affect service the role of spirituality, religion, sexual
delivery in their community and be able to orientation, and age as factors affecting
mentor staff in learning to negotiate those outcomes.
Social workers in child welfare should engage
Social workers who act as supervisors should in recruitment and retention of potential
receive training specific to supervision of social foster care and adoptive parents consistent

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with the Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994 professionals whose mission includes child
(P.L. 103-382), the Interethnic Adoption protection. The social worker should
Provisions of the Small Business Job understand the roles and goals of other
Protection Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-188), and professionals in the field and work toward
the Indian Child Welfare Act (P.L. 95-608). enhanced collaboration and understanding.
Social workers must include tribes in Such collaboration may include other
decision-making and for assistance in locating professionals, paraprofessionals, and
appropriate placement resources when a community leaders. The collaboration can
Native American child requires out-of-home ensure that the services are available to
care. Consideration should also be given to community members and can identify
addressing the particular needs of other emerging problems of service delivery plans.
children of color, especially African American In addition, such collaborations can monitor
children, who are over represented in the child the implementation and effects of child
welfare system. If children are placed with welfare programs on the community.
parents of a different race, ethnicity, or
culture, such parents should receive diversity Standard 10. Focus on Prevention
training, when appropriate. Social workers in child welfare shall identify
and promote the use of supportive and
There has been an increase in the number of preventive services to strengthen and enhance
immigrants and their children in the United family functioning in order to avoid the need
States; such changes could affect the needs for protective services.
that child welfare services will address. Social
workers in child welfare should be familiar Interpretation
with the latest data on population changes Social workers recognize families’ and
in their region related to immigrant children individuals’ growth potential and ability to
and their families. Such changes will require improve their functioning to protect and
learning about the emerging immigrant nurture their children. Social workers also
cultural heritage, needs, and support networks. have knowledge of personal, familial, and
social factors that decrease or tax a family’s
Standard 9. Collaboration resources to care for its members. Social
Social workers in child welfare shall have workers in child welfare have the
demonstrated competence in collaborating responsibility to:
with child welfare agencies and other relevant ■ identify opportunities for growth and
entities in the provision of services to children address risk factors for increased family
and families. stress
■ identify and recommend families’ use of
Interpretation community resources
There is a collaborative relationship between ■ advocate for the development of preventive
child welfare professionals and other services and strong community programs.

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Standard 11. Engagement the interventions, and the social worker’s
Social workers in child welfare shall engage increased understanding of the family, the
families as partners in the process of child welfare system, and the larger
assessment and intervention. community. Technology should be used to
facilitate the casework process.
Engagement requires social workers in child The social worker shall seek the family and
welfare to be clear about the reasons for the child’s participation, input, and feedback to
family intervention, whether it is an ensure that service is a mutual undertaking
investigation or services following an between social worker, family, and child. Input
investigation. The social worker shall seek of other community collaborators should be
to understand and incorporate, as appropriate, sought at specific intervals and incorporated
the family’s perspective and definition of the into an ongoing assessment and understanding
problem and potential solutions. It is of the family’s needs and response to
important that the social worker be able to interventions. The service plan should include:
convey an understanding and empathy for the ■ a timely, comprehensive assessment of
family’s situation or difficulties. Engagement family, parent or other caretakers, and
involves “contracting” for services and children to understand their overall
assisting the family to look forward to a better functioning, and to identify strengths and
future, with no need for services. family resources, needs, and their ability to
provide a safe and nurturing home for their
Standard 12. Comprehensive Service Planning children
Social workers in child welfare shall develop, ■ specific desired outcomes, how they will
in collaboration with the family, a be measured, and time frames for
comprehensive service plan to strengthen the accomplishment
family’s ability to care for their children, with ■ periodic evaluations of progress towards
specific attention to their developmental goals specifying how progress will be
needs, and to enhance the overall functioning evaluated and who will participate in this
of its members. It must include a system for evaluation
documenting progress and case closings. ■ responsibilities of the social worker and
family members
Interpretation ■ community resources and how they will be
The goal of the service plan is to ensure that used on behalf of the family
the child’s needs for safety and nurturance are ■ specific interventions and action steps
met, with particular attention to child ■ specific expectations and consequences if
developmental stages and special needs. the family is not a voluntary participant
Implementation of the service plan needs to ■ specific legal issues and court involvement,
be flexible and adapted to the changing if applicable
circumstances of the family, their response to

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■ family’s rights to legal counsel and The social worker will partner with the family
information on access to legal resources if to identify community resources and facilitate
the family is not a voluntary participant and the child’s and family’s use of these resources
services include any legal or court action. by providing information and referrals when
appropriate. When necessary, the social
Monitoring Progress worker in child welfare should advocate for
The social worker in child welfare shall community services for the family.
monitor and document the child’s and family’s
progress and evaluate the outcome of the Documentation/Management of Information
service plan. Intervention and implementation Social workers shall keep records and gather
of the service plan is a mutual undertaking the statistics necessary to manage and plan
between the social worker and the family, with service delivery and agency programs. Social
expectations and responsibilities clarified for workers in child welfare shall ensure that
both parties. Monitoring and evaluation are client information contained in case records
ongoing and need to address both the family’s is accurate, thorough, and entered in a timely
progress towards goals, as well as the manner. Social workers providing crisis
effectiveness of the social worker’s services or services in high-risk cases should
interventions. Social workers in child welfare ensure documentation is completed as soon
have a responsibility to provide feedback to as possible and is current. To protect privacy,
the family and to seek feedback about their case records should include only the
professional activity. The social worker is also information necessary for the provision of
responsible for informing family members of services.
their right to provide an assessment of the
services rendered and to request changes, Social workers must be aware of any legal
including a change of social worker, if requirements relating to client information
necessary. and case records. Social workers in child
welfare should understand the implications
Case Closing of collecting client information as it relates to
The social worker in child welfare shall follow the safety, permanence, and well-being of the
the service plan and prepare the family for the child and family.
termination of services when goals and
objectives are accomplished and the child is Use of Technology
safe, or when goals and objectives are not Social workers shall utilize available
accomplished and there is a need for technology to increase the efficiency of
alternative intervention. An important element services in a way that ensures the protection
at the end of service provision is consideration of clients’ rights and privacy. The Internet,
of the resources, both within the family and in e-mail, electronic case record systems, and
the community, that will support and sustain data analysis software have increased the
the family’s gains and further development. efficiency of child welfare services. The

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Internet has become a place for organizations Social workers should explain to the family the
to educate the public and prospective clients rationale for their actions, allow the family to
about the services they provide. Internet ventilate feelings, inform them of their rights,
adoption photo-listings have drastically and facilitate legal representation. Social
increased the accessibility of information workers shall treat the family respectfully,
available about children awaiting adoption. humanely, and professionally. As necessary,
E-mail has increased social workers’ abilities social workers shall seek protection to ensure
to communicate with clients and other service their own safety.
providers and is being used as a mechanism
for providing counseling and education Child protection or child welfare services in
services. Electronic case record systems and the most egregious cases may also involve
data analysis software have increased the speed termination of parental rights. It is imperative
and accuracy of accessing, aggregating, and that the worker be well-versed in the
analyzing client data. Although these advances biopsychosocial indicators of absolute inability
have greatly improved service delivery, to care for a child in the foreseeable future as
administrators and social workers must ensure well as the legal requirements regarding taking
that confidential client information is such measures.
protected at all times.
Standard 14. Out-of-Home Care
Standard 13. Child Protection When children are unable to remain in their
The social worker must be able to assess homes, social workers in child welfare shall
imminent risk and ensure that arrangements place children in out-of-home care that
are made to protect the child in accordance meets the needs for safety, permanency,
with state and federal laws, agency policies, and well-being.
and administrative directives governing child
protection. The assessment must take into Interpretation
account the child’s best interests. Social workers in child welfare shall consider
the strengths and needs of the child and the
Interpretation caregiver when assessing the safety and
When a child’s safety is at risk, the social appropriateness of placement options (for
worker in child welfare is required to report example, kinship care, foster care, treatment
and document the risk to protective foster care, group home, residential
authorities. If the social worker’s role involves treatment). Children are encouraged to
child protection, the worker is required to use maintain connections with family, friends,
the legal process available to protect the child and other individuals with whom the child has
and to document evidence and concerns to a relationship, except in situations where there
guide the child protective intervention. are legal constraints, such as protective orders.
Social workers in child welfare shall ensure
that the child’s medical, dental, mental health,

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developmental, cultural, spiritual, social, and chosen should reflect the child’s situation,
recreational needs are met while in out-of- needs, and preferences, represent the child’s
home care. Social workers should not assume best interests, and be reassessed regularly until
that because a child is in out-of-home care a plan is achieved that includes a permanent
that the child is safe. Social workers should family relationship as well as life skills,
make assiduous efforts to ensure the child supports, and services.
receives appropriate services, placement is
safe, discipline is appropriate, and all necessary Social workers in child welfare should also use
authorizations are secured before medical strategies to recruit new adoptive and foster
treatment is performed. families who reflect the cultural, racial, ethnic,
linguistic, and religious/spiritual backgrounds
Standard 15. Permanency of the child in need of placement consistent
Social workers in child welfare shall strive to with the Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994,
achieve permanency and well-being for the Interethnic Adoption Provisions of the
children in out-of-home care. Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996,
and the Indian Child Welfare Act. An array
Interpretation of methods and media should be used to raise
Permanence for children is achieved within a awareness about the needs of the child, as well
family relationship that offers safe, stable, and as to communicate recruitment messages.
committed parenting, unconditional love and Recruitment is especially critical for children
lifelong support, and legal family membership of color, African American and Native
status. Permanence can be the result of American children in particular, because they
preservation of the family, reunification with are significantly over represented in the child
the birth family, or legal guardianship or welfare system.
adoption by kin or other caring and
committed adults. Social workers providing adoption services
shall ensure that children in need of
For children who cannot return to their permanent family relationships become
family of origin, social workers in child members of stable, loving families. Social
welfare should continuously use a range of workers must ensure that all adoptions are
recruitment options. Recruitment should done in the best interests of children and are
occur from existing connections and conducted in an ethical manner, in accord
relationships. Child welfare agencies, in with all foreign, federal, and state legal and
collaboration with the child and family, regulatory requirements. Children shall be
shall identify a range of permanency options matched with prospective adoptive families
without imposing limitations based on the that can best meet their needs, and birth and
age of the child, beginning with an extensive prospective adoptive families shall receive
exploration of the possibilities within the sufficient information and time to make
family of origin. The permanency option informed decisions about adoption.

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Social workers should provide biological ■ be competent in management activities such
parents, adopted children and adults, as budgeting, financial planning, public
prospective adoptive parents, and adoptive speaking, fund raising, and navigating the
families with: political process
■ non-directive pregnancy counseling services ■ be licensed to practice social work as
■ information about adoption options, prescribed by law in his or her state
financial and legal issues and resources ■ hire social work staff with accredited BSW
■ names of reputable adoption agencies and MSW degrees, demonstrated work
■ home study services that help participants skills, and characteristics that reflect the
decide whether to pursue adoption, when, ethnic composition of the clientele served
and how by the agency
■ pre- and post- adoption support and ■ establish a salary schedule that is fair and
counseling for all participants reasonable with regard to the social worker’s
■ services for families who have children education, work experiences, and job
with special emotional, behavioral, medical, responsibilities
and educational needs ■ recruit and allocate program funds sufficient
■ search and reunion counseling, support, for emergency, ongoing, and family support
and technical assistance. services
■ establish operational definitions of child
Social workers must ensure that fees for the abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, emotional
provision of adoption services are charged and abuse, and exploitation of children.
collected in an ethical and legal manner.
Furthermore, the administrator should work
Standard 16. Social Work Administrators in to constantly improve services to clients by
Child Welfare using written policies and procedures for
Social work administrators in child welfare monitoring day-to-day program operations
shall ensure appropriate, effective service to include: continuous quality improvement
delivery to children and families. The systems; workload and caseload size; clients’
administrator, in accordance with legal rights; training for leadership; and work
mandates, shall establish the policies, environment safety.
procedures, and guidelines necessary for
effective social work practice in child welfare. Continuous Quality Improvement
Administrators in child welfare shall ensure
Interpretation that staff participate in continuous quality
The administrator is expected to: improvement efforts within the organization,
■ have a graduate degree from a CSWE- which may include data collection, data
accredited social work program and at least analysis, and the development of program
five years post graduate, direct child welfare improvements. Administrators shall use
experience supervision and self-evaluation as tools for

30 31
improving individual knowledge and skills. Clients’ rights
Supervision and self-evaluation offer Administrators in child welfare agencies
opportunities for social workers to examine should ensure that their structure and policies
the effectiveness of the services provided. reflect the mission, vision, and the core values
of the social work profession. These should,
Workload and Caseload Size therefore, ensure that people served are not
Administrators must ensure that social workers discriminated against, are aware of their rights,
are assigned a manageable workload to ensure and are treated in an ethical and professional
that clients have access to the worker and manner, with easy access to services.
receive the services they need. Administrators
in child welfare should consider both the Training for Leadership
social worker’s caseload size and additional The social work profession focuses heavily
responsibilities (for example, supervision or on the need for professionally educated and
training of other staff) when evaluating their trained social workers to carry out the direct
workload. National standards that specify services work in child welfare settings. The
recommended caseload sizes or social work profession should also train social
care/supervision ratios (Council on workers to fill upper-level management
Accreditation, 2001; CWLA, 1995) can be positions in child welfare agencies to ensure
used to guide practice. Although such national that leadership decisions are made using social
standards exist, administrators should consider work skills and values. Social workers
the following factors when adjusting caseload practicing as administrators in child welfare
sizes: agencies should meet the educational and
■ complexity of cases experience expectations as set forth in this
■ needs and strengths of clients standard.
■ number of children in the family
■ risk of harm Work Environment Safety
■ intensity of services Administrators in child welfare shall make
■ duration of services efforts to ensure that the work environment
■ status of the case (for example, new, is healthy and safe. Appropriate precautions
ongoing, or termination) should be taken to protect the social worker
■ provision of service components by others and the client from the spread of contagious
(for example, case managers or other team or infectious diseases, especially in situations
members) where the social worker is in contact with
■ travel time required clients who have medical conditions that
■ bilingual or translation services required increase the risks associated with
■ skills and experience of the provider and communicable diseases. Administrators should
supervisor create and maintain an environment that is
■ special personnel models (for example, child and family friendly and is free from
team delivered services). safety risks. Facilities, offices, vehicles used for

32 33
transporting clients, and toys or equipment Child Welfare League of America. (2003b).
shall be safe, appropriately inspected, and Moving from research to practice: Annotated
maintained. bibliography, child welfare workforce. Retrieved
March 15, 2005, from
Violence and threats of violence against social
workers or other clients can occur in the Council on Accreditation. (2001). Standards
office, in the community, and in the client’s and self-study manual (7th ed.). New York:
home. Administrators should ensure that social Author.
workers are trained in agency safety guidelines
and any approved de-escalation or self- Cyphers, G. (2001). Report from the child
protection measures. Agency policy should welfare workforce survey: State and county data
require that social workers report and and findings. Washington, DC: American
document all violence and threats of violence. Public Human Services Association.

The NASW Standards can be downloaded Indian Child Welfare Act, P.L. 95-608.
for free on the NASW Web site: Retrieved May 16, 2005, from
Purchase full document from NASW Press at 5query.html|
Interethnic Adoption Provisions of the Small
Business Job Protection Act of 1996, P. L. No.
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(5th ed). Washington, DC: NASW Press.

Liederman, D. S. (1995). Child welfare. In

Child Welfare League of America (1995). R. L. Edwards (Ed.-in-Chief), Encyclopedia of
Standards of excellence for child welfare services social work (19th ed., Vol. 1, pp. 424–423).
(12 volumes). Child Welfare League of Washington, DC: NASW Press.
America: Washington, DC. Retrieved March
28, 2005, from Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994, P.L.
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CWLA standards of excellence for services to
strengthen and preserve families with children.
(rev. ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

34 35
National Association of Social Workers. U.S. General Accounting Office. (2003b).
(1981). Standards for social work practice in child HHS could play a greater role in helping child
protection. Washington, DC: Author. welfare agencies recruit and retain staff (GAO-
03-357). Retrieved from
National Association of Social Workers. new.items/d03357.pdf on April 5, 2005.
(1999). Code of ethics of the National Association
of Social Workers. Washington, DC: Author. U.S. General Accounting Office, (2004). D.C.
Child and Family Services Agency: More focus
National Association of Social Workers. needed on human capital management issues for
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work practice. Washington, DC: Author. retention. Washington, DC: Author.

National Association of Social Workers.

(2002). Standards for continuing professional
education. Washington, DC: Author.


Cyphers, G. (2005). Report from the 2004 child

welfare workforce survey: State agency findings.
Washington, DC: American Public Human
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Ellett, A.J., Ellett, C.D., & Rugutt, J.K. (2003,

March). A study of personal and organizational
factors contributing to employee retention and
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36 37

NASW Standards for

Social Work Practice in

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