This I Believe
Being a part of an Ethics of Social Work class this semester has allowed me to explore the role of a social worker and the services they provide to individuals in need. The service that touched me the most is the social worker’s dedication to support a client’s right to self-determination. The NASW Code of Ethics defines a social worker’s mission as having a commitment to enhancing human well being and meeting basic human needs, providing service to those who are vulnerable and oppressed, client empowerment, focus on individual well being in a societal context, promoting social justice and change, and showing sensitivity to cultural differences. By supporting a client’s right to self- determination, all of these points in a social worker’s mission can be accomplished. The client’s well being will be enhanced because they no longer have to look to the social worker for the answers, but can look within themselves for what they think is best for their life. Those who came in vulnerable and oppressed need to experience the freedom of making choices for their life, because they have never had the opportunity to do it before, and have never had anyone behind them to support them. The client feels empowered because they are in control of their own destiny, of their own life, which is what they need to be successful and healthy within our society. By supporting a client’s right to self determination, we are empowering a client’s right to live how they want and giving them a voice that they did not have before.
In Ethical Standard 1.02, self determination is addressed as a responsibility of the social worker to their client. “Social workers respect and promote the right of clients to self-determination and assist clients in their efforts to identify and clarify their goals. Social workers may limit their client’s self-determination when, in the social workers professional judgment, clients’ actions, or potential actions, pose a serious, foreseeable, and imminent risk against themselves or others.” Unfortunately, social workers often do limit the self determination of their clients in order to speed up services, cost, or protection for the client. The take-away that I have from this discipline is that if we, as social workers, can empower our clients to make decisions for themselves, help guide them in their quest for an answer, and support their decisions in life, we can develop our clients and help them achieve the best quality life they deserve.