Termination and Social Work Code of Ethics
The NASW Committee of Inquiry routinely receives complaints about how social workers handled termination. Both the reason for termination and the manner in which the termination process occurred have been the subject for adjudication.
How social workers begin working with clients frequently will establish the process by which they end with clients. If part of service initiation includes establishing a contract that spells out treatment goals and plans and sets forth the parameters by which the social worker and client will determine satisfactory completion of treatment objectives and how endings will be managed, then termination problems are less likely to occur. Discussing openly with clients the basis for and the process of termination throughout the course of treatment is an important aspect in the client-social worker relationship.
The Committee’s experience makes clear that how the social worker manages the termination process is more important to the client than the termination itself. Consumers who have complained about the termination process did not feel well taken care of by the social worker. Their statements indicate that during termination, they found their social worker to be disinterested, discompassionate, and acting on their own needs rather than the needs of the client. Handling discussion about the reason for the termination was also problematic, with complainants not knowing, or not understanding, why services were being terminated.
The Code of Ethics is an excellent resource for assisting social workers in planning and processing termination. Some of the key items articulated in the Code pertaining to termination include:
§ Termination should occur when services are no longer required or no longer serve the client’s needs or interests.
§ Take reasonable steps to avoid abandoning clients who are still in need of services.
§ Take steps to minimize possible adverse effects of termination.
§ Assist in making appropriate arrangements for continuation of services when necessary.
§ Social workers who anticipate the termination or interruption of services to clients should notify clients promptly and seek transfer, referral, or continuation of services in relation to the client’s needs and preferences.
§ Do not terminate services to pursue a social, financial, or sexual relationship with a client.
The NASW Code of Ethics is a dynamic document that contains values, principles, and standards by which we judge the quality of social work service delivery. NASW members have affirmed these tenets and agree to abide by them. In order to abide by them, we must become familiar with them and use them as a reference and guide in our daily work. You can download a copy of the Code from the NASW-website at www.socialworkers.org Make the Code of Ethics your guide for everyday professional conduct.
Taken from Kansas Chapter NASW Newsletter (Sept./Oct. 2001), 26(5), 14.