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Ethics of the Social Worker as Consultant (7th in Series)



The social work Code of Ethics ( is robust enough to cover the activities of the social worker as consultant. Its ethical principles of service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence remain true and applicable for social workers in every practice arena. Yet, a review of other codes can provide more tailored guidance for specific consulting activities. The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) offer some additional considerations for the social worker as consultant. 

Multi-Code Review

AFP Code of Ethical Principles

The social worker as consultant will often be involved in fundraising and other capital development practice with organizations. The Association of Fundraising Professionals ( provides guidelines for such consultations. In addition to similar principles to service, integrity and competence, the AFP guidelines speak specifically to contracts, intellectual property, stewardship and compensation.

Members of AFP are counseled to remain “responsive and available to organizations…before, during, and after any sale of materials and/or services” (AFP Ethical Standard 8). Even after the contract is completed, the social worker as consultant should not abandon the relationship. Consider the expertise you provide and the services areas you practice within. If you must separate completely at the conclusion of a contract, provide support to the former client by making a solid referral.

Intellectual property and respect for copyright laws are especially important for technology implementation and social media including web sites and blog development. It is also applicable in print and advertising including stock photo sites. Two common mistakes are utilizing a corporate logo that is not authorized to be included in your marketing materials. Another is changing a logo, even the logo of your client, without express written permission of the parent corporation. In addition, understand laws related to the use of photos, even photos you take at client-sponsored public events. It is advisable to inform and reasonably seek model releases from photo subjects when photos will be used in promotional materials. Be sure to maintain model releases on file.

Stewardship includes putting money to the use intended by the donor. For the social worker as consultant, stewardship includes the integrity to educate the donor on the organization’s intended and real purposes for donations. This may include training the client organization on the virtue of transparency and the value of donor relationships long-term.

AFP guidelines on compensation are especially intriguing. Ethical Standard 21 states that “Members shall not accept compensation or enter into a contract that is based on a percentage of contributions; nor shall members accept finder’s fees or contingent fees.” For the social worker as consultant, this suggests that contracts are to be flat fee-based. Agree on a fair price for the consultation you provide. Do not fixate on what the organization may build from the sharing of your expertise. This disciplines you as consultant to balance your expertise, the need of the organization, and your profit motive in contract negotiations. Understand the value of what you offer, the competition in the market, and what it takes to do the job right. Do not sell yourself short.

WHO Agenda

The World Health Organization ( offers an important pattern for the social worker as consultant in its stated agenda. Consider the compatibility between the holistic health and well-being goals of social work and the health systems promotion goals of the WHO. The WHO describes their agenda as consisting of objectives, strategy, and operations—a good model for social work intervention and innovation.

The WHO health objectives are 1) Promoting development and 2) Fostering health security. The social worker as consultant would do well to focus on development, especially social development. Health security reminds the social worker as consultant that the social environment is an important consideration, always.

The WHO strategic needs are 3) Strengthening health systems, and 4) Harnessing research, information, and evidence. Social workers know that healthy systems produce greater good. The WHO connects strong health systems to poverty abatement. The social work as consultant should seek to innovate and enhance social support organizations. Social workers have embraced evidence-based practice (EBP), but not all social workers understand that EBP requires dissemination. The social worker as consultant understands: if you are not disseminating best practices, you are not effectively practicing.

The WHO operational approaches are 5) Enhancing partnerships and 6) Improving performance. Social capital development and the building of communities is all about collective activities—what the citizens can achieve when they work together. The social worker as consultant can be an effective broker, negotiator, and mediator to bring individual citizens and organizations together for specific purposes. The WHO suggests coalescing around best practices, ethical guidelines, and shared priorities.

Asset development is important to the long-term success of clients who hire the social worker as consultant. This includes the operational environment and the group emphasized by the WHO: staff. The social worker as consultant will do well to include expertise in performance evaluation, staff training, and leadership in his/her skill set.

Social Worker as Consultant Ethical Framework

Social work professional history guides us to do more than “9 to 5 and go home.” We cannot agree that our communities are fractured and only assist our clients in navigating that dysfunction.

Individual & Social Change Perspective

Build the capacity to change the status quo. Intervention should include the person and his/her perspective in the social and institutional environment. Innovation will seek to ensure access to and education on the mechanisms of production.

Social Capital & Collective Activities

Broker relationships among clients and between organizations in ways that foster reciprocity and win-win. Build relationships as investments and be clear about what you want in return. Focus on defining roles and responsibilities in the context of an action plan.

Process and Content Evaluation

Document activity with reports, receipts, and electronic communications. Organize and present the “big picture” in order to engage all parties in the vision. Parse that picture into manageable projects in order to provide all parties with a role 

Knowledge Sharing

Initially and periodically, every consultant offers services pro-bono. Share information freely as much as is possible. Disseminate best practices, instructive failures, and ruminations.

Transparency. Ensure that the processes of your clients are as transparent as possible while maintaining appropriate confidentiality. Educate your clients as well as their constituents. Create the sense that dialogue is valued and remain responsive and engaged.

Cost-Benefit Analysis. Conduct Cost-Benefit analysis at all levels of ecology, individual, individual as member of groups, groups that do not include individual. This means that the social worker as consultant must assess potential activities and predict the consequences of a course of action. Consequences include all costs including opportunity costs.

Sustainability. Predict the long-term sustainability of proposals in all resource areas, financial, information, people, and time. Educate clients on the pros and cons of a slow-building approach. Consider the supports needed for success to be maintained even after the consulting contract is terminated.

Impact. Predict the impact of the proposal on the community including the establishment of precedence, reactions of prior constituents, and entitlement of current individuals who potentially constitute a class. Consider that the pattern created by a certain course of action extends beyond the present time and budget period. Consider how actions of clients impact the culture of the agency and the community.

Dr. Michael Wright: Michael A. Wright, PhD, LAPSW is a Social Work Helper Contributor. He offers his expertise as an career coach, serial entrepreneur, and publisher through MAWMedia Group, LLC. Wright has maintained this macro practice consultancy since 1997. Wright lives in Reno, NV.

politicalsocialworker says:

I’m interested.

Relando Thompkins, MSW says:

Indeed! Another great addition to the series. I’ll be posting links to your series on my website as well!

I had Rachel in mind. Formal request needed? I’m on it. 🙂

politicalsocialworker says:

Reblogged this on The Political Social Worker and commented:
7th in the series and another excellent article form Dr. Michael A. Wright.

politicalsocialworker says:

Another fantastic installment. A text book is an excellent idea.

Rachel, you should consider doing a chapter on politics and social change!


The Long Pathway: Journey to Understanding Mental Health




Written by: Iman,  Introduction: Rosie, Billy, Anisah, and Fahim – Haverstock School Journalism Project

*Editor’s Note: UK Social Work Helper Staff Writer, Chey Heap, and myself worked with the Haverstock School Journalism Project to support budding young journalists in their pursuit to better understand mental health issues. The below work was written by an 11 year old student, and I am proud Social Work Helper was able to be apart of this effort. The article is a collection of interviews and collaboration with her classmates. They did an outstanding job of exploring and processing a complicated issue like mental health. – Deona Hooper MSW 

A recent survey stated that 20% of adolescents may experience a mental health problem in any given year. In the Journalism project, we choose the subjects we want to write articles on and because I personally had an experience that traumatised me when my brothers had been separated from me. It really felt like I had been deprived of the things that gave me the most pleasure, and it put me into a deep depression. No one could understand the way I felt.

If we had physical problems, people would have noticed, but the inner ones are not noticed. If you break your arm everyone knows, but there is a stigma attached to mental health problems.

I wanted to know about how psychologists and other professionals work and understand how they can help us so that young people who are experiencing mental issues will know they are not alone and can get help.

The article is titled ‘The Long Pathway’ because it takes a long time to train to become a helping professional and to research and understand different conditions, but it is also a long pathway to healing.

So, I decided to ask my classmates who have experience with mental health issues including depression and bereavement to help me with this project.

One person, we shall call him Stephen told me: His Nan had a very rare disease that messed with her head. It made her see things. “When we went to visit her she saw everybody but me! It made me feel sad and left out but no one knew how I felt”.

Another a girl called Sarah told me: “My Mum and my Nan were fighting and they stopped talking to each other and when I wanted to go out with my Nan my Mum wouldn’t let me that made me very upset and angry”.

I then wanted to know what it was like to train, work and research in the field of mental health.

Journey Through a Psychologist and her Trainees Eyes

Dr Gursharam Lotey, a young person’s clinical psychologist and Jasmeet Thandi a trainee clinical psychologist agreed to an interview at Camden Open Mind – an organisation that reaches out to young people and helps them deal with life situations including bereavement, bullying or educational issues. It gave us a unique insight into their work.

Jasmeet: I am constantly thinking about feelings. You are talking to someone you have never met before and you are asking:

“How do you feel?”

And it is probably a bit much. So we get beautiful Russian dolls, name each doll that we have made: happy doll, sad doll Yesterday, one girl put a sad doll inside a happy doll. So, on the surface, she seemed happy but on the inside, she was feeling a bit sad.

Q: Do you use your own experiences to connect with patients?

Gursharan: It is really important to be aware of your past to be able to connect with a young person

Jasmeet: A patient will tell you something and I think:

 ‘Ah I have experienced that…’

Q: How do you deal with the unexpected?

Gursharan: The best thing to do is to not panic and to just think why that person might be sharing something with you that might be a bit out of the ordinary; and to be able to hold this inside, even if you are thinking: Wow! This is not what I expected!

Q: Do you ever get scared of your patients?

Gursharan: Not scared as such… I worry about them but our aim is for them to go home and be safe.

Jasmeet: Not scared I worked on a unit where adolescents had committed crimes. Once you get to know someone you can really understand the context and why things have happened. Understanding them is really important.

Q: What challenges do you face in your work?

Gurshuram: If something really complex and serious is happening within a young person’s family and you have several families like that all on the same day it can be quite challenging to not think about it when you go home.

Gursharam and Jasmeet explained training to be a clinical psychologist was like embarking on a long pathway and it felt like we were given a fascinating peek into what that entails.

Thank you, Gursharan and Jasmeet. We think Camden Open Mind gives an invaluable service.

Journey Through a Psychology Lecturer’s Eyes

Tony Cline is a now a psychology lecturer and trains child psychologists. When Tony was twenty-one, he found himself in a room with a new computer, but this computer was gigantic. It took up a WHOLE room!  He punched information into cards and it would take three weeks to process. Unfortunately, when Tony made a mistake, it would take another three weeks to process. Since then, technology is the biggest change he has seen.

Tony specialises in research as well as teaching and over the years has worked on subjects like dyslexia and has organised dyslexia conferences. Elective mutism was another subject in which he took an interest. This is where a young person can talk but only with some people. People thirty years ago often thought the child was just being naughty, but Tony’s analysis showed they weren’t, they genuinely had problems.

An example would be a pupil refusing to communicate with their teacher. The review of research highlighted a treatment called ‘Fading In’ where the child talks to the people they are comfortable with. For example, while the child is talking to their parents about something very interesting, the teacher appears at the door but does not enter. The second time, the teacher might come in but not stay, and on the third time the teacher stays and joins in the conversation. There is now a new name for the condition is called Selective Mutism.

I asked about the difficulties his students face to become trained professionals:

Tony: One of the things students do is they carefully train and prepare for an interview and then despite what they have been told about the child before they meet them, there is sometimes much more than is said.

I wondered whether there are difficult situations whilst he was teaching.

Tony: Yes. You can sometimes see that it is making someone in the group think about their own lives and they have had a bad time; for example noticing when a student is being hit by a subject like bereavement because they have experienced it.

Although Tony has years of experience, he still says to his new students: “I am going to learn something from you.”

I learnt lots from everyone I met on this fascinating journey and hope this article will be the first of many that shed light on an area that is difficult for people to understand.

Thank you. Gurasharam, Jasmeet, Tony, and classmates.

Brief description of the project:

The Haverstock School Journalism  Project exists to give underprivileged young people a very high standard of journalism training and proper assignments.

The students have interviewed all sorts of people from a lady firefighter to Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey, recently they contribute to the University College London, Amnesty Journal, and provide regular articles for On the Hill Magazine. The project is funded by the John Lyon’s Charity.

The Project Co-ordinator

Danielle Corgan worked in broadcast documentaries for over a decade, mainly with the award-winning documentary company Goldhawk Media Ltd. She helps the students research their subjects, prepare interview questions, organises the interviews, and write and structure print quality articles. She strongly believes every child can write well and encourages them to develop their own voice. She has worked with youngsters with Special Education Needs and Looked After children on the project with very good results.

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Social Workers Can Now Learn Medicare Online and Earn Continuing Education Hours




Social workers can now earn continuing education hours while they learn Medicare at their own pace, anytime and anywhere with Medicare Interactive (MI) Pro, an online Medicare curriculum powered by the Medicare Rights Center.

MI Pro provides the information that social workers and health professionals need to become “Medicare smart,” so they can help their clients navigate the Medicare maze. The online curriculum contains information on the rules and regulations regarding Medicare—from Medicare coverage options and coordination of benefits to the appeals process and assistance programs for clients with low incomes.

“For over 25 years, social workers have been turning to Medicare Rights’ helpline counselors for clear and concise information on how to help their clients access the affordable health care that they need,” said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “Now social workers can enroll in MI Pro and learn—or enhance—their Medicare knowledge at their convenience while fulfilling their continuing education requirements.”

The Medicare Rights Center, a national nonprofit consumer service organization, is the largest and most reliable independent source of Medicare information and assistance in the United States.

Licensed Master Social Workers and Licensed Clinical Social Workers can earn continuing education hours when they successfully complete any of the four MI Pro programs: Medicare Basics; Medicare Coverage Rules; Medicare Appeals and Penalties; and Medicare, Other Insurance, and Assistance Programs. Each MI Pro program is comprised of four to five course modules.

All MI Pro programs are active for one year following registration.

MI Pro courses are nominally priced. Additionally, social workers who purchase all four programs at once will receive an automatic 20 percent discount.

Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs, and public policy initiatives.

Available only through the Medicare Rights Center, Medicare Interactive (MI) is a free and independent online reference tool that provides easy-to-understand answers to questions posed by people with Medicare, their families and caregivers, and the professionals serving them. Find your Medicare answers at

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Cyber Safety for Today’s Teens




It goes without saying that technology has fully inserted itself into most aspects of our day-to-day lives—and children and teens are no exception. Children are learning to swipe smartphones before they learn to turn the pages of a book, and many of them are swiping on their own devices. For parents, the endless exploration of technology raises many concerns for children and teens.

Parents need not only be aware of what their children are getting from the constant connectivity, but also what they may be putting out into the digital universe. Yes, the horror stories surrounding teens and technology are vast and worrisome, but these hard-learned lessons can provide other families with safe cyber practices that will make all the difference for security and peace of mind.

Limit screen time, especially for youngsters. We may have grown to rely on our devices in the adult world. I, myself, use my phone for everything from navigation, to paying bills, to making grocery lists—the list (no pun intended) goes on and on. However, for children, it is essential their screen time be limited and purposeful. Use screen time as an occasional reward, but make sure that everyone is clear about how long they can use the device and for what purposes.

If you feel that your child must have a phone for staying in touch, consider phones or plans that provide programmed options for usage. For instance, there are ways to program children’s phones so that they are only able to call or text a set list of phone numbers. You can also set restrictions on how data is used or what websites or apps your children can access. The key here is to keep your children’s circle small when introducing them to their first phone—the stricter the parameters, the more peace of mind parents will have about children using technology.

Be aware of your child or teen’s social media presence. Keep a very watchful eye on your child’s use of social media and limit access to devices when concerns arise. You should insist on access to or control over your teen’s social media accounts whenever necessary. If you suspect that your child is cyberbullying or being cyberbullied, take the phone.

Keep records of any evidence that your child is being bullied, including text messages, screenshots, profile posts or photos, etc. Schools today are cracking down on bullying; however, parents must present documented, repeated instances of harassment or bullying before school officials will intervene.

Along the same lines as cyberbullying concerns, parents should monitor social media accounts to ensure that children are protecting themselves and being digitally responsible. Teens today are so concerned with obtaining “likes” and gaining “followers” that they lose sight of how vulnerable they may be making themselves online. Explain to them that, even with privacy settings, nothing is 100% private when it comes to posts, comments, photos, etc.

Make sure that teens are not using personal information, like a full name, specific address, current location, or school. Social media sites make it extremely easy to tag one’s location, but too often teens fail to consider who might be keeping tabs on their location. Gently, but firmly, remind your children that not everyone on social media is who they claim to be.

Talk about the permanency of our digital footprints. This means once posted online ownership no longer belongs to you. Even deleted material is not ever fully erased if even one person has captured, saved, or screenshotted the post.

Not only can deleted posts resurface, people can edit or manipulate the photo or post in any way they choose. Teach children and teens to think carefully before making a post.

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