Standards for Technology in Social Work Practice was issued to address the intersections of professional social work practice and technology. While a U.S. document, it is very applicable to the Canadian context, including the work Immigrant and Refugee-serving organizations do.
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), along with the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), and the Clinical Social Work Association (CSWA) cosigned the Standards, developed by a committee of primarily social work practitioners.
"Social workers’ use of technology is proliferating. Technology has transformed the nature of social work practice and greatly expanded social workers’ ability to assist people in need. Contemporary social workers can provide services to individual clients by using online counseling, telephone counseling, video conferencing, self-guided Web-based interventions, electronic social networks, mobile apps, automated tutorials, e-mail, text messages, and a host of other services. Social workers’ use of technology has created new ways to interact and communicate with clients, raising fundamentally new questions about the meaning of the social worker–client relationship.
In addition, social workers use various forms of technology to access, gather, and otherwise manage information about clients. Social workers maintain encrypted electronic records, store sensitive information on their smartphones and in the “cloud,” and have the capacity to search for information about clients using
Internet search engines. Social workers use technology in creative ways to address compelling social justice issues, organize communities, administer organizations, and develop social policy. Social workers also explore and develop new technologies for practice and disseminate them with colleagues.
Technology has also influenced social work education and broadened its reach. Today’s students may take courses online, view prerecorded lectures posted on Internet-based course sites, participate in online social work practice simulations, interact with fellow students enrolled in a course from multiple locations
around the world, and listen to podcasts. Social workers have expanded options to satisfy their continuing education requirements by enrolling in live online webinars and attending lectures delivered from remote locations that are transmitted electronically. They may provide and obtain training, supervision, and
consultation from distant locations using videoconferencing technology.
These dramatic developments require practice standards in technology. The following standards are divided into four main sections and address social workers’ use of electronic technology to (1) provide information to the public; (2) design and deliver services; (3) gather, manage, store, and access information about clients; and (4) educate and supervise social workers. These standards are designed to guide social workers’ use of technology; enhance social workers’ awareness of their ethical responsibilities when using technology; and inform social workers, employers, and the public about practice standards pertaining to social workers’ use of technology. Social workers should consider these standards in conjunction with the NASW Code of Ethics, other social work standards and relevant statutes, and regulations. As new forms of technology continue to emerge, the standards provided here should be adapted as needed.
Each practice standard provides social workers with general guidance on how to use technology in an ethical manner; the “interpretation” sections offer suggestions for implementing these standards in a wide range of circumstances and social work settings. The interpretations provide examples of factors that social workers may consider when making decisions about the appropriate use of technology. The standards and their interpretations are intended to set a minimum core of excellence for professional practice when social workers use technology and to provide a framework to address possible benefits, challenges, and risks that arise when using technology. These guidelines are not intended to suggest that the use of technology is inherently riskier or more problematic than other forms of social work."