Values and the NASW Code of Ethics
I. Values, Beliefs, and Attitudes from Family Background I was reared in a family greatly divided in values and beliefs. Though both sides of my family believed in forms of Protestant Christianity, they held little else in common. While my mother, her siblings, and her parents are very traditionally “rural white Southern” in their values and beliefs, my father and his family draw theirs from generations of Quakerism and progressive liberalism. I lived with my mother’s family, who valued hard work, personal responsibility, loyalty to family, and the supremacy of white, Protestant, male people. However, my father kept up a constant, subtle stream of his family’s values which emphasized non-violence, equality and dignity for all people, the importance of caring community, and application of a code of ethics to every aspect of life. These two disparate sets of beliefs led to strikingly different attitudes in daily life. My mother’s family held extremely judgmental attitudes towards people, leading them to be insular. They had few friends outside the family and would therefore circulate and affirm racist, sexist, and ablist attitudes amongst themselves. They were, however, very hard workers and were able to manage a small farm and an interior decorating business with no outside workers. They were and are wealthy people. Each person in this family worked primarily for his or her own enrichment, and I frequently heard disparaging comments about social welfare and justice and the people who work for them. In stark contrast, my father’s family members were always involved in their communities. Though they were industrious, their work never made them rich. My paternal grandfather ran an egg farm and was known for hiring migrants and “transients,” even when the help was not really needed. My paternal grandmother was the principal of the Ramallah Friends School in the West Bank during the second major Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Their three children followed them in social activism, with my father becoming a teacher and my uncle becoming a social worker. Though I saw my extended paternal family once or twice a year, I was always deeply affected by their warmth and geniality. Constantly caught between the pressure from the family members with whom I lived and the more positive experience I had with more physically distant family members, questions of my personal values and beliefs arose at a very young age. Given the presentation of two very different sets of values and ways of experiencing life, I had to choose which ones I would live by.
II. Impact of Education, Work, and Life Experiences As I grew and experienced the world outside family, my choice to follow my father’s family’s value set was reinforced. I found that the attitudes of my mother’s family were reflected in most of the problems in the world, while the values espoused by my father’s family were central to solving these problems. For example, emphasis on personal responsibility alone, coupled with judgmental behaviors and a concentration on “me and mine” worsened poverty. A belief in the worth and dignity of all people and a desire to work towards social justice led to programs and behaviors that lessened the stranglehold of poverty and gave people the chance to improve their living conditions with support. I was strongly drawn towards work in the field of mental health and developmental disabilities. In working with people with disabilities and, later, in supervising direct care workers, I saw again how respect for the people with whom I worked resulted in better relationships and better outcomes. When hiring people to work with vulnerable people receiving services, I looked less at their resumes and delved more into their level of respect for the people served and their grasp of principals of working with our clients. My competence in both using and