#MacroSW chat for 7/12/2018 at 9 pm Eastern: Social work leadership in the face of ethical policy conflicts

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When Chief of Staff John Kelly was interviewed by NPR last year, the policy of separating children from parents crossing the border was referenced, “They’ll be put into foster care….or something”.  The quote went viral.

As social workers, we may detect a few layers of implied meaning in this statement. First: In this instance, social work practice is presumed to function as a mere cog to further larger policy goals. Second:  those policy goals run counter to ethical practice. Third: that these policy goals may not be deeply considered (the “or something” in this statement). Foster care is a part of a complex system of child and family support, not an ends to a means (in this case, attempt to deter immigration by breaking families apart).
Earlier this summer, our #MacroSW chat focused on the ongoing crisis of U.S. Immigration Policy. Specifically, we discussed the humanitarian crisis of separating children from their families. Regardless of political affiliation or identity, it’s clear that social workers, particularly those dedicated to the mission as outlined in our Code of Ethics, oppose this practice, regardless of the fact that its the policy of currently practiced by a country some of us call our home. The National Association of Social Workers worked to intervene in this crisis by supporting social work volunteers to help immigrant children separated from their families. NASW also produced a social justice brief on the subject. This is an important stance, particularly as reports emerged in June that social work intervention with children who cross the border may be manipulated to cause further harm.
As our #MacroSW collaboration stated in a recent NonProfit Quarterly editorial, entitled “Why We Need to Social Work This”: “… emergent leadership of social work professionals, engaging in critical thinking and planning to address social justice needs at the community level, is essential to addressing, and ultimately eliminating, inequality.” This position is built upon our own Code of Ethics, which states:
“... Social workers should engage in social and political action that seeks to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources, employment, services, and opportunities they require to meet their basic human needs and to develop fully. Social workers should be aware of the impact of the political arena on practice and should advocate for changes in policy and legislation to improve social conditions in order to meet basic human needs and promote social justice” (NASW Code of Ethics. 6.04, Social and Political Action).
Join us for our #MacroSW Twitter chat this Thursday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. For this chat, we’ll continue in the spirit of our June 2018 chat on U.S. Immigration Policy, with a specific focus on the role, and responsibility, of social work as a profession in the face of ethical challenges.


  • How do you think social work is seen as part of this administration’s current U.S. Immigration Policy?
  • What ethical conflicts are most readily apparent in current U.S. Immigration Policy?
  • How do we as social workers respond to ethical crisis in practice? What examples do you have?
  • How does your place of work react to your engagement in ethical policy issues?
  • What other thoughts do you have?

About #MacroSW:

#MacroSW is a collaboration of social workers, organizations, social work schools, and individuals working to promote macro social work practice. Macro social work practice focuses on changing larger systems, such as communities and organizations. It encompasses a broad spectrum of actions and ideas, ranging from community organizing and education to legislative advocacy and policy analysis. The chats are held weekly on Twitter every Thursday at 9 p.m. EST (6 p.m. PST). Click here for a list of chat partners. For information about how to participate in the #MacroSW chat, view our FAQs. For chat schedule and chat archives check out: http://macrosw.com.


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