Have I been living by the social work code of ethics? Have you?

As social workers, we promise to follow a specific code of ethics and values which exist to inform our everyday professional conduct. While these principles may seem obvious to some, they are hard to live by if they are not a part of your everyday consciousness. Before continuing, and by means of clarification, I truly believe most social workers do their best to live by these standards every day. 

One of the priniples states that social workers should practice cultural competency. The NASW states that  “Social Workers should obtain education about and seek to understand the nature of social diversity and oppression with respect to race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, and mental or physical disability.” 

When I first read this in the Code of Ethics, I thought to myself, well of course, isn’t that why we are here? It was not until our trip to Puebla, where I was forced out of my comfort zone, that I began to realize I lacked knowledge and understanding around a population that cross-culturally does not recieve the recognition they deserve.
My week long internship at the Asilo de Ancianos (assisted living for older adults) in Puebla has changed my perspective. Before my first day, I undoubtedly felt very anxious and truly did not know how I would interact with the people living in the home. I do not know if this was based on the fear of aging alone or my ignorant belief that older adults are somehow less capable of being experts on their own lives. It took no more than one hour before I realized that not only was it easy to interact with them, but that I am also very grateful to have been able to hear their stories.
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Asilo Particular de Caridad Para Ancianos

With the exception of my grandparents, I had been living my life without giving the aging population the respect and credit they merit. In the future, how can I learn to treat everyone like family? 
I learned so much in my very short time at the Asilo that there is no way I spent time there by chance. Many of the people living in the home shared a common belief to put love and respect first. That´s just one lesson I walked away with. Most importantly, I relearned something valuable that I thought I already knew; don´t judge a book by it´s cover. Some of the strongest people I met last week appeared to be the most delicate, and for this reason I will always remember to give older adults more credit.
My hope would be that social workers really do take the time to question whether or not they have been living by the NASW Code of Ethics. I am very grateful for my experience at the Asilo and I hope to carry this new found perspective home with me. 
For a copy of the code of ethics, please check out this link: http://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/default.asp

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