How to Report an Unethical Social Worker

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Social workers are in a unique position of authority over patients who are typically vulnerable. Unfortunately, some social workers are unethical and may take advantage of their patients sexually, financially or otherwise. Reporting unethical social workers may be emotionally difficult for the victim, but it is important to report unethical behavior to protect other patients. The complainant must be the patient, a guardian of a patient or a member of an organization with direct knowledge of the social worker's conduct. The complaint process may vary from state to state. You may also file complaints with the National Association of Social Workers if the social worker is a member.

Report to the State Board

Step 1

Review the current code of ethics for social workers to ensure that the social worker is in violation. Find a copy on the National Association of Social Workers website.

Step 2

Contact the social work board that has jurisdiction where the alleged unethical social worker works and request a complaint form or locate a state-specific form online. You can find a list of state boards and their contact information on the National Association of Social Workers website.

Step 3

Complete the form and submit it to the appropriate social work board along with any supporting documentation.

Step 4

Wait for a response and be available to answer follow-up questions. The social work board will respond by letter to inform you if an investigation is not necessary. If an investigation is necessary, the social work board may or may not inform you, depending on state policy. Some social work boards post the violation on their websites.

Report to NASW

Step 1

Contact the appropriate chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (typically the one in the area where the social worker works) or the NASW Office of Ethics and Professional Review for assistance. Contact information is listed on the website.

Step 2

Request a professional review.

Step 3

Complete all the forms the NASW gives you, sign the "Confidentiality Pledge/Statement of Understanding" and attach any supporting documents before returning the forms. Include information regarding exactly how the social worker violated the NASW Code of Ethics and cite the violated standard. (The standards are on the NASW website.)

Step 4

Work with the NASW consultant assigned to your case. Follow any additional instructions from the consultant.


About the Author

Based in Southern California, Kristy Borowik has been writing professionally since 2004. She serves as a technical writer and editor, earning several awards from the Society for Technical Communication, with articles also appearing in "Trilogy Life" magazine. Borowik holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and print journalism from Southern Adventist University.

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