Macro practice in social work encompasses larger groups of clients helping them indirectly via research, political advocacy, and capacity development. The professionals working on a macro level engage stakeholders to come to long-term solutions and realize practice with several individuals united in communities (Calhoun et al., 2020). Macro practice allows a social worker to reflect and perform on a broader scale. With the current technological progress, it becomes easier for people of all professions to communicate, solve issues, and master multitasking. However, in some areas including social work, ethical questions interfere with technological advancements and remain unsolved. Up-to-date social work includes a variety of digital and electronic options to provide aid to clients who struggle with health and behavior issues. Social work practitioners offer their services in online chats, communicate with clients on the cellphones, and use applications for some digital clinical programs. This assignment will discuss ethical questions of technology integration into the macro-level of social work practice.
Technology in Macro Practice
The Digital revolution has brought to social workers a variety of possibilities that simplify data gathering and research goals, public education, developing international public communities, raising funds, and guiding and influencing decision-makers. Using technology in digital format can help increase the interest of clients in the educational material (Teixeira & Hash, 2017). Innovative technologies, or so-called Web 2.0 technologies, allow the users to contribute, interact, and become a part of information exchange. Online tools allow individuals to unite in social groups and movements globally with fewer requirements and time-consuming procedures occurring offline. The effectiveness and efficiency of digital technologies allow social workers to create lists of participants, track their attendance, receive quick feedback from clients, and stay in touch with groups members despite the distance aspect.
Web 2.0 tools allow organization members to participate and be active in decision-making without traveling, having a computer, and access to the Internet. Communication and people interaction has drastically changed over the last decades. The latter made the life of individuals more productive and faster, and the possibility of every person’s voice to be heard by others. Social work practitioners performing on a macro level necessitate the contribution of all community participants to express their opinion. This allows social workers to realize an in-depth analysis of the problem and provide solutions to every individual.
Another positive aspect of technology usage is that some participants engaged in online communities find it easier to intersect with others via digital tools than by attending offline meetings. Indeed, face-to-face communication has decreased recently due to the vast possibilities of offline interconnections (McAuliffe & Nipperess, 2017). Additionally, some clients experiencing mental health and behavior disorders prefer to have contact with social workers online without a video connection. These specialties simplify the issue solving for some humans but raise various ethical questions for social workers which will be discussed below.
Ethical Concerns in Macro Practice for Social Work
With the efficiency and rapidness of digital technologies, social workers currently gather, store, and analyze information about their clients in an online format. Electronic records store personal data of the patients, social work professionals’ communications with communities, organizations, and representatives from social justice organs. NASW Code of Ethics guides social workers regarding the use of technology in an ethical manner staying concerned about clients’ rights and their professional performance (Wheeler et al., 2017). When advocating for social change, organizing communities, and sharing data, the social worker should perform within the borders of standards of competence, conflicts of interest, privacy and confidentiality, respect, and private conduct (Wheeler et al., 2017). The information shared should be precise, honest, accurate, and respectful. Moreover, on some occasions, the professional should distinguish the obligatory indications to have a face-to-face meeting with a client (Barsky, 2019). For instance, the client has risk behavior of making self-harm or injuring others. The worker will not only want to meet the client offline but also will schedule a meeting with his parents. The latter is significant as some major behavioral issues might be copied from parents according to social learning theory extensively used in social work practice. Whilst practicing online, the professional should inform clients that they can rely on the confidentiality and professional boundaries of the expert. Regarding the identity of the client, it is essential to confirm that the service is being provided to the client, not to the other person. The latter might be the issue for humans who are not comfortable communicating via videoconferencing; however, the identification of their personalia should be realized.
Another ethical issue is the presence of other people in the same room with the client when the social worker is not aware of that. It is hard to prove that during the process of interconnection no one else joins the meeting. At the same time, it might be essential for a social professional to engage officially in the work client’s parents, relatives, and friends as, according to systems theory, human behavior is depending on the intersections with others in society. It should also stay clear between the client and the social worker that they have professional relations without a tendency to friendship (Barsky, 2019). With the use of the Internet and social media to communicate, it becomes harder for professionals, in current circumstances, to separate working and personal relations. To avoid that, the social worker should develop a social media policy implemented in online sessions with clients.
When technology is used by a social worker for fundraising, the data has to be clear, and honest, with specific purposes of the fundraising stated, and how the funds will be implemented in practice. Additionally, the professional should inform participants that the online payment systems are secure, and the donors’ private information will remain confidential unless they want the opposite (Wheeler et al., 2017). Lastly, social workers engaged in administration, planning, and development should balance between organizations’ motivations in the use of technology and the interests of clients. Social work professionals should prioritize the needs and benefits of clients above organizations’ success and interests.
Thus, in this paper, the ethical issues in technology usage in macro practice in social work were disclosed and discussed. It is essential to understand that digital tools are expanding immensely and integrated into every piece of modern society. To stay up-to-date and highly professional at the same time, it is significant for social workers practicing on macro levels to constantly study the Code of Ethics and perform within the boundaries of the law. It is also essential for practitioners to prioritize the interest of the client above the benefits of the organizations they cooperate with. That requires practical experience, vast knowledge, professionalism, and the ability to satisfy the needs of both sides.
Barsky, A. E. (2019). Ethics and values in social work: An integrated approach for a comprehensive curriculum. Oxford University Press.
Calhoun, M., Lightfoot, E., Okamoto, K., Goodenough, K., & Zheng, M. (2020). Contemporary perceptions of social work: Macro practice in the profession. Journal of Community Practice, 28(4), 374–391.
McAuliffe, D., & Nipperess, S. (2017). E-Professionalism and the ethical use of technology in social work. Australian Social Work, 70(2), 131–134.
Teixeira, S., & Hash, K. M. (2017). Teaching note — tweeting macro practice: Social media in the social work classroom. Journal of Social Work Education, 53(4), 751–758.
Wheeler, D. P., McClain, A., Comer, M. J., Monahan, M. J., Coffey, D. S., Johnson, M., Reamer, F. G., Barsky, A. E., Comer, M. J., Groshong, L. W., Hobdy, D. M., Hymans, D. J., Monahan, M. J., Regan, J. A. R., Vernon, R., Gilliam, J., Goodwin, B., Guillen, R., Johnson, E., & Coleman, M. (2017). NASW, ASWB, SCWE, & CSWA standards for technology in social work practice. National Association of Social Workers.