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June 2017Vol. 18, No. 4Revised Standards for Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) revised its Standards and Indicators for Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice to reflect the growing need for cultural competence and the importance of social workers' ethical responsibility to be culturally competent. This revision was developed by the 2015 NASW National Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity. It expands upon previous work by introducing new concepts and also broadens the understanding in other areas, such as culture being inclusive of designations, such as disability, rather than only race and ethnicity.

The goals of these revised standards include the following:

  • Enhance knowledge, skills, and values in practice and policy development in relation to culturally diverse populations
  • Specify standards to guide growth, learning, and assessment in the area of cultural competence
  • Establish indicators that help social workers in all areas of practice monitor and evaluate culturally competent practice and policies with regard to these standards
  • Educate consumers, government agencies, insurance carriers, and others about the profession’s standards for culturally competent practice
  • Maintain or improve the quality of culturally competent services provided by social workers in agencies, programs, and private practice settings
  • Inform specific ethical guidelines for culturally competent social work practice in agency and private practice settings
  • Document standards for agencies, peer-review committees, state regulatory bodies, insurance carriers, and others

The revised standards also introduce the concepts of intersectionality (i.e., examining experiences of discrimination, oppression, and domination) and cultural humility to help social workers understand the complex experiences of minorities and those who have been marginalized. In addition, the updated document highlights the importance of communication issues among the populations being served, such as limited English proficiency, low literacy, and disabilities.

To read Standards and Indicators for Cultural Competence in the Social Work Practice, visit (244 KB).