Report Title:

Child Protective Services; Social Worker Code of Ethics


Creates code of ethics for child welfare social caseworkers, adopted from the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. (HB1812 HD1)


H.B. NO.



H.D. 1






relating to social workers code of ethics.



SECTION 1. The legislature finds that persons who are in direct contact with abused and neglected children and their dysfunctional families through the child protective services system need to perform their duties and behave in a professional, yet compassionate manner. The individuals they come into contact with are often vulnerable and under distress. This situation requires that social workers, especially child welfare workers, need to act in a fair and even-handed way to avoid forcing their clients into making impulsive and unreasoned decisions.

The legislature finds that the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics provides guidance regarding the everyday professional conduct of all social workers, including child welfare workers.

The purpose of this Act is to adopt a code of ethics for child welfare workers.

SECTION 2. Chapter 587, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

"587- Code of ethics; child protective services; child welfare workers. The following shall be the code of ethics for child welfare workers under this chapter:

(1) Commitment to clients. A child welfare worker's primary responsibility is to ensure child safety, child permanence, child well-being, and family well-being;

(2) Self-determination. Child welfare workers respect and promote the right of clients to self-determination and help clients identify and clarify their goals. The right to self-determination may be limited when the child welfare workers, in the child welfare worker's professional judgment, determines that the clients' actions or potential actions pose a serious, foreseeable, and imminent risk to their children;

(3) Informed consent. Child welfare workers shall provide services to clients only in the context of a professional relationship based, when appropriate, on valid informed consent. In instances where clients are receiving services involuntarily, child welfare workers shall provide information about the nature and extent of services and about the extent of clients' right to refuse the services;

(4) Competence. Child welfare workers shall provide services and represent themselves as competent only within the boundaries of their education, preservice, and inservice training, license, certification, etc.;

(5) Cultural competence and social diversity. Child welfare workers shall understand culture and its function in human behavior, recognizing the strengths in all cultures. Child welfare workers should be knowledgeable about their clients' cultures and demonstrate competence in providing services that are sensitive to the cultures and to differences among people and cultural groups;

(6) Conflicts of interest. Child welfare workers shall be alert to and avoid any conflict of interest that may interfere with the exercise of professional discretion and impartial judgment. Child welfare workers shall not take any unfair advantage of a professional relationship or exploit others for personal gain;

(7) Privacy and confidentiality. Child welfare workers shall respect the child and family's right to privacy. They shall not solicit private information from clients unless it is essential to ensuring safety, providing services, or achieving permanence for children. Child welfare workers may disclose information with consent from the client or person legally responsible for the client's behalf. Child welfare workers shall discuss with clients and other interested parties the nature of the confidentiality and the limitations and rights of confidentiality. Child welfare workers shall protect the confidentiality of all information, except when disclosure is necessary to prevent serious, foreseeable, and imminent harm to the child or when disclosure is required by state or federal law, including an order of any state or federal court;

(8) Access to records. Child welfare workers shall provide clients with reasonable access to their own records as required by part III of chapter 92F. Child welfare workers shall limit client access to records when there is compelling evidence that such access could cause serious harm to the child or family. When providing access to records, child welfare workers shall protect the confidentiality of other individuals identified in the record, such as the name of the reporter;

(9) Sexual relationships. Child welfare workers shall not, under any circumstances, engage in sexual activities or sexual contact with current or former clients, client's relatives, or others with whom the client maintains a close personal relationship when there is a risk of exploitation or potential harm to the client. Child welfare workers shall not provide clinical services to individuals with whom they have had a prior sexual relationship;

(10) Sexual harassment. Child welfare workers shall not make sexual advances or sexual solicitation, request sexual favors, or engage in other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature with clients;

(11) Physical contact. Child welfare workers shall not engage in physical contact with children and parents when there is a possibility of psychological harm;

(12) Derogatory language. Child welfare workers shall never use derogatory language in their verbal or written communication about clients. Child welfare workers shall use behavioral, respectful, and sensitive language in their communications to and about clients;

(13) Clients who lack decision-making capacity. When acting on behalf of clients who lack the capacity to make informed decisions, child welfare workers shall take reasonable steps to safeguard the interests and rights of those clients; and

(14) Termination of services. Child welfare workers shall terminate services to clients when child safety is assured or permanence has been achieved."

SECTION 3. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 4. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.