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From the Pen of the Executive Director: January 2023

Joel L. Rubin, MSW, LSW, ACSW, CAE

NASW-Illinois Chapter Executive Director

Happy 2023 to the social work community! In my many years serving the chapter, I don’t recall a year like 2022 where its actions and developments will have a future impact on the social work profession.

Our past year started with a successful pivot to the new Licensed Social Worker (LSW) law in Illinois which became effective on January 1, 2022, as per Public Act 102-0326. The act stipulates that a licensing examination is no longer required for licensure as an Illinois Licensed Social Worker (LSW). New LSW applicants are no longer required to complete the Association of Social Work Board’s (ASWB) Masters exam prior to licensure. Through the first six months of 2022, some 3,000 individuals have been issued LSW licenses under the new law.

Starting with the implementation of the new LSW, 2022 was a year that saw debate and reckoning regarding two pivotal issues that will shape the social work profession for many years to come:

  1. The ability to practice across state lines (social work interstate licensure compact), and

  2. The use of testing to measure social work competency for licensure (the release of the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) data on First-Time Pass Results).

The Illinois Chapter weighed on these issues in a significant way.

On July 8, 2022, the Council of State Governments (CSG) released an initial draft of the Social Work Compact for review and public comment which was open to the entire Illinois membership. The chapter made formal comments on the compact. The eventual incorporation of an interstate licensure compact is a seminal moment in the history of the social work profession, similar to the late 1980s and early 1990s when states across the country passed licensure laws at the encouragement of the national NASW office. There are many benefits of a social work licensure compact (e.g., easier mobility of licensure, possible expanded employment opportunities, serving clients who may move to another state); however, the initial draft language raises a range of concerns and questions that NASW-IL brought up to CSG.

Moreover, the ASWB test data release and the clear disparities bias toward BIPOC and older test takers was also included in the chapter’s formal comments. In August, an initial chapter’s response to the report was posted as well as a longer statement from our chapter’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (DEIC).

Following the release of the ASWB data on first time test takers, NASW-IL met three times with the Illinois Deans and Directors of Social Work programs to discuss strategy and the data impact on students, as well as significant discussions about the measurement of social work competencies without testing. Additionally, this past October, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the accrediting body of all social work programs nationwide, in a letter to social work boards across the county including Illinois called for a moratorium on the use of the ASWB test.

Other (and many more can be found on our website and social media) 2022 highlights included the following:

  • Our first in-person conference since 2019, Reconnecting through Social Work, took place on November 17th at the Lisle Naperville. This sold-out event included a very successful hybrid portion on December 1st that included all of the same workshop presenters. This is a model that we are considering replicating for future conferences.

  • Near completion of its “Strategies to Strengthen the Social Work Workforce Diversity Pipeline in Illinois," that has been funded by the Telligen Community Initiative (TCI). A significant portion of the project has taken place with the assistance and direction of the chapter’s DEIC and an ancillary portion of the grant completed by the Center for Health and Social Care Integration at Rush University Medical Center. Over the next four months, we will be completing work on the grant.

  • In a very truncated session of the Illinois General Assembly that ended in the beginning of April due to the late June Illinois primary, the chapter achieved many legislative victories that are summarized on our website.

  • The NASW-IL Political Action Committee (PAC) was also active during the November mid-term elections.

  • The continued work of the chapter's DEIC advocating on a range of issues including police reform, Treatment not Trauma, the Anjanette Young Ordinance, and the injustices of the ASWB test data release.

  • Older Adults Shared Interest Group efforts on incentivizing social work students to consider work in aging practice.

2022 Transitions:

  • Angelo McClain, PhD, National NASW CEO, who served the social work profession for the past nine years retired on December 30th. We thank him for his leadership. An announcement of the new NASW CEO will be forthcoming.

Several 2022 Losses:

  • Condolences to the family of Hazel Vespa, LCSW, who was an NASW member for close to 60 years and a pillar on the PKU unit at Children's Memorial/Lurie Children's Hospital for 44 years. Hazel was a mentor to many. I had the pleasure of knowing her and recognizing her many contributions to the profession, including awarding her in 2010 with the NASW-Illinois Chapter Chicago District Lifetime Achievement Award.

  • Condolences to the family of Dr. Marcia Spira, LCSW, a major leader in the area of aging practice, respected clinical social worker and professor of social work at Loyola University Chicago of Social Work where for many years she led the Institute on Aging, Intergenerational Study and Practice. Marcia was a past member of our Chapter Board of Directors and was involved in the establishment of the NASW IL Older Adults Shared Interest Group (SIG).

As we communicate on a regular and timely basis, the NASW-IL will continue to advocate on behalf of social workers in all practice areas and help social workers navigate an ever changing profession in the coming year. If you are interested in being part of the leadership that advances our profession in Illinois, please consider seeking a 2023 NASW-Illinois Chapter Board position.

Our current elected board, appointed leadership, chapter professional staff, as well as the membership at large has played a significant role in helping the chapter reflect and move forward. NASW-IL is one of the leading state chapters in the country and regularly consulted with on a wide range of issues impacting the social work profession. We look forward to continuing this role in 2023 and beyond.

Best wishes for the New Year!

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