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  • NASW-IL Staff

From the Pen of the Executive Director: September 2022

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

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

NASW-Illinois Chapter Executive Director

This has been a very momentous summer for the social work profession—first starting in early July with the release of the initial draft legislation for the proposed Social Work Licensure Compact, then followed in early August by the Association of Social Work Board’s (ASWB) release of their first-time test analysis. These two significant developments are both interconnected and will have major implications for our profession.

An interstate compact is a legal contract between two or more states/territories that would enable social workers to practice in each other’s jurisdiction, giving members of the profession more license mobility. The Council of State Governments (CSG) is overseeing development of the compact, with NASW, the Clinical Social Work Association (CSWA), the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), and the Department of Defense also serving as stakeholders in this process. Over the summer there have been a range of listening sessions with CSG as well as a full discussion of the draft language by the NASW-Illinois Chapter Board of Directors on August 19th, and an opportunity for members to comment on the draft legislation.

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 have already been brought up to CSG, and as discussed with the chapter board at its August meeting.

Some of these concerns and questions include:

  • The need to ensure/clarify options for states like Illinois that currently do not require passage of a licensure exam for all levels of licensure (like our LSW). As currently written, Illinois still will have an option to participate in the compact but would have to require those who want a compact License to take and pass an exam that, as of recently, has been proven to be biased and discriminatory.

  • Background checks: It is vital to raise awareness for states that do not currently require a background check & fingerprinting that a system to do this will have to be developed in any state that wants to participate in the compact. Due to the fact the compact puts rulemaking on the unelected commission, this requirement is even more problematic as states will not have the option for general assemblies to weigh in on how it is used, who is being excluded from the compact, and who the commission shares this data with.

  • Ensuring the equity for social workers from different backgrounds, races, and ethnicities on a proposed Social Work Licensure Compact Commission and its powers.

  • The importance of inclusion and mention of the NASW Code of Ethics in the draft language, especially in light of issues across the country that currently restrict social workers' ability to practice—fallout from the Dobbs case/post–Roe v. Wade is just one example.

In early August, the ASWB released a long-awaited report on first-time pass rates (with demographics) for social workers who have taken their licensure exam. This has been a long process resulting from years of advocacy from social work organizations and advocates to force a report in which ASWB was not initially willing to release. The data is damaging, shocking, and goes against the fabric of our profession’s ethos and values.

The chapter has put out two statements, an initial statement when the data was released and a longer statement from our chapter’s DEIC (see below) wherein the chapter called for swift change and actions of justice for BIPOC social workers and the BIPOC community at large with the following recommendations:

  1. Abolish the current testing model and reconstruct a new model in collaboration with the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and National Association for Social Workers (NASW) to create a more fair, unbiased, and inclusive path to licensure.

  2. Reparations be allocated to members of the BIPOC social worker community in the form of test waivers for individuals who have been unsuccessful with passing the licensing exams.

  3. A commitment and action plan outlining ways to diversify the social work workforce in our country, including but not limited to an investment in initiatives and incentives aimed at recruitment of BIPOC clinicians into the profession to directly address the disparities.

Since the release of the data, the chapter has had an initial meeting with the deans and directors of Illinois social work programs and will continue to meet with school leadership on a regular basis to consider plans of action. Some schools have already released resolutions regarding the ASWB data, such as the Illinois State University School of Social Work which passed the following motion:

Motion: The Illinois State University School of Social Work faculty and staff call on the Association of Social Work Boards to seek cultural consultation in rewriting exams to reflect knowledge from every age and race or ethnic group, and by eliminating fees for examinees who wish to retake the exam.

The social work profession is at a seminal moment in our history. The way forward will look to measure competencies in fair and just ways and continue to sustain social work as the leading helping profession inclusive of all races and communities.

In other news….

Congratulations to our 2022 Chapter Awardees, Linda Sandman (Lifetime Achievement), Lynn Zakeri (Social Worker of the Year), Katherine Galloway (Emerging Leader) and Niya Kelly (Public Citizen). You can read about their achievements on our website at…… Many thanks to 2022 Chapter Awards Committee, chaired by by outgoing Board secretary Hilary Edgerly, current Board Member-at-Large Adana Cranfield and West Central District Chair and Board member Kim Palermo.

Congratulations to new interim Dean at Loyola University Chicago School of Social Work Dr. James Marley and to the new director of the Illinois State University School of Social Work, Chathapuram (Ram) Ramanathan, PhD.

NASW-Illinois Chapter President Kenna Dunlap Johnson and I had an opportunity for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic to visit agencies in central Illinois including ABC Counseling in Normal where board member and East Central District Chair Melissa Box serves as clinical director, as well as Heritage Behavioral Health Center in Decatur where chapter ethics chair Mary Garrison and former board member serves as its president and CEO. We also had the opportunity to meet with ISU School of Social Work Director Chathapuram (Ram) Ramanathan, PhD, and ISU assistant professor at the school, Nathan Stephens, PhD, and Gardenia Harris, PhD, assistant director of the school.

Condolences to the family of longtime member Karen Beyer who passed away this past August. She became a national figure when she decided to refuse to turn over mental health records in a federal court case in 1996, Jaffee v. Redmond, 518 U.S. 1 (1996). The case eventually ended up in the United States Supreme Court which recognized that social workers share the same privileges as a medical doctor under the federal rules. Karen faced the threat of being sent to jail and a contempt order from Judge Milton Shadur in the federal court. She was an incredible example of a social worker who was brave and stood her ground by refusing to turn over the records. After the US Supreme Court ruling, Karen was considered a hero throughout the social work community.

This past summer has already witnessed several in-person NASW-Illinois Chapter gatherings with more scheduled for the fall, including our own in-person conference in November. Find out more at: hope to see many of you at these events!

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