In 2014, ASWB will be entering its 35th year of operation. Founded in 1978 by 23 individuals representing 12 states, the American Association of State Social Work Boards (AASSWB) was incorporated in Virginia in March 1979 and had its first constitutional convention shortly thereafter. At that first meeting, delegates from 18 states participated; only 23 states had any kind of social work regulation at that time.
This new organization fulfilled the need for an independent social work entity that would protect the public, develop an effective professional examination, establish a forum for regulators, share information and resources, and encourage a more uniform regulation across jurisdictions. In 1983 AASSWB offered its first social work licensing exam to 464 social workers in New York, Virginia, and Oklahoma. Today—30 years later—more than 34,000 are tested annually.
In the ’80s, AASSWB began a growth spurt, with 42 member jurisdictions represented in 1987. Work was coalescing into the format familiar today: organized committees composed of volunteers, trained item writers and a full Examination Committee, a newsletter, regular New Board Member Trainings, and the beginning of the Disciplinary Action Reporting System (now called the Public Protection Database, or PPD). Abandoning New York, AASSWB moved to Culpeper, Virginia, in 1989, following its new executive director to the state where she lived and renting office space close to her professional offices. Shortly after getting settled in Culpeper, the association decided to purchase an office building. Today the headquarters is a three-building campus that houses operations and a staff of 39, including a call center to handle exam registrations and sales of online practice exams and exam guides.
By 1992, AASSWB was proud to list as members all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands. Interest in joining the organization was being expressed by social work colleges in Canada, and Alberta was the first Canadian province to join the organization in 1998. In 1999, the 20th anniversary year, AASSWB became ASWB, a name more inclusive of all its members.
All 10 Canadian provinces had joined ASWB by 2010, but the organization lost California, which chose to leave the association to administer its own exam. (Members of ASWB have to use the ASWB licensing exams if they administer any tests as part of their licensing process.) But plans are under way for California to rejoin the fold in 2016.
In an increasingly online world, ASWB has been at the forefront of the discussion of all things related to electronic practice. In 2012 the Spring Education Meeting keynote was about the ethics of e-practice, and the speaker was the revered Dr. Frederic Reamer. In 2013, the International Technology Task Force was formed to consider the ramifications of technology on social work practice, regulation, and public protection. Its chair: Dr. Reamer. Over the next 18 months the task force will be formulating technology standards for use in a global community connected by satellite, WiFi, and the Internet.
Today ASWB is a vibrant, thriving organization with a healthy revenue and a new strategic plan for growth in service to member boards, outreach to a global community, and building bridges to enable practitioners to serve a diverse public across regulatory divides. The Delegate Assembly and Board of Directors are developing governance as leadership models and forming leadership initiatives to ensure the association moves confidently into the future.