Legislation pending?

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Over the last year, legislators in a number of states have proposed or enacted bills to change social work licensing requirements. Others have begun discussions about changing regulations that they perceive as barriers to social workers entering the workforce. It appears this trend is continuing in 2022.

Legislators who embrace the regulatory board as a partner when creating and revising legislation benefit from professionals and public members whose focus is public protection and resources like the model law to help them protect consumers.
— Jennifer Henkel, Senior Director of Member Engagement and Regulatory Support

In 2021, ASWB staff provided support to member boards requesting assistance in responding to legislative actions. In some cases, such as Nevada, the regulatory changes strengthened licensure and brought the state into closer alignment with the Model Social Work Practice Act and with ASWB exam compliance policies. In others, such as Illinois, the changes took away the exam as an assessment of entry-to-practice competency for one license category.

“Legislators and regulatory boards are in agreement about the purpose of licensure being to help ensure public protection,” said Jennifer Henkel, senior director of member engagement and regulatory services. “Legislators who embrace the regulatory board as a partner when creating and revising legislation benefit from professionals and public members whose focus is public protection and resources like the model law to help them protect consumers.”

Henkel’s department strives to create knowledge, tools, and servicesbeyond the examinationto support the work of member boards and to lessen the burden on those boards. As part of the range of services offered, regulatory support focuses on monitoring legislative issues.

Regulatory support services include tracking legislative and regulatory proposals; assisting in the review and drafting of legislative, regulatory, and policy proposals; supporting the education of legislative leaders and decision makers; and submitting comments during legislative and regulatory proceedings, including written and verbal testimony. Department staff work in partnership as needed with ASWB leadership to accomplish these objectives.

Initiatives to support members

As work begins on ASWB’s Strategic Framework 2022–2023, regulatory support services will be integral to focus area 3, Regulatory Standards, in achieving the objective of monitoring and responding to the regulatory landscape to strengthen consistent standards across all jurisdictions. ASWB is embarking on a number of initiatives to increase ASWB staff awareness of legislative actions and effectiveness when providing assistance to members.

Staff recently enhanced use of StateNet legislative and regulatory tracking software by creating a road map that identifies issues affecting social work regulation and legislation. LexisNexis consultants will now screen all incoming legislation for review by ASWB staff.

The department is exploring additional external government affairs resources and partners to help identify and respond to legislative changes and support ASWB’s vision that all social workers are licensed to protect clients and client systems. Staff are focusing on initiatives related to licensing in general or the role of the licensing examination as an essential competence measure at entry to practice. Staff will also look for opportunities to advocate for expanding the oversight of licensing and regulation to all areas of practice and minimizing measures that permit unlicensed practice.

A third initiative is under way: strengthening relationships with NASW state chapter organizations and other stakeholders that influence social work regulatory policy. The goal of this outreach is to ensure timely awareness of advocacy agendas that may weaken public protection, and to allow for opportunities to educate stakeholders and inform policy based on available data and best practices. ASWB’s most recent outreach to NASW chapter executive directors involved sharing regulatory resources, including the Spotlight on Regulation and the report on telehealth in social work regulation.

Need legislative assistance?

Staff are currently following bills in Rhode Island, Maryland, Massachusetts, Utah, and New York related to regulation and/or use of licensing exams. Please contact Jennifer Henkel or Cara Sanner to request assistance in responding to legislative action in your jurisdiction.

  • Regulatory research at ASWB

    Cara Sanner, regulatory support services program manager, provides regulatory research and support to members and regulatory research to outside stakeholders including NASW chapters, employers, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Sanner also moderates the board administrators email group, posting questions on behalf of board administrators for immediate feedback from other administrators and compiling archives of those questions.

    The following table summarizes the efforts by ASWB staff to support member boards in 2021.

    Regulatory research and outreach totals for 2021: Member assistance, 91 topics; Stakeholder assistance, 113 topics; Internal support, 12 inquiries; Member board meeting participation, 5 events; Legislative and regulatory support, 43 requests; Regulatory data and related resources, 98 requests; Examination information, 17 requests. Total of 296 regulatory research and outreach responses.