When a child dies in a tragic or unexpected way we all grieve. When it appears that the actions or inactions of others may have contributed to that death we all seek justice. Let’s not unjustly blame the social work profession when in fact no social worker may have been involved in this tragedy at all. The state of North Carolina allows for the job title of “social worker” to be provided to those without social work degrees. No one in the private sector in North Carolina can say they are a social worker unless they have a social work degree from an accredited college or university, but the state does not provide that same protection for the public sector. None of the states that border North Carolina allow those without social work degrees to be called social workers. The majority of the states in the United States forbid those without social work degrees from being called social workers. Those with degrees in social work have gone through a rigorous accredited educational program that includes an internship (like doctors have) and mandates coursework in 10 core competencies as well as continued training in ethics.
There are no guarantees in life and simply having staff with social work degrees does not ensure that no bad outcomes will ever happen, and no children will ever die. But when someone holds a professional title we all assume that the individual holding that title has an educational background in that area of practice. This is true when we see doctors and nurses in North Carolina – it isn’t true when we see a “social worker”. The public absolutely deserves to know who it is that is providing them with services. It is a misrepresentation to the public for the state of North Carolina to call those without social work degrees social workers, and within the social work profession it is unethical. Families have a right to know the true qualifications of those who serve them, and the state of North Carolina should be consistent with the rest of the United States and provide professional titles only to those who have gained the appropriate educational background, training and continued professional development specific to that degree.