NASW-NC Social Work Blog

Your source for the social work profession in North Carolina.

Social Worker At Fault—I Don’t Think So!

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.

Kathy Boyd, Executive Director

In response to the following AP articles:

NC social worker back to work despite charges
Worker in abuse case returns to job
North Carolina social worker back on job despite pending criminal charges in child’s death
NC social worker in abuse case back on job

Find out more about Title Protection in North Carolina here.


3 comments on “Social Worker At Fault—I Don’t Think So!

  1. Socialworkhelper
    June 26, 2012

    Hi Kathy,

    I see that you are blogging now. I like it! You and I have had this conversation many times with me on the other side of the discussion. I am starting to reconcile the necessity for classically trained sw in all practice areas. However, I still have a few issues that I need answered before I can advocate Title Protection full steam. I agree that workers in the public sector holding a social work title should also have a social work degree. However, the ability to pursue higher education should not be oppressive in order to become more proficient and higher educated in the sw profession.

    As a CPS investigator and a Master level student, I had to quit my job in order to work a nonpaid internship at a DSS agency with no health insurance benefits. As a working practitioner, I could not manage my caseload, class work, and another 16 hour per week internship in another department in order to fulfill my education requirements.The current 900 internship requirements are oppressive for older, working, and experienced practitioner who did not complete their BSW and MSW back to back. Not everyone can afford to quit work and go to school full-time.

    After working all these free hours, students are being told they have no post master’s experience and are having difficulty finding employment. Working practitioners who left work to seek higher education are returning back to entry level positions and pay. I believe that our work is as specialized as doctors and other professionals, but Is it fair to demand title protection when the profession is not willing to give more and do more? No other profession expects or demands such internship requirements and commitments without providing pay and health insurance. How can we demand the same privileges and respect of other professions without improving how we treat all social work students? Those who are privileged, can stay with their parents, or remain on their parents insurance are good. Do we want to create a cultural were experience is not valued or where financial means determines who holds a social work title?

    Last, I would also point out that other professions also work in accredited institutions which require minimum standards and training for title protected professions. If we are going to advocate for title protection for all social workers, we must also advocate for mandatory accreditation standards in public sector institutions. This is my two cents. Hope all is well with everyone.

    • naswnc
      July 9, 2012

      With 23 BSW and 11 MSW programs located in North Carolina, getting a social work degree is easier to obtain than ever before. Many of our in-state social work programs offer evening courses, weekend courses and part-time programs in order to accommodate those who work. In addition to our in-state programs, 3 universities from across the country have been given permission to offer total online MSW degrees. These 3 programs are accredited by CSWE and allow students to take all of their classes online. All programs do still require an internship and this is not unique in the human service area. Those getting degrees in counseling, psychology and marriage and family therapy all have to complete an internship and most of those are unpaid placements. This certainly can make it difficult for many but we have consistently heard that many agencies prefer social work students and many agencies prefer hiring those with social work degrees over other similar degrees. Employment dynamics are much, much different today than they were 10 years ago and it is an employer’s market. But the strength of our educational preparation, which includes the internship, often means that those with a social work degree have a “leg up” in the employment arena. This still doesn’t mean employment is a given, but those with social work degrees actually have a bit of an easier path.

      Ensuring the public’s right to know who is providing them with services remains a critical issue, and all state social work licensing laws are geared towards creating minimum standards in order to “protect the public”. Those minimum standards for social workers throughout the United States as well as across the world start with a degree in social work.

  2. Nancy Chengetai
    July 27, 2012

    I can agree in some instances, however, it seems the title “social worker” is not used often for those who have social work degrees. I have a BSW and pursuing my MSW, I have never had a job title of Social Worker, i have always been a QP or Case Manager. Often Social work is clumped under general human services degrees. Which is why I chose to obtain my MSW because with a BSW I can only provide but so much service.

    The issue of earning these degrees and still returning to entry level positions is a bit scary!

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This entry was posted on June 25, 2012 by in Blog Posts by Topic and tagged , , , , , , .

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