Open Forum Testimony: Reciprocity and Title Protections for Social Workers

Connecticut General Assembly

Black and Puerto Rican Caucus

February 19, 2019

 Submitted by: NASW/CT Diversity Committee

The National Association of Social Workers – Connecticut Chapter, Board of Directors has recently commissioned the Diversity Committee to support diversity through social work and development; to advance professional standards and improve services related to awareness of diversity, equity and oppression; and to promote social justice through public policy and action.

The Diversity Committee is comprised of social workers at the MSW, and PhD levels who are dedicated to the profession, clients, social justice and the NASW Code of Ethics. Therefore, in response to the proposal of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, please accept this submission of testimony regarding two pressing issues: Expanding Licensure Reciprocity and Title Protection for Social Workers.

Reciprocity for Social Workers in Connecticut:

Throughout the United States, social workers acquire licensure to attest to their professional competence and to fulfill the requirements to practice clinical social work. Currently, the Connecticut licensing policy has restrictive provisions and an arduous process for approving the licensure of social workers from other states; this process may require that relocating social workers once again take a licensing exam to provide clinical social work services in Connecticut (NASW, 2011). This restrictive licensing provision, specifically its onerous process and the considerable cost of the licensure, is a disincentive for licensed social workers to consider relocation to our state.

Another consideration for amending the state’s provision for social work licensing reciprocity is the constituency social workers serve. The needs of disenfranchised and vulnerable client populations are aided more often by social workers than any other helping profession because of the holistic perspective of the profession. Social workers provide a wide range of essential services for clients, including clinical needs and the day-to-day living needs of Connecticut’s growing immigrant and migrant populations. It is well documented that social workers address these needs in a culturally effective and linguistically competent manner, especially since Connecticut has a labor force shortage of bilingual/bicultural services.

The effect of limited licensing reciprocity has the unintended effect of creating a barrier to increasing the labor force of competent licensed providers, particularly social workers who serve the most disenfranchised and vulnerable communities. The recent hurricane catastrophe in Puerto Rico is a prime example of the lack of state services for migrants who were forced to relocate to Connecticut. The aftermath of the hurricane left our state scrambling to provide qualified

bilingual/bicultural services – not only to address the daily living needs of the migrants, but to address the trauma of undergoing a natural disaster and to assist with the acculturation process of relocating from their native land.

The lack of expanded reciprocity greatly impacts the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus’ constituents. Lack of reciprocity explicitly affects people of color, bicultural, and bilingual licensed social workers. The following two examples illustrate this point. A New York City licensed clinical social worker with 20 years of direct service experience relocated to Connecticut 17 years ago. She has been employed at a prominent graduate school of social work since relocating to Connecticut and currently teaches clinical social work. However, when requesting licensure reciprocity to provide low-cost/sliding scale clinical services to a target population of ESL and immigrant residents, the request was denied due to the restrictive reciprocity provisions. As an educator with many academic responsibilities, it became an onerous hurtle to allocate time for licensure exam preparation. Consequently, the current restrictive licensing provision, served to bar a qualified and experienced social worker from providing clinical services and, in turn, unintentionally impacted clinical services for marginalized populations.

 A second example of the restrictive licensing provisions, process, and re-licensing financial cost, is that of a social worker whose husband was offered employment in Connecticut. However, after 18 years of being an experienced licensed social worker in Tri-State area, she was not able to provide clinical services without first retaking the licensure exam in Connecticut. This social worker was forced to accept a position in an unrelated field in order to relocate with her husband and toddler. Currently, because of her family and work responsibilities, she is unable to allot preparatory time to confidently take the exam and doubts she will be able to practice clinical social work in Connecticut.

In short, the lack of reciprocity (particularly among New England states), creates an obstacle and deters experienced licensed social workers from providing highly needed services to underserved and bilingual/bicultural populations in Connecticut. To augment our social work labor force, the state’s restrictive reciprocity provision and process must be amended to an inclusive, expedited process.

Title Protection for Social Workers in Connecticut:

Many members of disenfranchised client populations are provided services by agency employees who were given the title “social worker” upon hiring. Although the services are highly needed, these workers may not be professionally trained and educated by accredited institutions of higher learning. Similar to several other professional occupations with protected titles, Title Protection for social workers ensures that those utilizing the title “social worker” have earned a degree from an accredited Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) program. Currently, at least 36 other states have title protection for the social work profession.

More importantly, Title Protection safeguards disenfranchised and underserved Connecticut residents by ensuring services adhere to the NASW Code of Ethics. Professionally educated (CSWE) social workers complete a comprehensive curriculum and acquire specific competencies which are applied to their practices. These include ethical practices such as maintaining confidentiality, practicing cultural competence, and understanding cultural differences, human behavior, and therapeutic treatments. Title Protection is not anticipated to adversely affect current agency workers who do not hold an accredited degree. The workers who have been bestowed the title of “social worker” will continue on with a renaming of their job title. In fact, Title Protection may likely produce additional positive outcomes since many state agencies have encouraged and supported workers going back to school to earn a social work degree.

The Diversity Committee respectfully requests consideration of Reciprocity and Title Protection for social workers. In addition, Committee members would be honored to provide any additional information and offer their support toward instituting legislation which positively impacts underserved populations.


NASW/CT Diversity Committee

LaQueshia Clemmons, LMSW (co-chair)

Marlanda Hamilton, LMSW (co-chair)

Sherryl Chin, MSW

Alberto Cifuentes, LMSW

Antonia Cordero, LCSW, Ph.D.

Cheryl Green, LCSW, Ph.D.

Irwin Krieger, LCSW

Karen McLean, LMSW, Ph.D.

Rick Tsukada, LCSW

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