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Social Work in This Unprecedented Time

The three largest social work organizations in the United States are calling social work practitioners, students, faculty, employers, regulators, policy makers, and all interested parties to action.

The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), and NASW acknowledge that we are all living in a very tumultuous time. Clear thinking is essential but can be made more difficult because of overwhelming emotions—our own and those around us. ASWB, CSWE, and NASW encourage everyone to take the time necessary for self-care and to prioritize the needs of your own health, the health of your families, and the safety of our communities.

The supply chain for the next generation of social workers entering the field has been disrupted and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Given the need for social distancing, students are facing challenges in completing course and field requirements. Creating even more difficulty, testing sites are closing, and when they reopen, it will likely take months to address the backlog.

We hold social workers up as a valuable resource during this public health crisis. We must all work together to develop solutions that are creative and flexible to manage the current disruption in the supply chain that will lead to a shortage of social workers. This virus and our understanding of it is evolving much more quickly than regulation or policy can. We need a competent social work workforce to be available now and to be prepared to enter the workforce in a timely manner to meet the growing need for health and human services. Whatever barriers that threaten the supply of social workers entering the field must be evaluated to determine their necessity in this time of crisis. We ask employers, regulators, social work educational programs, and policy makers to identify and eliminate unnecessary barriers and to develop creative solutions to help social workers meet competency requirements.

• Accredited programs could exercise flexibility in the delivery of field education.

• State licensing bodies could be more flexible with time frames for acquiring and maintaining a social work license.

• Employers could consider allowing a grace period for license-eligible individuals to start employment with the understanding that they need to earn their license within a specified period.

We call for these actions so that social workers are available to provide the services that are so needed during this global pandemic.

Source: Council on Social Work Education