Kendra Roberson, CSWA President, and I attended 12 hours of meetings about the Social Work Compact sponsored by the Council of State Governments (CSG) this week. We are part of the Technical Assistance Group (TAG) which has been working to develop the Compact language for the past 18 months. There were 20 TAG members with representatives from major social work and clinical social work organizations at these meetings.
There has been general agreement that the benefit of the Compact would be to allow LCSWs, licensed new MSWs, and licensed BSWs (in states where they are licensed) to work across state lines in any state that joins the Compact. Nurses, physicians, counselors, and about 10 other professions have already set up Compacts, sponsored by CSG. Funding is provided by the Department of Defense which started the project to give military spouses the ability to work in multiple states; they have now expanded this option to all licensed social workers whose home state is a member of the Compact.
One of the main topics under discussion at these meetings was the requirement that all licensees have passed a national examination or other demonstration that they have met competencies for their licensure level’s scope of practice. Currently the only way these criteria can be met is by taking the ASWB examination. There has been great concern by CSWA and other groups about the ASWB report issued in August of 2022 which showed disparities in pass rates between white applicants and BIPOC applicants; older applicants; and applicants who had English as a second language. There were several ASWB representatives at the meetings who outlined what ASWB is doing to remove these existing disparities which are:
- They have hired an organization called Fifth Theory which will help any applicant who fails an examination improve their test taking skills
- They are planning to continue to gather detailed data to assess whether the disparity gap closes, and to release this data every year
- They are considering allowing applicants to only retake the parts of the examination that they have failed
- They are reducing multiple choice questions from 4 to 3 choices to decrease test taker fatigue and burden (see their website for details on this)
- They will continue to engage in Practice Analysis
- They will create an RFP to conduct research on their data, relative to the pass/fail rates
- They may make the examinations optional for new MSWs and BSWs who wish to join the Compact
The TAG was somewhat pleased by these changes, but felt more information is necessary to determine whether they will resolve the disparities.
Oversight of the Compact
All Compacts are run by a Commission which is created when seven states have passed the Compact into law. The Commission will have nothing to do with defining scopes of practice or changing any existing state laws and regulations. There will be one representative from each state that joins the Compact and four ex officio members from national social work associations and regulatory bodies. Many of the details of running the Commission will be developed by the Commission when the Commission is created.
There will be a fee for states to join the Compact. There will also be a fee for individual LCSWs (and other licensees) to join the Compact. Every LCSW must have a home state, which is also the state in which the LCSW resides. One of the requirements for a state joining the Compact is that they accept the language of the Compact as developed. One of the most helpful items is that if an LCSW moves from one state in the Compact to another state in the Compact, they will automatically be licensed in the new state.
The language for the Compact will be available on February 27, 2023. While this may be too late for most 2023 legislative sessions, it should be possible to reach the seven state threshold by 2024.
I will be sending information about how to lobby your state legislatures in the next two weeks. CSWA will provide guidance as the process moves forward. We know there is a lot of interest in making the Social Work Compact ‘real’ and have made state passage a priority.
Please let me know if you have any questions about the meetings or the passage of the Compact in your state.
Laura Groshong, LICSW, CSWA Director, Policy and Practice