The ‘Social Work Truth in Title Act’ in Virginia
Did you know that before February 2011 ANYONE in Virginia could identify themselves as social workers without even stepping foot into either a BSW or MSW classroom? I certainly didn’t, and here I am, in the capital city of Richmond, at the end of my MSW@USC program. I know this doesn’t affect all of us because we’re scattered all throughout the country and dealing with different policies in different states. I can’t expect you all to keep up with what’s happening in good ol’ Virginia if I’m not even doing so myself!
So why should Virginia’s HB 2037 matter to you, my fellow MSW@USC-ers? It’s a wake-up call to be informed. Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the more empowered you become.
Get to Know Your State
I urge you to research what’s happening in your own hometowns in terms of the social work profession. What are the qualifications necessary to call yourself a social worker? What does it mean to be a social worker in Utah, Hawaii, Montana, etc.? Know your rights as a soon-to-be MSW. Know what licensing means and how to pursue it. Luckily for you there’s a Social Work License Map that you can reference.
A Growing Respect for Social Work
The passage of HB 2037 demonstrates a growing respect for our profession and the dedication it requires to become a licensed social worker. We are no longer just anonymous, burnt-out and underpaid government employees who take children away from unworthy parents. We’re gaining legitimacy in the mental health field, and that matters, my friends. This will have a bearing on our collaboration within interdisciplinary teams on our clients’ behalf because, quite honestly, sometimes we’re just seen as the hand-holders for our clients. No, we cannot prescribe medication, and no, we don’t have M.D. at the end of our names.
We are more than just the shoulder for our clients to cry on, and this legislation, and others like it throughout the country, tells us that we are indeed achieving the respect we deserve. It also matters to me personally, and I’m sure to all of you because our education is demanding, rigorous and often unforgiving. We deserve respect for it – and when I graduate – I want to know it means something in the mental health field to have an MSW. Otherwise, I will be pretty frustrated about all those textbooks I bought.
Clients Deserve Well-Educated Social Workers
Let’s think about our client’s rights. They deserve the benefit of our education in their treatment. Can you believe that prior to February 22, clients in Virginia could be treated by social workers who never actually received social work education? I don’t want to go to the doctor for my annual physical only to find out later on that the doctor never went to medical school!
Now, I do want to say that this does not discount the quality of treatment that many non-social workers can provide; in fact, sometimes I have found that credentials create a false sense of proficiency. Sometimes experience is more important than education. Just because you have your MSW doesn’t guarantee you’ll be a good social worker. But I bet it sure helps.
Join the National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
All of this was possible thanks to the National Association of Social Workers, which is a pretty sweet organization. Please join if you have not done so already. The NASW takes care of its members and defends the rights of social workers. It lobbied to protect our credentials in Virginia, and it’s doing similar work in other states and on a federal level. I feel pretty encouraged by this.
The NASW has our backs – not every profession can say that for its representation.
So join the NASW, figure out what’s happening in your state, and be proud to be a learning social worker. You deserve it.
Robyn Jacobs is a MSW@USC graduate from Richmond, VA. She works with children and adolescents in the mental health field, loves Freud, and spoils her three Lab mixes rotten.
Click here to learn more about the MSW@USC