Social Work in This Unprecedented Time

Woman With Wear Talking On The Phone.March 20, 2020

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), the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), and the National Association of Social Workers (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.

About ASWB

The Association of Social Work Boards is the nonprofit association of social work regulatory bodies in the United States and Canada. Members include 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., the U.S. territories of the Virgin Islands and Guam, the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and all 10 Canadian provinces. ASWB’s mission is to provide support and services to the social work regulatory community to advance safe, competent, and ethical practices to strengthen public protection.

About CSWE

Founded in 1952, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is the national association representing social work education in the United States. Its members include over 800 accredited baccalaureate and master’s degree social work programs, as well as individual social work educators, practitioners, and agencies dedicated to advancing quality social work education.

About NASW

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is a membership organization that works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members, to create and maintain professional standards for all social workers, and to advance social justice.  Founded in 1955, NASW advocates on behalf of the 700,000 social workers in the United States.  Our goal is to enhance the quality and effectiveness of social work practice to support the well-being of individuals, families and communities.


Related Posts

February 2: Time for New Outreach to Social Workers

October 29: We Want to Hear from You!

July 30: Reopening Ahead of a Fourth Wave

April 30: Suppressing Voter Suppression

February 26: Essential and Valued

January 29: A Vaccine Is Not a Cure

December 1: Election 2020: Wins All Around!

October 16: How do you eat an elephant…?

October 9 – Creating an Inclusive Economy

September 25 – We ‘have a way to go’ to achieve racial equity in social work

September 11 – Social Work and School Reopening

August 24 – Each One Register One

August 7 – Ensuring All Levels of Self-Care

July 24 – Will the Pandemic Cause Mental Trauma?

July 10 – Interprofessional Health Care Model Responds to Both Pandemics

June 19 – This Is Who We Are

June 5 – Two Pandemics

May 15 – Let’s Call It What It Is…Telesocialwork

May 1 – What’s the Meaning of This?

April 24 – Social Worker COVID-19 Survey

April 17 – COVID-19 and Social Justice

April 10 – Reinforcing the Essential Nature of Social Work

April 3 – Balancing “Essential” with Safe and Ethical

March 27 – COVID-19 Telehealth: Providing Mental Health Support Safely, Ethically and Competently


  1. My question is will the NASW consider grandfathering social workers who had years of experience in this field

  2. I’m a temporary licensed MSW, my licensure exam at Pearson Vue was canceled until further notice.
    My question is: would ASWB be willing to allow online proctoring using same company, or any other company?
    I know of medical colleges are leaning to that way and considering allowing medical students to sit for their exams from home!
    Why not for social workers to be among the first to use that technology?

    • Hello, that is a question for ASWB. You can see their entire response to COVID19 by visiting their page Thank you!

  3. I have two weeks of classes left to finish my MSW. My internship hours have been accrued and are finished. Yet, almost every job I look at won’t consider me because I am not yet licensed – when the testing centers have been closed indefinitely. In fact, I can’t even get past the initial screening questions of being licensed. Its frustrating to want to help, especially because I’m looking for medical social work jobs, and get nowhere because I am not licensed, even though I have the education, and want to take the test as soon as I can. It would be great if the NASW or different state chapters would work to help connect graduates to these positions and roles.

  4. We must allow students to complete field hours virtually and allow virtual supervision immediately.

  5. I am a clinical social worker with online teaching experience at both the Master’s and Bachelor levels and a practice that offers education, somatic-based trauma treatment and consulting. I stand ready to journey into this time with creativity and flexibility. I would imagine there are other social workers with similar capabilities. How can we link resources with demands?

  6. Susan Kosche Vallem

    I continue to provide licensure supervision and working with Iowa NASW and the Social Work Board. We are also committed to continue to help our MSW interns to find meaningful learning opportunities even though the university is closed and most therapists are utilizing teletherapy from their homes. This is what social workers do – problem solve and utilize our creativity to meet needs.

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