Guam Chapter active on legislative front

Ovita Rebanio PerezGroup campaigns for lawmakers to pass social work title protection law and create licensing board.

NASW’s Guam Chapter celebrated a major victory for social workers and residents in November.

The chapter was instrumental in convincing the 31st Guam Legislature to pass social work title protection into law and to create a social work licensing board.

Ovita Rebanio Perez (photo above right), president of the NASW Guam Chapter, said a grant from the NASW Social Work Reinvestment Initiative that started in 2008 fueled the campaign to make social work title protection a reality for the U.S. territory, which is located in the western Pacific Ocean.

The new law “will better protect consumers from unethical social work practice and raise standards for the social work profession on Guam,” Perez said.

“It was my primary goal as president, and in partnership with the University of Guam’s Social Work Division, the faculty and the students, we were able to achieve this goal in 2012,” she said. Title protection has been a goal since the chapter started in 1999, she added.

NASW Guam ChapterMembers of the NASW Guam Chapter were instrumental in convincing the Guam Legislature to pass social work title protection law and to create a social work licensing board.

NASW Guam raised awareness for the effort through legislative forums, conference work groups, research and surveys from social workers as well as through individual site visits to each senator’s office. Social workers and UOG students helped craft the bill with legislators.

“We also held media interviews with local TV and radio stations advocating the importance of licensure for consumer protection, title protection and raising standards for practice,” Perez explained. “We placed ads in the local newspaper inclusive of a policy brief on its importance to consumers and practitioners alike.”

The law establishes a social work licensing program that protects the titles of licensed bachelor’s degree social worker, licensed master’s degree social worker and licensed clinical social worker for those who meet the applicable requirements and hold the license.

The Social Work Licensing Board in Guam will consist of four social workers, with one member representing the NASW Guam Chapter and one non-social worker representing the general public.

Perez noted the chapter continues to lobby on behalf of social workers on the island and has initiated a “Come back to NASW” campaign to boost membership.

“In the last few years, the chapter has been recognized in community partnership with Guam agencies, nonprofit and for-profit organizations, the media, the Guam Legislature and others because we have been very visible in the community,” Perez said. “We have provided position statements based on ‘Social Work Speaks’ in advocating for sound social policies.”

In other social work title protection news, the NASW Ohio Chapter plans to work with state lawmakers to introduce a bill this year that addresses civil service exemptions in the state’s licensing law.

The exemption allows civil service settings to have title positions of “social worker” without the person having the education or licensure to actually be one.

“We have title protection for every other area except in these settings, which are mostly county and state entities,” said Danielle Smith, executive director of the NASW Ohio Chapter. “We have introduced the bill to remove the exemption for the past three general assemblies and soon the bill will be introduced in the current one.”