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What's in a Name? "Social Worker" Credentials Misused

July 21, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS - An undercover video in Ohio has led to a misunderstanding that has spread to Indiana, and likely will travel beyond in the coming days. Social workers in the region are stepping forward to set the record straight.

The video, "Project Veritas," appears to show Ohio Medicaid employees helping illegal-immigrant Russian drug dealers apply for benefits. The men were actors, and articles about the video condemn the state employees while calling them "social workers."

However, Danielle Smith, associate director of the Ohio chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), says they are not social workers, either by license or degree.

"When the title is incorrectly used, and especially when it's used on a negative story like this undercover video, it really drags down the profession and causes a lot of problems for those of us who are licensed social workers and who have degrees in social work."

Josephine Hughes, NASW's Indiana Chapter executive director, says there are often misunderstandings about social workers, but points out that the term shouldn't be used as a catch-all for someone who helps others. In fact, Indiana has a law about who can use the title.

"This is a professional designation restricted to those who have a MSW or BSW from an accredited school of social work, and/or are licensed by the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency."

There are about 10,000 social workers in Indiana, and some who live in Indiana work in Ohio. NASW reports that most licensed Hoosiers work with children and families in school settings.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - IN