After a year of looking inward, AASSWB in 1996 turned its attention outside itself, moving forward with a sense of purpose born of stronger connections to the social work community. While in 1995 the association concentrated on the basic structure of the examination, and on beginning to work with a new executive director, during the past year it took a wider viewpoint of its value and place in improving the profession.

While it is hard to capture this movement in limited words like "trend," "direction," or "shift," AASSWB advanced well past a tentative beginning in bringing the worlds of social work education and social work regulation a bit closer. Representatives from the two groups, while acknowledging that some disagreements may always remain, got together at each other's national meetings and in smaller gatherings, and spoke hopefully of common ground.

What is at stake was articulated by a past AASSWB president Barbara Matz, a former regulatory board member and a Bryn Mawr social work educator who has done recent doctoral research which indicated not only lack of participation but lack of interest in regulation on the part of many educators. At the Spring Education Meeting in May, 1996, she called educators and regulators the "dual gatekeepers to the profession," and declared that it is the responsibility of both to "monitor quality, and listen to each other."

AASSWB Executive Director Donna DeAngelis presented at a the national meeting the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). She also went to New York to participate in a meeting between deans of graduate social work programs in the state and the New York Social Work Board. The association was represented by staff and volunteers at the National Association of Baccalaureate Program Directors (NABPD). Don Beless, CSWE executive director, attending the Spring Delegate Assembly, and in a climate that included a presentation on how academia is responding to changes in the profession , invited AASSWB to participate more fully in making its ideas available to CSWE.

Beless spoke of the importance of the extensive job analysis; the third one done by AASSWB, its completion was a major 1996 milestone. The results: more importance for questions on diversity, values and ethics.

The Board of Directors responded to the latest in a number of requests from schools of social work to be provided with pass-fail statistics on their graduates by voting to go ahead and make the computerization changes that would make this possible. And a small brochure for social work students began with one limited printing and quickly moved to multiple reprintings, as school contacts were sought to help in getting them distributed.

That wider viewpoint did not stop with reaching out to social work educators. A landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision extending the federal protection of privileged communications to social workers included an Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) filing by AASSWB. The case, Jaffee v. Redmond, received wide media coverage of such points as the one made in response to a question from Justice Souter, that therapists who are psychiatrists and therapists who are social workers do essentially the same thing.

Association publications were expanded and upgraded during 1996, with the completion of rewriting of two additional levels of the Study Guide, the redesign of the newsletter, the expansion of the book Social Work Laws and Board Regulations: A State Comparison Study to three times its former size, and the addition of a book on handling sunset reviews and other legislative crises.

Representatives of the association also took exhibits, information and their own communication efforts to other professional gatherings, such as the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW). In turn, NASW sent presenters to the fall assembly to talk about the professional association's new Code of Ethics.

In a wider political arena, association staff, leaders and legal counsel participated in meetings of the Federation of Associations of Regulatory Boards (FARB) and the Council on Licensure Enforcement and Regulation (CLEAR).

The executive director was a working member of the Interprofessional Workgroup on Health Professions Regulation, which developed a joint response from regulators in a number of professions to the Pew Health Professions Commission's Taskforce on Healthcare Workforce Regulation. The Pew group was critical of current professional regulation; the response, which AASSWB signed onto, described ways in which the current regulatory process has evolved and become strong, and set out the work group's recommendations to continue that improvement.

The Model Law Task Force began meeting in January on a long-discussed and very significant project, that of drafting a law to be used as a guideline as jurisdictions work to improve their own legislation. Continuing the participatory theme, other social work organizations were invited to comment. Other committee work began to be felt outside the organization, as the Disciplinary Action Reporting System (DARS) continued to grow, and is now established as the most complete source of disciplinary information about social workers. For the first time during 1996, it was decided to make the system available outside the association by subscription.

And, in certainly by definition the widest outreach of all, AASSWB joined the Internet, with both e-mail addresses for the national office and for staff, and a Webpage with links to other social work organizations, including state boards. Students e-mailed for the licensure pamphlets, and callers could be directed to the Webpage to answer questions they hadn't even formulated yet. As the circle of connections everywhere grew tighter, boards and the association began to talk about protecting the public through some form of control of on-line practice.

As a result of its heightened visibility in many directions, the association's national office began fielding so many phone calls from candidates, researchers and others that it has instituted an electronic phone system. The system automatically tells callers how to reach state boards, other professional organizations, and the testing contractor, and then gives options for reaching staff on other questions.

Together with the external momentum, growth and development within the association continued during 1996. Headlining the year's major developments was the choice of ACT of Iowa City, Iowa, as the new examination contractor. A Request for Proposals went out in May, and the Board of Directors spent the summer and fall evaluating the proposals, hearing from references, interviewing people from the companies, and making site visits before presenting a recommendation to the Delegate Assembly in November. ACT is a long-established non-profit company with a top-level staff and a fine reputation for client service.

An even more basic change was an addition to the national office, almost ready to move into by the end of the years, providing space for existing staff and for a candidate reservation center to be instituted when the new testing contractor takes over effective in January 1998.

Reflecting a change in bylaws a year earlier, a new Finance Committee began meeting. By vote of the Delegate Assembly and approval by the Internal Revenue Service, the association became a full-fledged non-profit, classified as a 501 (c ) (3) organization. The first year of item-writing by contracted writers drew to a close, and by year's end contracts had gone out to renew many of them for another year. The item banks were up on all levels, despite the impact of the security breach in early 1995 and the need for more items in areas expanded by the new job analysis.

And, looking ahead, there were 1996 elections. Mae Gunnare of South Dakota is president-elect. After serving in this position for a year, she will take office as president in November 1997. Janice James of Kentucky, who was a director at large, was chosen as secretary. New directors are Gay Lynn Bond of Louisiana and Ginny Dickman of Idaho. They took their seats for the first time in a board meeting at the conclusion of the November assembly.

The Nominating Committee elected in November is Marsena Buck of California, Delfino Trujillo of New Mexico and Dan Wheelan of Rhode Island.

New leadership, new progress.

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