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“We are talking about a field that likes to tout its ethics and what we do, but our regulatory bodies are not adhering to our core values… This test is not doing anything but creating a massive, expensive barrier.”

Cassandra Walker, LCSW

Last summer, the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) — the organization that administers social work licensing exams nationwide — released its exam pass rate analysis inclusive of the race and age of exam takers. In a nutshell, Black people, older adults and persons whose first language was not English fared significantly worse in passing the exam.

It seemed, once again, that marginalized communities of aspiring social workers got the short end — just as the exam takers were increasingly non-white in a cultural environment where the profession needs practitioners from these groups more than ever.

So, what’s going on, and what is the solution?

Our guest Cassie Walker, LCSW, has been a consistent advocate, commentator and writer who has worked actively to respond to this injustice. They will explain what’s going on and articulate the way forward in a call to action for the entire profession.

 Cassie Walker, LCSW

Cassandra Walker, LCSW, CCTP, is a Black queer social worker, trauma therapist, writer, gamer and activist. They are the owner of their practice, Intersections Center for Complex Healing PLLC. Cassie is a clinical program manager for Take This, a nonprofit reducing mental health stigma in the gaming community, and a member of the clinical oversight committee for Hope For The Day, a nonprofit based in Chicago that focuses on suicide prevention. They earned their MSW and bachelor’s degree in psychology and comparative human development at the University of Chicago.

Cassie is a liberatory and decolonial healer who works with adults individually and in groups. They are a certified clinical trauma professional with Level 3 NARM training, a certified NARM therapist and certified in hypnotherapy and NLP[MB1] . Cassie presents on a diverse array of intersectional topics related to race, gender, sexuality, relationships, gaming, mental wellness, trauma, workplace culture and social justice. They specialize in the intersections of trauma, identity and mental wellness. Their podcast, Woke Mental Wellness, uses tabletop role-playing games to discuss mental wellness among Black LGBTQIA+ people and those interested in helping Black queer communities.

Show Notes

Contributing to the conversation: 2022 ASWB Exam Pass Rate Analysis

Join the discussion

  • I just listened to the podcast and I must say I am licensed in Illinois and scared that my experience is going to affect my clinical test when it comes to take it. there were some test questions that I reflect on for the masters exam that I struggled understanding how that was going to help me in private practice or in a school setting. Yes, testing is important but if the masters test is no longer required how does that make LSWs more prepared for the clinical license when it comes time to take it? I’m gaining experience in private practice and in school setting but talking with other LCSWs, many barely passed because they had to find time to study outside of work and continuing ed credits. this is a real issue but how do we rectify this so we can provide ethical supports and services to clients?

  • I think I’m feeling like I’m rained on by this org. It’s about 6 times I’ve taken the test going on 6 times. I’m 68 yo and they are not given me my dream. I’m asking for advocates to help me fight to limit my test taking.

  • I am 70 year old white male who has failed the Clinical Exam 4 times in the last 2 years. Currently I have worked at a Methadone clinic since 2019. I did not take the MCbap test because in a year I will have my 6 years in the field and without passing the Clinical I will be forced out of the field. I would love to start a law suit or class action suit against the ASWB. So, I have a LLMSW license and worked with Opioid Addiction during a pandemic. And, now I am being thanked by losing my current job and then pushed out of my field because of a Test that is biased against older workers. Please help me, maybe my voice can help the SW field to become fair to all of its members. I Country really needs SW to become the symbol of Social fairness

  • Thank you Cassie! So happy to see someone asking the question about ethics when it comes to the aswb exams. The NASW has come out publicly opposing these exams exactly for the social justice issue that it creates for our own colleagues and yet we continue to take part. I recently asked an advocate from the NASW what their thoughts were re this ethical dilemma and the response was “do you want to feed your family?!” What happened to integrity within our profession?! I applied for licensure in another state but because of the monopoly the aswb has over the exam process in the US and Canada i am being required to take the exams again after 10 years as an LCSW in CA. The aswb has made it so that states will only accept their exams as valid. In fact CA held-out for as long as it did precisely because of concerns about the validity of the aswb exams as well as concerns about racial inequities baked into it. So in addition to the afore-mentioned groups mentioned by Cassie there is also a group of folks who took state specific exams who are now being un-fairly disadvantaged when attempting to move to another state. The aswb’s aim is to take the profits they make off the backs of our colleagues of color, age, language and codify themselves into federal law which just feels criminal! After reading “ASWB: End Discriminatory Social Work Licensing Exams” @ I have chosen not to give my money to the aswb nor take part on their process as a matter of principle and as a matter of ethics. We as Social Workers are supposed to confront social injustice when we find it not go along for the ride for the sake of a 6 figure salary and to hell with those who cannot get on that train. I just dont understand why this issue is not more at the fore of Social Work in general today. Macro issues that Social Policy Social Workers might ordinarily address if those programs werent being cut-out of graduate programs. There really should be a national call to boycott the aswb until appropriate changes can be made or the aswb replaced with something more human and less corporate in its methodology; hit ‘em where they feel it while we still can. To do less just seems selfish. And if that is what Social Workers are doing or not doing these days then i am ashamed to call myself one.

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