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Authorizing Social Work Employment through Applying for a Waiver
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Authorizing Social Work Employment through Applying for a Waiver


May 2011

New York State now requires agencies and human service programs to be legally authorized to employ licensed social workers and other licensed professionals (licensed mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and creative arts therapists).

While social workers themselves need to have the LMSW or the LCSW in New York State, employers also have responsibilities in order to comply with the licensing law.

This is a relatively new issue and employers and members of the social work profession are still in the process of learning about these requirements and its implications.

Social workers should inquire as to whether their current or prospective employers have government authorization to employ licensed social workers, or whether they are applying for such authorization through obtaining a waiver from the State Education Department. While this is a legal matter for employers, social workers need to understand whether their employment is permitted. Employers need to be able to discuss this with their staff and job applicants.

Many human service organizations operate under the auspice of the State Office of Mental Health or the Department of Health and are automatically authorized to employ licensed social workers because these programs have operating certificates. Additionally, these organizations and hundreds of not-for-profit organizations across every service system are funded through contracts with the State or the City and do not have operating certificates. When this is the case, not-for-profit organizations must apply for a waiver from the State Education Department’s Office of the Professions in order to employ licensed professionals. Privately funded programs also need to obtain waivers.

These requirements relate to the employment of both LMSWs and LCSWs. In addition, these requirements extend to the placement of social work interns since their field supervisors need to be licensed.

Organizations are able to be “authorized” by submitting an application to the Office of the Professions. These applications only became available in February, 2011 and the deadline for applying is February 1, 2012.

According to the Office of the Professions (OP), all social workers need to be licensed, regardless of function, and their employers need to be authorized to employ them. While many human service organizations are challenging this opinion, the interpretation of the Office of the Professions is currently in force. NASW-NYC is raising questions with OP about its interpretations of the law and seeking greater flexibility in what is required.

For more information about what is required of organizations as well as requirements for licensing in general, click here.   Also, read the Chapter newsletter, Currents, which is sent electronically, for updates that can affect each and every one of us.

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