Since 1984 the West Virginia Board of Social Work Examiners (BSWE) has had the responsibility of ensuring that those practicing social work in the State are competent and ethical. There are over four thousand licensed social workers in the State of West Virginia. This preliminary performance review resulted in two issue areas, which are briefly described below.

Issue Area 1: The Board of Social Work Examiners Can Improve Its Effectiveness By Monitoring Compliance to Standards.

Overall, the BSWE has been effective. The Board has established standards for licensed social workers to follow. However, the licensing process has relied to a great extent on the honor system. This does not mean that the system is ineffective. It is likely that many social workers are complying with the standards if only to maintain their employment or out of personal integrity. However, the standards are effective in protecting the public to the extent they are complied with. The conclusion of this issue is that the Board does not know to what extent licensees comply with its standards. The Board does not randomly verify information on all sections of licensee applications as required by its Procedural rules, nor does the Board verify that continuing education was taken. The performance of providers of continuing education has not been evaluated. Without verifying compliance, the Board runs the risk of licensing individuals that are unqualified or have questionable professional integrity, and violations will go undetected. Also, when licensees know that information will be verified randomly, compliance to the standards will improve.

During this review the Board made positive changes in response to these findings. The Board acknowledged the need to verify licensee information and it has begun to implement the necessary changes. In addition, amended legislative rules provide for continuing education providers to re-certify, thus the Board will be able to evaluate the performance of continuing education providers.

Issue Area 2: The BSWE Has Satisfactorily Complied With Important Statutory Requirements.

Four areas statutorily required or important in effective operation were examined by the Legislative Auditor. These areas were: 1) the complaint process; 2) travel reimbursement; 3) public accessibility; and 4) submission of Financial Disclosure Statements. The goal of protecting the public is achieved in part if an adequate complaint process is in place. The Board is responding to complaints and is disciplining licensees. While the Legislative Auditor found that there is public access to the Board, the Board is encouraged to include its listing in telephone directories other than the required Kanawha-Putnam directory. All Board members have submitted Financial Disclosure Statements as is statutorily required, and there is no indication of fraudulent travel reimbursement claims.