SPRINGFIELD – Following findings of testing bias in social worker licensure exams, State Senator Karina Villa moved a bill out of the Senate Licensed Activities Committee on Wednesday to provide social workers who are minorities another, more equitable avenue for obtaining a license.

“Social workers are the largest group of mental health care providers in the United States, and their dedication makes our communities a better place to live in,” said Villa (D-West Chicago). “Those who wish to become social workers should not feel discriminated against in the process of obtaining their license and beginning their career.”

House Bill 2365 provides a clinical social worker with an alternative route to obtain a license, given they complete an additional 3,000 hours of supervision after having taken and not passed the Association of Social Work Boards license exam. The bill also allows applicants to receive supervised training from other approved areas if no licensed clinical social worker is available for those additional 3,000 hours.

This bill was an initiative of a group of concerned social workers along with the National Association of Social Workers after a study found test takers who are minorities or older in age fail the licensure exam at dramatically higher rates than white test takers, indicating unfair bias on the exam. This bill aims to correct that disparity and provide another, more equitable licensure option. Another aim of this bill is to increase diversity among social workers and the number of licensed clinical social workers who are bilingual.

There are currently many social workers who are minorities already out in the field working after obtaining their master’s degree, but who have been kept from becoming a licensed clinical social worker due to unfair bias in the exam. Because of the unfair testing practices, these social workers are failing their clinical licensure exams repeatedly, while still working in and helping their communities.

“These social workers are already helping our communities day in and day out, and they deserve to become licensed clinical social workers without an unfair exam blocking their path,” Villa said. “As a former social worker myself, I know how important it is to understand the children you are working with, and how important it is for them to recognize themselves in the adults around them. Social workers who represent the community they are working for deserve the same opportunities as everyone else in the profession.”

House Bill 2365 passed the Senate Licensed Activities Committee on Wednesday and heads to the Senate floor for further consideration.