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Abstract

The debate regarding legal regulation in social work has continued for a number of years. The issues are varied, including the desirability of licensing, the lack of progress in the achievement of regulation, and the discrepancy as to the form of such regulation.

The authors examined a topic area which they believe might be basic to the profession's problems with legal regulation, that being the procedure and process utilized by states in achieving such regulation. The primary purpose of the empirical research concerned the identification and description of strategies used by state chapters of the National Association of Social Workers in seeking legal regulation.

The data collection instrument consisted of a mailed questionnaire with primarily fixed alternative items incorporating a wide variety of dimensions related to various aspects of the research problem. Questionnaires were mailed to all chapters of the National Association. Thirty-six instruments were returned for a 67 percent response rate. Both descriptive statistics and content analysis were utilized in analyzing the data.

A number of intriguing and surprising findings were revealed, shedding more light on why such a small minority of states have achieved licensing legislation. Although the profession has publically committed itself to licensing, progress has been slow, in part, due to the strategies utilized by various chapters. The National Association of Social Workers' model statute, for example, has not been utilized as a true model in its entirity by chapters, rather "weakened" forms have been embraced. There even appears to be lack of agreement among chapter members regarding elements of a licensing bill. Furthermore, lobbyists have not been utilized extensively in the legislative process nor have coalitions of professional and lay groups. Chapters seeking licensure have not made well conceptualized utilization of either consensus or conflict strategies. A number of additional significant findings are discussed as are recommendations regarding changes in strategy used in the pursuit of legal regulation.

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