Roles and Responsibilities of the Three Pillars of the Social Work Profession


Lisa Crockwell, MSW, RSW


Mary Jo Monahan, MSW, LCSW, Chief Executive Officer, ASWB
Darla Spence Coffey, Ph.D., MSW, President and Chief Executive Officer, Council on Social Work Education
Fred Phelps, MSW, RSW, Executive Director, Canadian Association of Social Workers

The session will explore the distinct roles and interconnected responsibilities of the three major pillars of the profession – education, practice, and regulation – for continued competency. In a time of increased wariness of regulation, the three pillars are focused on protecting the public in a collaborative effort to ensure competency to practice throughout North America.

Learning objectives:

At the conclusion of this presentation, participants should be able to:

  1. Explain how the voice for the practice of social work complements the regulatory voice through intersectorial collaboration.
  2. Describe how social work education has shifted from standards compliance to a focus on competency-based, outcome oriented approach that supports students’ level of competence necessary to enter professional practice.
  3. Articulate the responsibility of regulators to provide confidence for the public that social workers are practicing safely, ethically, and competently and are committed to lifelong learning.

Presenter information:

Mary Jo Monahan, MSW, LCSW, is chief executive officer of the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), the nonprofit association of social work licensing bodies in the United States and Canada. Before joining ASWB, Monahan held various executive offices, including vice president of operations at Matthews Benefit Group, Inc. (2010-2013); president and CEO of ICON Institute of Florida, LLC, a professional training center and consultation business (2009-2013); and president and CEO of Family Service Centers, Inc., a $5.4 million social service agency (2003-2009). From 1991 to 1996 she served on the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling and was board chair in 1995 and 1996. She served on the national board of directors of NASW (1998-2001) and was president of its Florida Chapter from 1988 to 1990. In 2012 she was president of the board of directors at the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence. Monahan was an adjunct professor in the University of South Florida’s school of social work for more than 22 years. She earned her MSW at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Darla Spence Coffey, Ph.D., MSW, assumed the duties of CSWE president on July 2, 2012. Prior to her appointment as president, she served as professor of social work, associate provost, and dean of graduate studies at West Chester University. Coffey received her BSW from Eastern College, her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania, and her Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. She was a member of the social work faculty at West Chester University beginning in 1998, where she contributed to the initial accreditation of the MSW program in 2000 and served as the director and chair of the university’s undergraduate social work program from 2002 to 2005. Coffey has an extensive background in social work practice in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and domestic violence and is a nationally recognized author and speaker on these topics. After years of working with and researching the effects of domestic violence on children, Coffey developed a curriculum, Parenting After Violence, and trained cohorts of social workers in the child welfare system in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in its implementation.

Fred Phelps, MSW, RSW, began working for the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) in 2009 in the role of social worker. Fred assumed the role of CASW executive director on August 1, 2011. He is thankful for the opportunity to apply his direct social work, international relations, and government experience to the role. He is proud to call himself a social worker and proud to be in a position to promote and strengthen the profession.


Association of Social Work Boards, ASWB Model Social Work Practice Act. Model Law Task Force, 1996 – 1997, with amendments, 1998 – 2012, with amendments, 2013 – 2015

Association of Social Work Boards ASWB Model Regulatory Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice. ASWB International Technology Task Force, 2013

Council on Social Work Education. Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards for Baccalaureate and Master’s Social Work Programs. 2015 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards Commission on Accreditation Commission on Educational Policy 2015

National Association of Social Workers. NASW Code of Ethics National Association of Social Workers. 55th Anniversary Edition Item #X55. Pamphlet