Is Your Indiana Social Work License at Risk?
Many social workers come to the profession with the goal of helping others and providing care and advocacy to those who need it the most. However, to reach this goal, they must first pursue a rigorous education and undergo extensive training on the job. This means that once they’ve obtained their Indiana social work license, they’ve invested quite a bit of money and time in their chosen career. Given this, whenever a social worker finds themselves in a situation where their license is at risk, they’ll want to retain the services of an Indiana professional license defense attorney to protect both their investment and their livelihood.
The license defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP have extensive experience navigating the administrative processes impacting licensed professionals and defending their hard-earned licensure. Regardless of the circumstances at hand, our firm can help you understand the nature and severity of the complaint made against you, assist you in crafting a robust defense strategy, and ultimately, defend you in a hearing before the Behavior Health and Human Services Board. To speak with an attorney today, call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
The Role of the PLA and the Behavior Health and Human Services Board
The Indiana Professional Licensing Agency (PLA), and by extension Indiana law, regulates certain professions, provides a uniform system for professional licensure and disciplinary matters, and reviews complaints against licensed individuals and businesses in the professions it oversees. Under the umbrella of the PLA, each individual profession governed by the agency has its own governing boards, commissions, or committees. It’s these governing boards that actually handle all of the disciplinary actions and reviews. For those holding an Indiana social work license, the governing body responsible for handling all disciplinary matters would be the Behavior Health and Human Services Board.
When a complaint is made against a social worker’s license in Indiana, or when a licensee discloses a potential violation to the Board, they may be subject to disciplinary action under Indiana Code 25-1-11-12. However, first, the Board must schedule and hold a public evidentiary hearing. At this hearing, the Board will seek to make a determination as to whether the practitioner violated the practical or ethical standards set forth for their profession. In turn, the practitioner, or their attorney, may use this hearing to argue in defense. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board may dismiss the complaint(s) against the practitioner’s license. However, if the Board does determine that a violation has been committed, they’ll need to issue a written finding of facts and conclusions of law, and then proceed to impose the appropriate disciplinary actions upon the practitioner.
The possible disciplinary actions imposed on a practitioner vary based on the severity of the violation. Most commonly, the Board will simply place the practitioner on probation and require them to meet requirements before their probationary status may be terminated. Probationary requirements may include regular reporting to the board, limiting professional practice, continuing education, and/or community restitution or service.
Beyond probation, the other possible disciplinary actions that may be taken by the Board include the suspension or permanent revocation of the practitioner’s license, censure, or the issuance of a letter of reprimand. The Board may also choose to impose civil penalties on the practitioner. However, as stated in Indiana Code 25-1-11-12(a)(6), this penalty may not exceed a total of more than $1,000 and the board must consider the practitioner’s ability to pay the amount when imposing such a sanction. If the practitioner fails to pay the civil penalty within the time specified by the Board, they may proceed to suspend the practitioner’s license without any additional proceedings. Finally, under some circumstances, the Board may require a practitioner to pay consumer restitution to a person who suffered damages as a result of the conduct or omission that was the basis for the disciplinary actions.
Rules Governing an Indiana Professional License
All Hoosiers holding a professional license must abide by the rules and regulations listed Indiana Code 25-1-11-5, or risk disciplinary action. The rules and regulations set forth in this section of Indiana law prevent:
- Engaging or cooperating fraud or material deception in order to obtain a license to practice
- Engaging or cooperating fraud or material deception in the course of professional services or activities
- Advertising services or goods in a false or misleading manner
- Being convicted of a crime or assessed a civil penalty involving fraudulent billing practices
- Being convicted of a crime that has a direct bearing on the practitioner’s ability to continue to practice competently
- Being convicted of a crime that is harmful to the public
- Knowingly violating a state statute, rule, federal statute, or regulation that regulates the profession for which the practitioner holds a license
- Continuing to practice although the practitioner has deemed unfit to practice
- Engaging in a course of lewd or immoral conduct in connection with the delivery of services to the public
- Allowing the practitioner’s name or license to be used in connection with an individual or business who renders services beyond the scope of the practitioner’s training, experience or competence
- Assisting another person in committing an act that would constitute a ground for disciplinary action
- Allowing another person to use the practitioner’s license
- Displaying an expired, inactive, revoked or suspended license
- Refusing to comply with disciplinary sanctions ordered by the Board or Professional Licensing Agency
Rules Governing an Indiana Social Work License
More specifically, anyone holding an Indiana social work license must comply with the specific standards of practice set forth for the occupation. These standards of practice, which are located in 839 IAC 1-3-4 state that “the competent practice of social work and clinical social work requires remaining current with generally accepted developments within the area of specialization and the development and exercise of judgment as to when to apply specific procedures in a reasonable, effective, efficient, and economical manner.”
In addition, competent practice includes acting with the ethical principles and guidelines of the profession and maintaining an awareness of personal and professional limitations. These ethical principles, include, but are not limited to:
- Providing a clear description of what a client may expect in the way of services, reports, fees, billing, and schedules
- Properly representing your qualifications, training, or experience
- Properly representing your credentials in advertising
- Practicing within your scope of competence
- Making appropriate, timely referrals when a client’s needs exceed your competency level
- Making referrals that are based solely on the best interest of the client and not for personal gain
- Not providing social work under the influence of alcohol or other mind or mood-altering drugs
- Not exploiting relationships with clients for personal gain
- Not violating positions of trust and dependency by committing any act that is detrimental to a client
- Not abandoning or neglecting a client in need of immediate professional services without making reasonable arrangements for the provision or continuation of services
- Not engaging in sexual activities with clients, under any circumstances
How an Attorney Can Help Protect Your Indiana Social Work License
If you’re facing disciplinary action by the Behavior Health and Human Services Board, your career, livelihood and reputation are all at risk. To protect your best interests, it’s highly recommended that you retain the services of an experienced license defense attorney who can help you navigate the bureaucratic nuances and processes of the Board and work to defend your Indiana social work license.
The Indianapolis attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are available to meet with you to review the complaint along with any other documentation you’ve received from the Attorney General’s Office, Professional Licensing Agency, or the Board. From there, they’ll explain the severity of the allegations and help you gain a better understanding of the administrative process going forward. If you choose to work with our firm, your attorney will proceed to investigate the allegations made against you and your Indiana social worker’s license; file an appropriate response to the complaint; and appear on your behalf to argue your case before the Indiana Behavior Health and Human Services Board.
Throughout your entire case, your attorney will keep you informed and involved in the process of crafting and executing a strong defense strategy. In the end, if the Board’s ruling is not in your favor, your attorney may assist you in drafting and filing an appropriate appeal that seeks to review that decision. Ultimately, our firm’s goal is to protect your livelihood and secure the best possible outcome in this process. This means we will work tirelessly on your behalf and exhaust every available option in the pursuit of helping you maintain your professional license.
Need to Speak with a Professional Licensing Defense Attorney?
As a dedicated social worker, your service to the community is important and respected, and your ability to continue to work in this field deserves to be protected. So, if you are currently in a position where your Indiana social work license is at risk, do not hesitate to contact the professional licensure attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP. Having represented dozens of Hoosiers facing disciplinary action before a licensing board, our attorneys fully understand everything that’s at stake. We stand ready to begin working on your case, and will do everything in power to protect you, your reputation, and your professional license. To speak with an attorney today, call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.