Texas regulatory board votes to allow social workers to decline clients who are LGBTQ+ or have a disability


AUSTIN (Nexstar) — This week, the Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners voted unanimously to change part of its code of conduct.

Part of the existing code reads:

A social worker shall not refuse to perform any act or service for which the person is licensed solely on the basis of a client’s age, gender, race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or political affiliation.

Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners Code of Conduct

The change will strike sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and disability from that section. The Office of the Governor recommended the change to the board last week in order to more closely align with existing statute, which reads:

The executive council shall take disciplinary action under Subchapter G, Chapter 507, against a person for refusing to perform an act or service within the scope of the license holder’s license solely because of the recipient’s age, sex, race, religion, national origin, color, or political affiliation.

Occ. Code Sec. 505.451, Grounds for Disciplinary Action

The decision by the board was made without consulting social workers across the state, and now many social worker advocacy groups and LGBTQ+ groups are criticizing the change.

“We know so much of Texas is already underserved by social workers, there are many counties that don’t have a social worker in them. And so there are few resources. And to think that those resources are now able to potentially be selective on who they work with, not based on anything the client brings to the table beyond their own sense of self is just…. those implications could be far and wide,” National Association of Social Workers’ Texas Chapter Executive Director Will Francis said.

“The reality is this sends the message, that it’s okay to discriminate. And that in and of itself may cause someone not to go for services, it could be afraid of that rejection, they could think that this person could turn them away,” Francis continued.

Sue Torres and her wife Kelly adopted their son Larry when he was 15. He first came into their lives in a foster situation.

Courtesy: Sue Torres, pictured left

“He just melded with our family. And we decided to adopt him,” Torres explained.

When she first heard about the new rule change, she immediately felt concerned for kids in the foster care system.

“There’s so many adolescent kids that are in the foster system. That hopefully this new rule won’t, you know, put a roadblock to some of those kids getting adopted,” Torres said.

“While I don’t know if this would essentially legitimize that refusal to work with a same-sex couple, it certainly could give impression you’re allowed to do that. And I think that that just has terrifying implications,” Francis said.

Regardless, the change could still impact kids in the foster care system if they identify as LGBTQ+ and seek help from their social worker.

“It could impact child welfare, it could impact medical care, it could impact psychiatric care, schools, where there are many school social workers, all sorts of community organizations, the list really goes on,” Francis said.

The Governor’s Office said the board’s decision follows typical procedure.

“It’s not surprising that a board would align its rules with statutes passed by the legislature.” spokesperson Renae Eze said in a statement.

But, Francis said the board should be able to add to that existing statute.

“Ultimately, the statutes are there simply to provide a foundation that you build a house of rules upon,” he said.

The board’s next meeting is set for Oct. 27 and will be open to public comment.

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