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New IL Law Blurs Lines Between Counselors and Social Workers

New IL Law Blurs Lines Between Counselors and Social Workers

I previously wrote an article about my concerns with schools using “counseling services” rather than “social work services” in students’ IEPs. One of my chief concerns was the increasingly blurred line between the professional roles of school counselors and school social workers. In Illinois this line has been made barely distinguishable with the signing of a new Illinois law (public act 98-918) that expands the definition of the roles and services provided by school counselors.


Here are some of the roles and definitions outlined in the new law that I found most alarming:


School counseling services may include, but are not limited to:

(3) school counselors working as culturally skilled professionals who act sensitively to promote social justice and equity in a pluralistic society;

21) contributing to a student’s functional behavioral assessment, as well as assisting in the development of non-aversive behavioral intervention strategies;

(22) actively supporting students in need of special education services by facilitating, participating in, or contributing to a student’s individualized education plan (IEP) and completing a social-developmental history;

(34) acting as a liaison between the public schools and community resources and building relationships with important stakeholders, such as families, administrators, teachers, and board members


View the complete law:  098-0918


What are your thoughts? Do you feel the role of the school social worker is being threatened? Are counselors equipped to be conducting FBA’s and Social Developmental Studies? What action, if any, should be taken to re-establish ourselves as the experts on culturally sensitive practice, community linkages, functional behavior analysis, and conducting social-developmental studies?


About The Author

Scott Carchedi

Scott Carchedi is the founder and co-editor of SSWN. Scott provides technology support and consultative services to school social work associations across the US. Scott is also a practicing school social worker in the western suburbs of Chicago, serving grades 9-12.


  1. Anonymous

    I work in Illinois, I saw this coming.

  2. Steve Whitmore

    I think it is important for all school mental health professionals to be able to articulate what makes them different form the other disciplines in their buildings. Each brings a rich perspective to the school building. (There is room for all.) When people have clarity in their minds about what they do, why they do it and how they do, then “battles” like this one are easier to fight.

    Most counselors in Michigan, while they will say are mental professionals, don’t bring the experience from other settings to the table like I do. That what makes School Social Work unique. We are one of the few educational professions that is not trained in a college of education. The benefits of that unique training needs to be shared often with our non-SSW colleagues.

  3. Paula Leifer

    Just saw your blog for the first time and it’s really cool. Now that I am a retired SSW, I have lots of time to comment. Regarding this law, I don’t have a problem with wording that says counselors contribute to the FBA/BIP. The team should be contributing as well and SSWs do not always have to write them. My biggest problem with the sections you cited (and I have not read the law) is the mention of writing the social history. That’s the only thing cited above that counselors do not I do already. Thanks.

  4. Anonymous

    I work in Illinois, the state is in such disarray that it seems like decisions are made for financial reasons and not what’s in the best interest of students. If schools can allow counselors to carry out the responsibilities of a school social worker that means less employees. I think counselors serve a valuable purpose in schools however social workers do as well. There doesn’t seem to be much political support for ensuring social workers maintain their positions within the school. Although counselors are capable clinicians, their primary focus should be on the school as a whole and school social workers should be allowed to draw their attention to the more vulnerable and at risk students. It’s difficult for one position to do both.

  5. Person

    As a former teacher with a master’s in school counseling who is currently employed as a SSW, I have been trying to figure out why SSW’s and SC’s are separating themselves from each other rather than collaborating. My experience is showing me that the two disciplines are related (more like cousins than sibs), both having the ability to enhance the knowledge and practice of the other.

    I must also add that not having a degree from a college of education can leave a new SSW with a lot of catching up to do. I have had to train colleagues on teacher-ease and the endless education acronyms, as well as how schools (vs. other agencies, private practice, etc.) function. Although it limits the setting in which I can practice, my degree and training have served me well in my current role.

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