What Are the Legal Responsibilities of a Social Worker in South Carolina?

Social Work with adolescent

Social work is a noble calling and a field where you can truly make a difference. You help clients overcome sometimes small, and sometimes significant challenges in their lives. From classroom bullying to domestic violence, you may be asked to intervene on behalf of a diverse group of people. You bring your knowledge, training, and empathy into every room. But in South Carolina, you also need to bring the right credentials and follow the regulations of the state and the rules of the profession.

Social Work Licensure in South Carolina

You must be licensed to practice social work in the State of South Carolina. Depending on your education level, the SC social work licensure requirements may vary. But in general, you must be at least 21 years of age, have a degree in social work, display good moral character, pass an exam approved by the state licensing board, and pay the required fee to receive your license. Once you receive your license, you are required to display it prominently in your place of practice. You must also indicate your category of licensure after your signature on every document you sign. For instance, if you are a Social Worker with a master’s degree, you will include the MSW credential after your name. Social work licenses expire every two years in South Carolina. To maintain your license, you must complete 40 hours of continuing education throughout the tenure of your license. When you renew, you will need to provide proof of your continuing ed and pay the renewal fee.

Social Work Confidentiality Requirement in South Carolina

Just as doctors and lawyers must protect the privacy of their patients and clients, as a social worker, you are held to strict rules for confidentiality. You cannot share information about your clients with others unless your client has given you express permission to do so. You shouldn’t disclose identifying information when discussing your clients with consultants or for teaching or training purposes. You also need to maintain records in a safe and secure manner. And you are obligated to protect your clients’ confidentiality even after they die. However, there are times as a Social Worker in South Carolina when you are required to reveal information about your clients:

  • Threats of Violence—When a client has threatened to harm themselves or others
  • By Law—When you have been subpoenaed by a professional licensing board, or during a trial or hearing led by a professional licensing board
  • Self Defense—To collect your fees or to defend yourself against accusations of misconduct in the workplace
  • With Written Permission—If the client gives written permission, you may reveal their confidences to third parties such as health insurance companies processing claims; the client can only provide permission if they fully understand what confidences will be revealed and to whom

Maintaining confidentiality is key to building trust and good relationships with your clients, but you need to tell them upfront when and how you might be required to reveal a confidence.  

Social Work Professional and Ethical Conduct

As a South Carolina Social Worker, you are required by law to conduct yourself ethically and professionally. You must regularly show up for scheduled appointments. In addition to protecting the confidentiality of your clients, you cannot exploit relationships for personal or business advantages. You must be truthful with your clients at all times and cannot knowingly provide them with false or misleading information. You cannot create fraudulent or forged documents or participate in any dishonest or deceptive practice. You can’t perform the duties of your profession if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And you must keep client relationships strictly professional for at least three years after you have stopped providing services to the client.

Violation of these and other ethical principles could result in your license being suspended or revoked.

Professional Disclosure in South Carolina

South Carolina also requires you to provide a statement of professional disclosure to each of your clients. This statement must include your address and phone number, fee schedule, educational training, and areas of specialization. You must also provide your clients with a statement of their rights and responsibilities and outline how they can file a complaint if they feel it’s necessary. State law also prohibits you from prescribing or dispensing medications to patients, even if you practice clinical social work.

Are you interested in becoming a Social Worker? At Limestone University, we offer a Bachelor of Social Work that can help you prepare for a career in this rewarding field, as well as a Master of Social Work that can allow you to advance your practice and grow as a professional. Click the button to learn more.

Closeup of Psychologist in Support Group - social work
Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)
The MSW provides the opportunity to serve others beyond the BSW level. All social workers are passionate with regard to social justice. With the MSW degree, social workers can carry that passion to the classroom through teaching, as well as, positions in school social work, the mental health community, and positions with the criminal justice field.

Women with problems sitting together during counseling - social work
Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.)

Social workers help people cope with everyday problems. They may provide services such as advocacy, crisis response, and connecting clients with resources. Social Workers address societal ills by understanding and addressing problems in functioning that can occur with people, systems, as well as with the interactions between systems and people.