NEWARK – As part of their commitment to address sexual misconduct and abuse by licensed professionals, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division of Consumer Affairs (the “Division”) today announced that the Board of Social Work Examiners (“Board”) has permanently revoked the license of a clinical social worker who engaged in criminal sexual contact with a teenage student she was counseling.
Tara Cardinale, 39, of Washington Township agreed to the permanent revocation of her New Jersey license, as a condition of her guilty plea to criminal sexual contact with a student who was under the age of 18.
According to the Final Consent Order, Cardinale engaged in inappropriate conduct with a student, while serving as his primary therapist at the Bergen County school where she worked.
“This licensee engaged in sexual conduct with a teenager under her professional supervision, not only violating our criminal laws, but also committing an appalling breach of basic ethics and professional standards,” said Attorney General Grewal. “The grave professional consequences this social worker faces are proof of our determination to protect the public, and the integrity of the vast majority of mental health professionals who work tirelessly for their clients every day.”
The Board found that Cardinale’s conduct and conviction of a criminal offense related to her position as a social worker, constituted professional misconduct. Furthermore, the therapist’s failure to comply with Board regulations prohibiting sexual contact with clients provided grounds for the Board to revoke her license to practice in New Jersey permanently.
“The conduct of this therapist raised serious questions about her professional judgment and fitness to practice,” said Paul R. Rodríguez, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “One of the greatest harms mental healthcare providers can inflict on their clients and the profession is exploiting the trust bestowed on them to manipulate vulnerable individuals. Protecting the public from the violation of this trust justifies the permanent revocation of her license.”
Cardinale’s permanent revocation comes as the Division, under the direction of Attorney General Grewal, continues a sweeping review of how its 51 professional boards — which oversee approximately 720,000 active licensed professionals, from accountants and doctors to plumbers and veterinarians — address allegations involving sexual misconduct and abuse by licensees and applicants for licenses.
The review, which is currently underway, is evaluating how boards screen applicants for licenses, approach investigations and discipline of alleged misconduct, and engage with complainants who report abuses by a licensee or applicant.
Under the terms of the Final Consent Order, Cardinale is permanently barred from engaging in the practice of social work, or applying for a license to practice social work in the state of New Jersey. Cardinale’s license had been temporarily suspended by the Board since March 5, 2020 pending the outcome of the criminal case against her.
Investigators with the Enforcement Bureau within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted the investigation in this case.
Deputy Attorney General Daniel Evan Leef Hewitt of the Professional Boards Prosecution Section in the Division of Law represented the State in this matter.
Patients who believe that they are the victims of misconduct by a licensed health care professional can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 973-504-6200 to request a complaint form.
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The mission of the Division of Consumer Affairs, within the Department of Law and Public Safety, is to protect the public from fraud, deceit, misrepresentation and professional misconduct in the sale of goods and services in New Jersey through education, advocacy, regulation and enforcement. The Division pursues its mission through its 51 professional and occupational boards that oversee 720,000 licensees in the state, its Regulated Business section that oversees 60,000 NJ registered businesses, as well as through its Office of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Securities, Charities Registration section, Office of Weights and Measures, and Legalized Games of Chance section.