A Washington Township youth therapist had her license permanently revoked for making out and exchanging suggestive texts with a 17-year-boy she was counseling from a private Paramus High School, authorities said Wednesday.
Tara Cardinale, 39, pleaded guilty to criminal sexual contact rather than go to trial following her arrest by members of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Special Victims Unit earlier this year.
Cardinale, who worked at the Alliance Academy, agreed to the permanent revocation of her New Jersey license as a clinical social worker as a condition of the plea, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said.
The boy told investigators he groped Cardinale as they kissed during one visit to her home, then left during a second when his mother called police, prosecutors said.
The teen also reportedly said they would’ve had sex if he stayed.
"This is not someone who said, 'Stop — I can't text with you,' " Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Gary Donatello said during a court hearing earlier this year. "This is not a defendant who said, 'That's enough. You need to go home.'
“This is a defendant who made out with the victim. This is a threat."
A final consent order agreed to by Cardinale permanently bars her from practicing social work or applying for a license to practice social work in New jersey.
“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,” Grewal said Wednesday.
“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,” he added.
““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,” said Paul R. Rodríguez, acting director of the state Division of Consumer Affairs. "Protecting the public from the violation of this trust justifies the permanent revocation of her license.”
Both men cited the work of investigators with the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Enforcement Bureau on the case, handled by Deputy Attorney General Daniel Evan Leef Hewitt of the state Division of Law’s Professional Boards Prosecution Section.
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