Direct social work practice is the application of social work theory and/or methods to the resolution and prevention of psychosocial problems experienced by individuals, families, and groups. In this article, direct practice is discussed in the context of social work values, empowerment, diversity, and multiculturalism, as well as with attention to client strengths, spirituality, and risk and resilience influences. The challenges of practice evaluation are also considered.
Kendra DeLoach McCutcheon
Social workers have a responsibility to challenge discrimination and promote social and economic justice. To fulfill this responsibility, it must be understood how discrimination exists and the detrimental affect it has on the relationship between individuals who are disenfranchised (targeted groups) and individuals who have privilege, resources, and power (advantaged groups) (Hardiman & Jackson, 2007). This entry will present an overview of discrimination, define the various forms of discrimination, present public policy and legislation regarding discrimination, and discuss implications for social workers and the profession.
King Davis and Hyejin Jung
This entry defines the term disparity as measurable differences between groups on a number of indices. The term disparity originated in France in the 16th century and has been used as a barometer of progress in social justice and equality in the United States. When disparity is examined across the U.S. population over a longitudinal period, it is clear that disparities continue to exist and that they distinguish groups by race, income, class, and gender. African American and Native American populations have historically ranked higher in prevalence and incidence than other populations on most indices of disparity. However, the level of adverse health and social conditions has declined for all population groups in the United States. The disparity indices include mortality rates, poor health, disease, absence of health insurance, accidents, and poverty. Max Weber’s theory of community formation is used in this entry to explain the continued presence and distribution of disparities. Other theoretical frameworks are utilized to buttress the major hypothesis by Weber that social ills tend to result from structural faults rather than individual choice. Social workers are seen as being in a position to challenge the structural origins of disparities as part of their professional commitment to social justice.
Rowena Fong, Ruth McRoy, and Alan Dettlaff
Racial disproportionality and disparities are problems affecting children and families of color in the child welfare, juvenile justice, education, mental-health, and health-care systems. The term “disproportionality” refers to the ratio between the percentage of persons in a particular racial or ethnic group at a particular decision point or experiencing an event (maltreatment, incarceration, school dropouts) compared to the percentage of the same racial or ethnic group in the overall population. This ratio could suggest underrepresentation, proportional representation, or overrepresentation of a population experiencing a particular phenomenon. The term “disparity” refers to “unequal treatment or outcomes for different groups in the same circumstance or at the same decision point.” A close examination of disproportionality and disparities brings attention to differences in outcomes, often by racial group, and by social service systems. It is necessary to examine the reasons for these differences in outcomes and to be sure that culturally competent practices are upheld.
Alex Gitterman, Carel B. Germain, and Carolyn Knight
Ecological concepts and principles enable social workers to keep a simultaneous focus on people and their environments and their reciprocal relationships, not only in direct practice with individuals, families and groups, but also in influencing organizations and communities and in policy practice. Ecological concepts emphasize the reciprocity of person:environment exchanges, in which each shapes and influences the other over time. Ecological concepts are reviewed.
Ecological social work requires a shift in thinking for social workers because it does not place humans at the center of its concerns. Rather ecological social work puts the interrelationship between humans and nature at its center. This radically de-centered view of humanity aims to bring consideration of the planet and all of its environmental systems into decision making to ensure the sustainability of natural resources for the long term. Ecological principles can guide social work practice, research, and education in ways that promote a transition to sustainable practices in every sphere of life. Widespread ecological consciousness is advocated as an important focus for change by some social work authors promoting this approach. A global consciousness is understood to enable humanity’s capacity to deal with the growing concerns about the survival of planet earth as a suitable habitat for humans, animals, and plants. Humanity’s activities are understood to contribute to the ongoing degradation of fresh water, fertile soils, and pollution of the atmosphere. Drastic changes in the way humans behave and relate to the earth are considered necessary at the global, national, and local levels. Social workers are thus called on to engage with others in taking on significant roles in many areas of practice to facilitate these crucial societal transformations.
Cheryl A. Hyde
Feminist social work practice is based on principles derived from the political and social analyses of the women's movement. As a practice approach, feminism emphasizes gendered analyses and solutions, democratized structures and processes, diversity and inclusivity, linking personal situations with political solutions, and transformation at all levels of intervention. Feminist practice is in concert with a multisystemic approach; it complements and extends strength-based social work. It requires of the practitioner, regardless of method, to be relational and open to other ways of knowing and understanding.
James I. Martin
This entry explains who gay men are, how gay identity constructions have evolved since their inception, and how they continue to evolve. It also describes the health and mental health problems that gay men may present to social work practitioners. In addition, it identifies several social policies that are relevant to gay men. The entry argues that a systemic perspective that takes into account the social, political, and cultural influences on gay men is necessary for understanding the problems that such men commonly experience.
Robert L. Miller Jr.
This chapter explores salient concepts of social work practice with gay men. These concepts are described within a life cycle context. The illuminated concepts have been identified based on the biopsychosocial and spiritual developments in the social work literature related to this population since the printing of the 19th edition of the Encyclopedia of Social Work.
Manohar Pawar and Marie Weil
This article presents an integrated perspective and framework for global practice towards achieving the Global Agenda. First, it presents the origin and current understanding of the Global Agenda for social work. Second, it illustrates the utility of the term “global practice” as a progressive, comprehensive, and future-oriented term that encompasses social work and social, economic, and sustainable development at multiple levels: local, national, regional, international, multinational, and global. Third, it discusses ways of moving forward on the Global Agenda at multiple levels through an integrated perspectives framework consisting of global, ecological, human rights, and social development perspectives to guide practice. Finally, it concludes that global practice and the Global Agenda need to be translated into local level social work and development practice and local level agendas, making a case for social work and sustainable social development leadership and practice at grassroots and national levels.
Haitians constitute a visible segment of American society, with a population close to 1 million. Many experience a great deal of difficulty adjusting to a different culture and language, as well as to the realities of a new labor market. Consequently, they endure stress and dysfunctionality, and are referred to counseling and social work services. This entry discusses important elements of Haitian culture, such as religion and family structure, that Haitian immigrants bring with them to the United States. It argues that an understanding of how these elements affect Haitian Americans' lives is critical to delivering social work services.
Nancy A. Humphreys and Shannon Lane
Hate crimes and their traumatic repercussions are an important area for social worker intervention. This entry will examine how hate crimes are defined and handled, and the difficulties inherent in categorizing and responding to them. Collection of hate crime statistics and hate crime–related legislation are reviewed. The entry will also examine how social workers can help victims and perpetrators and influence how society conceptualizes and prevents hate crimes and their consequences.
Vivian Jackson and Wendy Jones
The revised NASW Standards and Indicators for Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice (2015) requires social workers to “provide and advocate for effective communication with clients of all cultural groups, including people of limited English proficiency or low literacy skills, people who are blind or have low vision, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and people with disabilities” (p. 43). This article focuses on one component of this standard—literacy, specifically health literacy. It presents a summary overview of health literacy and its implications for social work practice. It also presents the history of the concept and provides various definitions and types of health literacy as described in the literature. The authors describe the association between health literacy levels of the population, the intricacies of health systems, and their impact on health outcomes. The negative impact for marginalized populations including persons with limited English proficiency and immigrants and refugees—a major focus of the social work profession—signals the need for action at multiple levels. The authors explore a multifaceted approach to health literacy at the clinical, organizational, and policy levels with reference to the role of the social work profession.
Michele Rountree and Courtney McElhaney Peebles
Communities of color are disproportionately burdened by the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Research has shown that race and ethnicity in the United States are population characteristics that correlate with other fundamental determinants of health outcomes. This entry will chronicle the history of the epidemic, report the disparate impact of the disease affecting communities of color, and acknowledge the social determinants of health that contribute to the vulnerability of risk. A call to address the imbalance of health inequities, with a complement of individual-level interventions and new approaches that address the interpersonal, network, community, and societal influences of disease transmission, is discussed.
Since the start of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) pandemic, numerous biomedical advances have caused the social-work response to shift from management of a crisis to prevention of an incurable, but treatable chronic disease. About 1.3 million people in the United States and more than 33 million people worldwide are estimated to be living with HIV. Rates of incidence in impoverished, marginalized communities are highest, with the rates continuing to increase among young African American gay and bisexual men. Other communities at high risk are people who are incarcerated, engage in sex work or other kinds of exchange sex, and participate in risky injection-drug use. Minority groups are often impacted because of reduced access to quality medical care and HIV testing. Social workers in HIV prevention work are challenged to educate clients and communities on the sexual risk continuum, provide more interventions that are culturally tailored for disadvantaged at-risk groups, and implement evidence-based HIV prevention and testing programs worldwide. The National HIV/AIDS Strategy now provides structure to funding opportunities for HIV prevention programs, and there is disparate access to effective treatments worldwide for those living with HIV.
Obie Clayton and June Gary Hopps
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) affirms a social worker’s responsibility to social change and social justice on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed peoples (NASW, 2008). Because of this directive around social justice, it is the profession’s responsibility to make connections between individual human rights issues within the broader social, economic, and cultural context that creates conditions where injustice can take place. This article attempts to illustrate how social workers in the twenty-first century must be able to recognize and emphasize human rights in their practice on a local, national, and international level. The article also shows the need for social workers to be the catalyst bringing attention to the need to craft solutions to human rights violations that take into account global human rights standards.
Laina Y. Bay-Cheng
This entry defines sexuality and identifies dominant explanatory models. In doing so, the entry outlines the central debate regarding the relative contributions of biology and social context. In addition, it highlights current key issues in the field of sexuality: the connection between sexuality and social inequality, the growing emphasis on the promotion of sexual health and well-being rather than just the prevention of sexual risk, the salience of sexuality across the life course, and the debate regarding sexuality education policy. Finally, it identifies parallels between these trends and social work, including the relation of sexuality to social work roles and practice.
Uma A. Segal
Individuals and families from around the globe form a continuous stream of immigrants to the United States, with waiting lists for entry stretching to several years. Reasons for this ongoing influx are readily apparent, because the United States is one of the most attractive nations in the world, regardless of its problems. There is much in the United States that native-born Americans take for granted and that is not available in most other countries, and there are several amenities, opportunities, possibilities, lifestyles, and freedoms in the United States (U.S.) that are not found together in any other nation. In theory, and often in reality, the U.S. is a land of freedom, of equality, of opportunity, of a superior quality of life, of easy access to education, and of relatively few human rights violations. This entry will focus on immigration policy through legislative history and its impact, demographic trends, the economic impact, the immigrant workforce, educational and social service systems, ethical issues, and roles for social workers.
This article summarizes the incidence of women in the United States who have been sentenced to prison as a consequence of a felony conviction for violation of state or federal laws. It also describes their characteristics and co-occurring health conditions; issues that contribute to women’s experiences after release from prison, including those that lead to success and failure during re-entry; and gendered practices and policies that provide alternatives to incarceration.
Priscilla A. Day
Indigenous people across the globe are struggling for the cultural survival of their families and communities. This article provides an overview of indigenous people across the world and some of the many challenges they face to keep their cultures alive and strong. Indigenous peoples live throughout the world and share many common characteristics, which are described in detail in the article. Historical and contemporary challenges affecting cultural survival are provided, including accounts of the history of colonization and some of its lasting impacts on indigenous people and their cultures. Bolivia is highlighted as a country that has embraced the “living well” concept. The article closes by encouraging people to learn about and become allies with indigenous people because, ultimately, we are all impacted by the same threats.