John M. Herrick
Social policy is how a society responds to social problems. Any government enactment that affects the well-being of people, including laws, regulations, executive orders, and court decisions, is a social policy. In the United States, with its federal tradition of shared government, social policies are made by governments at many levels—local, state, and national. A broad view of social policy recognizes that corporations and both nonprofit and for-profit social-service agencies also develop policies that affect customers and those they serve and therefore have social implications. Social policies affect society and human behavior, and their importance for social-work practice has long been understood by the social-work profession. Modern social welfare policies, which respond to basic human needs such as health care, housing food, and employment, have evolved since their introduction during the New Deal of the 1930s as responses to the Great Depression. In the aftermath of the recent “Great Recession” that began in 2006, the nation has once again experienced the kinds of social problems that led to the creation of innovative social welfare policies in the 1930s. How policy makers respond to human needs depends on who has the power to make policy and how they conceptualize human needs and the most effective ways to respond to them. In the early 21st century, the idea that the state should guarantee the welfare and well-being of its citizens through progressive welfare state policies and services has few adherents among policy makers. The complex social problems resulting from the recession—the highest unemployment since the Great Depression of the 1930s, escalating budget deficits at all levels of government, an unprecedented housing crisis exemplified by massive foreclosures, increasing social and economic inequality, a nation polarized by corrosive political conflict and incivility—create a context in which social policies are debated vociferously. Social workers, long committed to the ideal of social justice for all, are obligated to understand how policies affect their practice as well as the lives of those they serve and to advocate for policies that will improve social well-being as the United States recovers.
Phyllis J. Day
American social welfare began in the colonial period with the adoption of the Elizabethan Poor Laws as the basis for treatment of society's poor and deviant. By the beginning of the Progressive Era (1900), immigration, the Women's Movement, scientific investigation of social problems, and societal growth produced significant innovations in both public and private perceptions, programs, and treatment in such areas as poor relief, mental and physical health, and corrections, and led to the beginnings of professionalization of social work.
This entry traces American social welfare development from the 1890s to 1950. It also includes social work's participation and response to need during two critical times in American history: the Progressive Era and the New Deal. Social reformers were instrumental in the development of social legislation, including the establishment of the Children's Bureau as well as the development of a public welfare system at the state level. America's response to human suffering left many groups, such American Indians, African Americans, and Asians, marginalized. In response, African Americans established a parallel system of private relief through organizations such as the National Urban League, unlike the other racial groups.
Mark J. Stern
Between 1950 and 1980, the United States developed a welfare state that in many ways was comparable to those of other advanced industrial nations. Building on its New Deal roots, the Social Security system came to provide a “social wage” to older Americans, people with disability, and the dependents of deceased workers. It created a health-care insurance system for the elderly, the disabled, and the poor. Using the tax system in innovative ways, the government encouraged the expansion of pension and health-care protection for a majority of workers and their families. By 1980, some Americans could argue that their identification as a “laggard” in the field of social provision was no longer justified.
Shrivridhi Shukla and Arpita Gupta
India’s rapid economic growth is accompanied by economic inequality, poverty, and a range of social issues, thus, raising important questions concerning the breadth and depth of social protection and promotion policies prevalent in the country. The social welfare system in India is different for the formal and informal sectors of the economy. It consists of two largely parallel systems. With respect to the formal economy or the organized sector, it operates directly through the government, state-owned enterprises, and/ or private corporations that provide reasonably strong social protection to their employees through mandatory legislations spanning aspects such as payment of gratuity, employees’ provident fund, and the employees’ state insurance fund. In contrast, the informal or the unorganized sector is covered through a fragmented system of welfare schemes and benefits provided by the central government and the respective state governments.
Along with tracing the historical evolution of India’s welfare system, this article outlines the constitutional place of welfare in the country. With respect to the informal sector of the economy, it provides an overview of some of the key promotion and protection-orientated welfare policies and schemes, including those that address poverty, unemployment, education, health and food insecurity. Further, it discusses the barriers experienced by people in accessing welfare benefits, such as corruption and bureaucratic hurdles, and challenges faced by the government in welfare provision, such as scale of operation and identification of the target population groups. Finally, it assesses the country’s welfare system in light of the Global Social Protection Floor Initiative of the ILO-UN.
Robin S. Mama
The profession of social work has a long and rich history of participating in and influencing the work of the United Nations and its affiliate agencies, almost since the inception of the institution. This history includes not only the work of social work or social welfare organizations as accredited nongovernmental organizations, but also of individual social workers who were trailblazers in the field of international work. The founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945 played a key role in establishing what has come to be a formal relationship between civil society and the United Nations. Article 71 of the United Nations Charter cemented this relationship by allowing the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to make consultative arrangements with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) (United Nations, 2003). The number of NGOs at the founding conference numbered 1,200; at present there are 3,900 NGOs that have consultative status with ECOSOC (Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2014). Three of the leading social work organizations that have consultative status with the United Nations are: International Association of Schools of Social Work (received consultative status in 1947), International Federation of Social Workers—(received consultative status in 1959), and International Council on Social Welfare (received consultative status in 1972).
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is an immigration classification that provides a pathway to lawful permanent residency for non-citizen immigrant children in the United States who have experienced abuse, neglect, abandonment, or similar basis under state law; who cannot reunify with one or both parents; who are under state court jurisdiction; and for whom it is not in their best interests to be returned to their country of nationality or prior residence. Social workers have played a significant role in the development of SIJS, and they have an ongoing role in the identification and referral of potentially eligible children as well as in the refinement of SIJS policies. Social workers’ roles with SIJS represent the profession’s multifaceted capacity, including support and referral with individual children, advocacy across multiple systems, and policy practice in the creation and continued improvement of this protective status.
The strengths perspective is a paradigmatic shift away from problem-focused approaches to social work practice. The strengths perspective focuses not on the defectiveness of the client system in an attempt to undo these problems but on the inherent strengths, competencies, and resiliency that are the building blocks of a better future. It does not ignore pain and suffering but asks how people make it under such difficult times and builds on those amazing capacities. It assumes the expertise of the client and privileges client knowledge and capabilities. Diversity, self-determination, empowerment, and social justice are inherent in this practice.
Johnny S. Kim
In social work practice, the strengths perspective has emerged as an alternative to the more common pathology-oriented approach to helping clients. Instead of focusing on clients' problems and deficits, the strengths perspective centers on clients' abilities, talents, and resources. The social worker practicing from this approach concentrates wholly on identifying and eliciting the client's strengths and assets in assisting them with their problems and goals (Saleebey, 2006). This entry discusses the historical development of the strengths perspective, practice techniques, current applications, and philosophical distinctiveness.
To help their clients and to further the goal of “challeng[ing] social injustice,” all social work practitioners must be aware of students’ rights. Though school law is largely regulated by states, there are some overarching federal laws and Constitutional provisions that provide rights to all students. This article includes a review of the major federal laws and cases that affect students’ rights.
Pranab Chatterjee, Heehyul Moon, and Derrick Kranke
The term technology transfer was first used widely during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations when the role of the United States in relation to developing countries was being formed. At that time, it meant knowledge transfer from the rich countries to the poor countries. In social work, the idea is important in efforts of community organization, community development, and social development. It is also an important idea in direct practice. Technology in these practice settings means the application of a basic social science toward facilitating one or more given ends that benefit human beings. Technology transfer means the passing on of such applied knowledge from one discipline or specialty to another. The application of technology transfer also requires understanding of the cultural setting where it originates as well as of the setting where it is imported for local use.
S. Megan Berthold
Although state-sponsored torture violates human rights and international law, it is a widespread practice worldwide. The effects are profound and extend beyond the targeted individual. This entry will explore the debate surrounding different definitions of torture and examine who is targeted for torture and why, as well as the wide range of effects of torture on individuals, families, and communities. Factors that contribute to the resilience of torture survivors will be identified. The various roles that social workers can play with this population will be outlined and common assessment and intervention approaches utilized by social workers with torture survivors will be discussed.
M. J. Gilbert
In this entry, transgender is defined in the context of ethnomethodology and social construction of gender. A history of the role of transgender people in the gay, lesbian, and bisexual rights movement is presented, including tensions concerning the role of transgender people in this movement. Issues regarding social work practice related to transgender issues on the micro, mezzo, macro, and meta levels are discussed.
Robert G. Hasson III, Jodi Berger Cardoso, and Thomas M. Crea
Children and adolescents fleeing war, hardship, or natural disasters sometimes migrate to the United States without a parent or caregiver present. These children, classified by the U.S. Government as unaccompanied alien children (UAC), present unique needs based on previous exposure to trauma, including family separation. UAC who are not able to be reunited with family members are typically placed in the federally sponsored Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) foster care program. However, a majority of unaccompanied migrant youth are not served by the URM foster care program. An overview of the defining characteristics of unaccompanied refugee minors and unaccompanied migrant youth (UMY) is given along with the history of legislation and policies related to URM and UMY, the pathways in the U.S. immigration system URM and UMY encounter upon their arrival, mental health, legal, and education implications, and challenges with family reunification. Implications for the social work field are presented.
Being undocumented does not mean being without ties to one’s host society: undocumented immigrants might work and have family and friends; they might be active in community life, etc. However, due to a lack of formal status, they are vulnerable to detention and deportation. Instead of vilifying migrants for their irregular situation, the article sees immigration controls as a source of unjust policies and practices. Immigrant detention means administrative imprisonment without the normal due process safeguards commonly demanded in liberal democracies. Its consequences are separated families and broken individuals. Social work is seen as a profession developing ethical considerations and arguments to advocate for the right to belong to an organized political community, the right to social security, and the right to personal liberties being applicable to all people, regardless of their immigration status.
In response to massive unemployment, in 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt charged members of the Committee on Economic Security to create a “cradle to grave” social-security system. The resultant Social Security Act of 1935 had the Unemployment Insurance (UE) program as its cornerstone. While Congress and the general public were more interested in old-age assistance, members of the Committee on Economic Security and their staff felt the Unemployment Insurance program was the most important element of the entire legislation. The program was designed to address unemployment caused by economic conditions and to regulate industrial employment. The Unemployment Insurance program, a federal–state partnership, has a number of critical coverage criteria. The importance of the Unemployment Insurance program and the complexity of interpreting both federal and state laws cannot be overstated.
Sheara A. Williams
Violence is a serious social issue that affects millions of individuals, families, and communities every year. It transcends across racial, age, gender, and socioeconomic groups, and is considered a significant public health burden in the United States. The purpose of this entry is to provide an overview of violence as a broad yet complicated concept. Definitional issues are discussed. Additional prevalence rates of select types of violence are presented in addition to risk and protective factors associated with violent behavior. The entry concludes with a summary of approaches to address violence in the context of prevention and intervention strategies.
Frances Fox-Piven and Lorraine C. Minnite
Scholars often refer to “American exceptionalism,” meaning that unlike other rich, capitalist democracies, the United States has never had a strong working-class political movement. One form of exceptionalism often overlooked in the academic literature offers two strong explanations for this. Some scholars argue that the voting process has been encumbered by procedures that make actual voting difficult. Other scholars offer an alternative explanation that legal rights or not, the voters must be mobilized by political parties and other activist groups. This entry examines the dynamic interplay of electoral rules and political action to mobilize and demobilize the American electorate since the 1970s.
Welfare as a right has long been an objective of advocates for social and economic justice. During the 1960s, the right to welfare was championed by legal scholars as well as the activists who created the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO). With the demise of NWRO in 1975 and the subsequent ascendance of conservatism in social policy, notably the 1996 welfare reform act, momentum for welfare as a right flagged. Since the 1990s, a capability approach to well-being has been proposed, and various instruments have been constructed to evaluate the welfare of populations across nations as well as subnational jurisdictions. Variables such as income, health, education, employment, and satisfaction measures of well-being have effectively replaced the idea of welfare as a right. The transition from welfare as a right to well-being varying across populations provides more information social workers can use to advocate for marginalized populations.
Women have a lengthy history of fighting their oppression as women and the inequalities associated with this to claim their place on the world stage, in their countries, and within their families. This article focuses on women’s struggles to be recognized as having legitimate concerns about development initiatives at all levels of society and valuable contributions to make to social development. Crucial to their endeavors were: (1) upholding gender equality and insisting that women be included in all deliberations about sustainable development and (2) seeing that their daily life needs, including their human rights, be treated with respect and dignity and their right to and need for education, health, housing, and all other public goods are realized. The role of the United Nations in these endeavors is also considered. Its policies on gender and development, on poverty alleviation strategies—including the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals—are discussed and critiqued. Women’s rights are human rights, but their realization remains a challenge for policymakers and practitioners everywhere. Social workers have a vital role to play in advocating for gender equality and mobilizing women to take action in support of their right to social justice. Our struggle for equality has a long and courageous history.