Larry E. Davis, John M. Wallace Jr., and Trina R. Williams Shanks
African Americans have been a part of the nation's history for nearly four hundred years. Although their history includes the forced imposition of chattel slavery, the strict enforcement of legal segregation, and a tenuous acceptance as equal citizens, African Americans have been, and continue to be, major contributors, creators, investors, and builders of America. In this article we summarize briefly the history of African Americans, we examine racial disparities in key indicators of social, mental, and physical well-being, and we highlight persistent strengths that can be built upon and areas that provide hope for the future. The challenge for social work is to simultaneously celebrate the historical successes and ongoing contributions of African Americans to this country while also recognizing the vestiges of structural racism and fighting for greater civil rights and social and economic justice.
This article discusses the African American social welfare system that began to develop during the early 20th century. This social welfare system, designed by African Americans to serve African Americans, addressed needs that were not being met by any other formal social services while the nascent social work profession was emerging. The myriad programs included settlement houses, boys and girls programs, training schools, and day nurseries. The women’s club movement played a critical role in the development of this social welfare system and provided much of the impetus for change and inclusion. Through formal organizations, including the National Urban League (NUL) and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), and an array of clubs and social groups, social services were extended to urban and rural communities throughout the United States.
Eric R. Kingson, Dana Bell, and Sarah Shive
This entry examines why our nation’s Social Security system was built, what it does, and what must be done to maintain and improve this foundational system for current and future generations. After a discussion of the social insurance approach to economic security and its underlying principles and values, the evolution of America’s Social Security system is reviewed—beginning with the enactment of the Social Security Act of 1935, through its incremental development, to the changed politics of Social Security since the mid-1990s. Next, program benefits and financing are described and contemporary challenges and related policy options are identified, in terms of both the program’s projected shortfall and the public’s need for expanded retirement, disability, and survivorship protections. The entry concludes by noting that social workers have an important role to play in shaping Social Security’s future.
Michael Sherraden, Lissa Johnson, Margaret M. Clancy, Sondra G. Beverly, Margaret Sherrard Sherraden, Mark Schreiner, William Elliot III, Trina R. Williams Shanks, Deborah Adams, Jami Curley, Jin Huang, Michal Grinstein-Weiss, Yunju Nam, Min Zhan, and Chang-Keun Han
Since 1991, a new policy discussion has arisen in the United States and other countries, focusing on building assets as a complement to traditional social policy based on income. In fact, asset-based policy already existed (and still exists) in the United States, with large public subsidies. But the policy is regressive, benefiting the rich far more than the poor. The goal should be a universal, progressive, and lifelong asset-based policy. One promising pathway may be Child Development Accounts beginning at birth, with greater public deposits for the poorest children. If every child had an account, then eventually this could grow into a universal public policy across the life course.
DeBrenna LaFa Agbényiga
As a profession, social workers must understand and work well within the realms of capacity development. This understanding is important because it provides a foundation for working at the micro and macro levels to engage communities, organizations, systems, and individuals. However, the complexity of capacity development has made it difficult for social workers to fully engage from this stance. This entry discusses the historical development of capacity development and building while linking it to social justice. It also provides a theoretical perspective and methods for understanding and utilizing capacity development and building in social-work practice.
Margaret Sherrard Sherraden and Lisa Reyes Mason
Community economic development (CED) is an integrated and community-driven approach to development aimed at generating wealth, capabilities, and empowerment in low-income and low-wealth communities. Nonprofit organizations partner with public and for-profit interests to develop social and economic investment strategies for community economic renewal and revitalization. Social workers in CED engage in interdisciplinary work in community organizing, leadership development, program development and implementation, social-service management, and policy advocacy. To achieve large and sustainable success, CED requires solidarity with and investment in poor communities by society as a whole.
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.
Melissa Lim Brodowski, Jacqueline Counts, and Aislinn Conrad-Hiebner
This chapter provides an overview of early-childhood home-visiting programs and offers a brief summary of the research, policy, and practice issues. The first section defines home visiting and the funding available to support it. The next section summarizes common characteristics of home-visiting programs and describes the features of several evidence-based home-visiting programs. The outcomes from home visiting for parents and children, including relevant cost-benefit studies, are briefly reviewed. The chapter concludes with implementation issues and future directions for home visiting.
Melinda Lewis and Sondra G. Beverly
The federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit for working families with low and moderate incomes. The credit provides a substantial income supplement to families with children and thus helps families finance basic necessities or invest in longer-term household development. In recent years, political support for the EITC has declined. Social workers should be prepared to advocate against policy changes that would reduce the impact of the EITC. Social workers could also support EITC outreach campaigns and advocate for more and expanded state EITCs.
Economic insecurity and family Well-Being is a growing concern for American society. With the dramatic changes that occurred following the “great recession” of 2008, and the lingering effects since, families have experienced stressors and multiple strains in their adjustment to the impact of the changing fiscal climate and their financial demands. To understand the experience of economic insecurity, an understanding of economic security is helpful in providing a context for how these two dynamics emanate and impact families and their Well-Being. This article provides a glimpse of how the fragility of the economy and the mental tax experienced by the family are inextricably interdependent and connected.
Social work often refers to economic justice but rarely considers what economic justice truly entails. This article specifies a number of areas that comprise economic justice issues and agendas. It also provides examples of how these issues are being advocated and many of the organizations that are involved in these campaigns. In addition, the text discusses the rationale for social work and social workers to be knowledgeable of and involved with economic justice initiatives. Six realms of economic justice are discussed, including inequality, workplace rights, living wage levels and minimum wages, immigrant rights in the workplace, community-labor partnerships, and social programs that support working families and individuals.
Michael Anthony Lewis
This article covers basic economic concepts, as well as their relevance to social welfare policy. It defines economics, and follows this with discussions of microeconomic concepts, such as market, demand, supply, equilibrium price, and market failure. Next, it takes up discussions of macroeconomic concepts, such as gross domestic product, aggregate demand, inflation, unemployment, fiscal policy, taxes, and free trade. As these economic concepts are discussed, they are related to social welfare policies, such as Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Different types of employment and unemployment are defined and the measurement of these concepts is illustrated. Unemployment trends among different groups in the United States are described and competing theories of the causes of unemployment are explained. Finally, policies relating to employment, including those focusing on labor supply, labor demand, and labor regulation, are discussed.
Margaret Sherrard Sherraden
Financial capability combines the ability to act with the opportunity to act in ways that contribute to financial functioning. As large numbers of people struggle to manage their household finances, financial capability has become increasingly important. Improving financial capability requires financial education and guidance as well as improved access across the life span to appropriate and beneficial financial products and services. Examples of policies that promote financial capability across the life span include Children’s Development Accounts and myRAs, long-term investment vehicles that build financial capability. Social work can play a key role in building financial capability through interventions in households, communities, and policies. However, these contributions require practice and research to develop and test interventions. They also require financial education for social workers.
Maryah Stella Fram
This entry provides an overview of current knowledge and thinking about the nature, causes, and consequences of food insecurity as well as information about the major policies and programs aimed at alleviating food insecurity in the United States. Food insecurity is considered at the nexus of person and environment, with discussion focusing on the biological, psychological, social, and economic factors that are interwoven with people’s access to and utilization of food. The diversity of experiences of food insecurity is addressed, with attention to issues of age, gender, culture, and community context. Finally, implications for social work professionals are suggested.
Joyce E. Everett
Social work has long been involved in child foster care. Though its initial involvement de-emphasized the importance of infant–caregiver attachment, Bowlby’s theory of attachment is particularly relevant for child-welfare practice. This entry chronicles the history of child foster care and describes the evolution of legislation most pertinent for the provision of foster care. The characteristics of children in foster care since 2000 and the dynamic flow of children entering and exiting care are described. A brief account of foster care services and future trends in the field are highlighted.
Kirsten A. Grønbjerg
Of the 1.6 million tax-exempt organizations registered with the IRS as of March 2012, about one-fourth are human service nonprofits, including some 254,100 charities with about $134.5 billion in total revenues. In 2011 human-service charities received about $35.4 billion in charitable contributions. This represents 12% of all charitable contributions (Giving USA Foundation, 2012) and is about 15% of the combined revenues reported by the roughly quarter million registered human-service charities. While government funding is a major driving force for human-service nonprofits, philanthropic funding clearly is important as well. Securing such funding requires solid understanding of the fundraising process and dedicated time and effort, however. Moreover, competition for donations (and fundraising expertise) appear to be growing across the board, with donations from individuals, United Way, and corporate contributions most at risk for human-service nonprofits.
Yin-Ling Irene Wong
This entry provides an overview of contemporary homelessness as a major social problem in the United States, focusing on the definition of homelessness and its prevalence, as well as on the composition and characteristics of the homeless population. It then discusses the dynamics and causes of homelessness and examines policy responses toward homelessness since the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987. The entry points to the multifaceted nature of homelessness and highlights promising interventions that have shown to be effective in addressing homelessness among members of special needs populations.
Tracy M. Soska
Housing, especially homeownership and affordable housing, remains essential to the American Dream but also among our most challenging social issues, particularly given the collapse of the housing market in the early 21st century. Housing and affordable housing are inextricably linked to both our national economic crisis and our wavering social policies. Housing is both symptomatic of and a catalyst for overarching social and economic issues, such as poverty, economic and educational inequality, and racial disparities, and it remains an unmet need for a significant portion of our population, such as the elderly, disabled, victims of abuse, those aging out of child welfare, veterans, ex-offenders, and others who encounter unique difficulties and lack of supportive services and service coordination. Advancing comprehensive and coordinated housing policies and programs remains important for social work and in the struggle for decent and affordable housing for all.