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.
Larry E. Davis, Trina R. Williams Shanks, and John M. Wallace Jr.
Since their arrival 400 years ago, African Americans have endured 246 years of chattel slavery and 100 years of apartheid followed by decades of systematic racial discrimination and injustice. Nevertheless, Africans and their descendants have contributed significantly to the building of the United States and have greatly influenced every sector of society. To document this tenuous position, we summarize key demographic, economic, and social trends as well as the potential role of macro social work to improve outcomes. Present-day racism in the United States is persistent and frequently underestimated, so combatting anti-Blackness and White supremacy at structural and societal levels is essential.
Margaret Sherrard Sherraden, Jin Huang, and David Ansong
In a context of financial insecurity and inequality, exacerbated by a global pandemic in which many people are struggling to survive, financial capability has become increasingly important. Financial capability combines the ability to act with the opportunity to act in ways that contribute to financial well-being. Improving financial capability requires improved lifelong access to appropriate and beneficial policies, financial products, and services, along with financial education and guidance. Historically, social work played a key role in building financial capability through interventions in households, organizations, communities, and policies. In the 21st century, despite significant developments, social workers must do more to eliminate systemic and persistent economic, racial, and political barriers to financial well-being.
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.
Yin-Ling Irene Wong and Claudia J. Vogelsang
Homelessness is a major social problem in the United States. The article starts with an overview of homelessness in American history, followed by the definition of contemporary homelessness, its prevalence, and the composition and diverse characteristics of the homeless population. Contrasting perspectives on what causes homelessness are discussed, while the multidimensionality of the homeless experience is explored. The unique experiences of three subpopulations, including homeless persons who are involved in criminal justice, emerging youth leaving foster care, and older homeless persons are further featured. Public and community responses to homelessness are examined, highlighting evidence-based and emerging practices that aim at reducing and preventing homelessness. A discussion of international homelessness follows, as homelessness is recognized as a global issue affecting people living in poverty in both the developed and developing world. The article concludes with discussion of the implications for social work.
Rural social work, the history of which stretches back more than a century, has been revitalized since the mid-1970s. Definitions, typologies, and characteristics of rurality are provided, which serve as a framework for rural practice, policy, and research concerns. A primary focus is on differentiating rural social work from social work in urban areas. Theories relevant to rural practice, issues that disproportionately affect rural people, and considerations for preparation of rural practitioners are shared. Social workers interested in additional information are given basic references, as well as material specific to rural practice and allied professions in rural work.
This article examines the role of social workers in rural and remote areas of Australia. The uniqueness of Australia’s landscape, its vast distances, and sparse population base, create unique issues relating to service delivery in general and social work in particular. High levels of poverty, poorer health, lower socio-economic status, and an aging population base typify Australia’s remote areas. Despite these factors, inland regions of the country are subject to economic rationalist policies that make service access problematic. It is in these regions that rural and remote social workers practice. The article outlines the personal, practical, and professional challenges facing social workers and notes the unique opportunities available to workers who choose to live and work in these regions.