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Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

Patricia Brownell

Older workers make important contributions to the workplace, its productivity, and its culture. Work remains important for older adults for financial security, to give meaning to later life, to maintain social networks, and to promote lifelong learning. However, ageist beliefs about the capacity of older adults to remain productive and contributing workers in the workforce can create barriers for older workers. Understanding how older workers experience ageist behavior in the workplace can help employers, policy makers, and social workers learn more about how to address this social problem. Organizations can become more age friendly through enabling workplace programs, supportive management, and proactive human resource managers. Social workers serving older adults in employee assistance programs and in private practice can help them to challenge ageism in the workplace. Finally, legislation such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects the rights of older workers; however, more legislation is needed to address bullying and harassment of older adults in the workplace.

Article

Jeanette C. Takamura

Public policy advances in the field of aging in the United States have lagged compared to the growth of the older adult population. Policy adjustments have been driven by ideological perspectives and have been largely incremental. In recent years, conservative policy makers have sought through various legislative vehicles to eliminate or curb entitlement programs, proposing private sector solutions and touting the importance of an “ownership society” in which individual citizens assume personal responsibility for their economic and health security. The election of a Democratic majority in the U.S. House and the slim margin of votes held by Democrats in the U.S. Senate may mean a shift in aging policy directions that strengthens Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, if the newly elected members are able to maintain their seats over time. The results of the 2008 presidential election will also determine how the social, economic, and other policy concerns will be addressed as the baby boomers join the ranks of older Americans.

Article

Sarah (Hicks) Kastelic

Alaska Natives represent less than 1% of the U.S. population but reside in more than 229 Native villages and account for 40% of federally recognized tribes. Most Alaska Native communities shared common Euro-American contact experiences: exposure to western religions, education, and disease. Historical trauma contributes to many of the social welfare problems Natives experience today: low educational attainment, unemployment, inadequate health care, substance abuse, and violence. Service delivery mechanisms, lack of cultural appropriateness, and isolation compound these pressing issues. Locally delivered social welfare services that take into account traditional Native worldviews, values, languages, and intergenerational relationships are effective in addressing many of these issues.

Article

Christina Paddock, Debra Waters-Roman, and Jessica Borja

Child welfare services in the United States evolved from voluntary “child saving” efforts in the 19th century into a system of largely government-funded interventions aimed at identifying and protecting children from maltreatment, preserving the integrity of families that come to the attention of child welfare authorities, and finding permanent homes for children who cannot safely remain with their families. Since the 1970s, the federal government has played an increasing role in funding and creating the policy framework for child welfare practice. Today, communities of color receive a disproportionate amount of attention from child welfare services, yet often have access to fewer resources.

Article

Umeka E’Lan Franklin

The history, theory, and empirical and practical knowledge of community building social networks and social ties contribute to informal social control, while neighborhood behavior is key to the development and maintenance of social cohesion. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is considered when examining the relationships among the elements of community resources, civic engagement, and civic participation. Empirical work provides evidence of effective ways to produce and promote community building in poor neighborhoods, as well as the practical knowledge that suggests its importance for the role of social work.

Article

Anne Williford and Marie Villescas Zamzow

This article offers an introduction to macro social work practice interventions. Specifically, it seeks to: (a) identify the difference between direct service (micro) and macro practice; (b) describe historical and contemporary foundations for macro practice; (c) establish a connection between macro practice and core social work values; (d) describe specific examples of macro social work practice using 21st-century social justice issues as exemplars; and (e) identify roles needed for macro social work practice. This article emphasizes the need for macro social work practice to create much needed change in the areas of social, environmental, and economic justice. It will examine the trend in social work that has increasingly placed emphasis and value on micro practice, which has marginalized macro-level social work as a result. Society continues to confront seemingly intractable social justice issues and is, in the early 21st century, experiencing a critical reckoning of how systems of oppression continue to exact violence against vulnerable populations. This article uses examples of social, environmental, and economic justice issues with specific recommendations on how to adopt an anti-oppressive macro practice framework.

Article

Martha A. Sheridan and Barbara J. White

Effective social work practice with deaf and hard-of-hearing people requires a unique, and diverse, collection of knowledge, values, skills, and ethical considerations. Salient issues among this population are language, communication, and educational choices, interpreting, assistive devices, cochlear implants, genetics, culture, and access to community resources. Competencies at micro, mezzo, and macro levels with a deaf or hard-of-hearing population include knowledge of the psychosocial and developmental aspects of hearing loss, fluency in the national sign language, and an understanding of deaf cultural values and norms. In the United States, the use of American Sign Language (ASL) is the single most distinguishing factor that identifies deaf people as a linguistic minority group. This entry presents an overview of the practice competencies and intervention approaches that should be considered in working with deaf and hard-of-hearing people, their families, communities, and organizations. It introduces the knowledge base, diversity in community and cultural orientations, social constructions, and international perspectives, current research and best practices, interdisciplinary connections, trends, challenges, and implications for effective social work practice with this population. An integrative strengths-based transactional paradigm is suggested.

Article

Pamela P. Chiang and Hsiu-Fen Lin

This is an overview of the latest social demographic trends in the United States that are particularly significant for social work macro practice, including population changes, projections, and compositions affected by race and ethnicity, nativity, age, and sex and gender. We examine the history of the census survey, the controversial attempt to reinstate a citizenship question in the 2020 census, and the measurement change of the race/ethnicity question in census surveys across decades. In addition, trends in marital status, family structures, socioeconomic status as well as educational attainment, poverty, and income inequality are discussed. Finally, implications about how demographic data inform and impact social work in education, practice, policy, and research are addressed.

Article

Gina Griffin

As technological advances continue to develop, delivering macro human service through social work innovations becomes a new priority for the discipline. Digital technologies offer potential applications using tablets, smartphones, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and wearable technology to enable whole new possibilities for human services. As a result, policymakers and community organizers alike can access the existing information much faster, and potentially connect with hard-to-reach communities to make meaningful decisions. Incorporating the latest digital trends from business and industry settings to macro social work practice are highlighted. By utilizing digital technology, human service organizations can become more proactive and citizen-centered, potentially transforming personal and economic capacity.

Article

Eloise Rathbone-McCuan

Elder abuse is now recognized internationally as a social problem among the aging population. Intentional abuse, neglect, and exploitation among caregivers to frail and isolated elderly create serious risks across diverse formal and informal care settings. This field has expanded continuously since the early 1970s. Accurate prevalence and incidence rates have not been determined. There is a national system of elder victim protection operating within each state. The social work profession is legally mandated to report situations where an elderly person is suspected to be at risk of abuse. Social workers are involved in all aspects of elder abuse prevention and intervention services.

Article

Katharine Briar-Lawson and Toni Naccarato

This overview of family services addresses some of the demographic trends and diversity in U.S. families. Inclusionary and exclusionary dynamics are cited, including the ways that income and race may insidiously determine discriminatory practices and differential outcomes. An array of family services are presented. They build on the evidence-based reviews related to the Family First Prevention Services Act. Key programs cited are Functional Family Therapy, Multisystemic Therapy, Brief Strategic Family Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Nurse–Family Partnership, Healthy Families America, Parent–Child Interaction Therapy, Parents as Teachers, and Homebuilders and Kinship care. Questions are raised about the need for a family support agenda in the United States that addresses diverse intergenerational families, ensuring their capacity to deliver core services to their members and provide equitable and basic guarantees.

Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

Sandra Wexler and Valire Carr Copeland

Despite technological advances and changes in healthcare delivery, some groups in the United States continue to have better health-related outcomes than others. This article discusses health disparities and inequities—differences in health status and healthcare utilization that are influenced by complex social, structural, economic, and cultural factors. It begins by exploring the “problem” with health disparities—what makes them problematic and for whom they are problematic. Factors contributing to health inequities, commonly referred to as social determinants, are then reviewed. Finally, the article considers early 21st-century policy and programmatic responses as well as future directions, including social workers’ role as macro practitioners.

Article

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.

Article

Macro social work practice with immigrant organizations and communities in the United States requires a basic understanding of the underlying values and history of U.S. immigration laws and policy. U.S. immigration policy frequently reflects multiple and conflicting interests and values in labor needs, global politics, family unification, and national security, and policies often shift in response to political leadership, ideology, and public opinion. Some areas of the history of U.S. immigration laws and various macro social work approaches to U.S. immigration policy include (a) advocacy at local, state, and federal levels; (b) anti-immigrant legislation proposed at the state level; and (c) collaboration between grassroots organizations and local leaders to build policies and practices that support immigrants.

Article

Immigrants from around the globe form a continuous stream to the United States, with waiting lists for entry stretching to several years. Reasons for ongoing arrivals are readily apparent; the United States continues to be one of the most attractive nations in the world, regardless of old and new 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 that do not appear to be found together in any other nation. In theory, and often in reality, the United States 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 policy most relevant to migrants as is evidenced through legislative history and its impact on demographic trends, the economy, the workforce, educational and social service systems, ethical issues, and roles for social workers. “Immigration policy” should be distinguished from “immigrant policy.” The former is a screening tool determining eligibility entry into a country; the latter, on the other hand, provides insight into national policies specifically designed to enable integration (or segregation) of immigrants once they have entered its borders.

Article

Indigenous populations have experienced hundreds of years of historical trauma, systemic racism, and oppression since colonization began in the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand. Settler colonialism has created and continues to perpetuate historical and ongoing trauma and systemic racism in Indigenous populations. Despite considerable diversity and resilience among Indigenous populations globally, there is a clear pattern of significant disparities and disproportionate burden of disease compared to other non-Indigenous populations, including higher rates of poverty, mortality, substance use, mental health and health issues, suicide, and lower life expectancy at birth. Substantial gaps related to access to healthcare and service utilization exist, particularly in low-income Indigenous communities. Implementation and sustainment of White dominant-culture frameworks of care in Indigenous communities perpetuate these systems of oppression. Development and implementation of culturally informed services that address historical trauma and oppression, and systematically integrate concepts of resiliency, empowerment, and self-determination into care, are issues of policy as well as practice in social work. The co-creation and subsequent implementation, monitoring, and sustainment of effective systems of care with Indigenous populations are essential in addressing health disparities and improving outcomes among Indigenous populations globally.