D. Lynn Jackson
Until the 19th century, abortion law was nonexistent and abortion was not seen as a moral issue. However, by the turn of the 20th century, abortion was legally defined and controlled in most states. The landmark Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade (1973), marked the legalization of abortion but did not end the controversy that existed. Legislation at both the federal and state levels has added restrictions on abortion, making it difficult for women to exercise their reproductive rights. Social work's commitment to promote the human rights of women compels social workers to be aware of and involved in this issue.
Robert L. Schneider, Lori Lester, and Julia Ochieng
Social work advocacy is “the exclusive and mutual representation of a client(s) or a cause in a forum, attempting to systematically influence decision-making in an unjust or unresponsive system(s).” Advocacy was identified as a professional role as far back as 1887, and social workers consider client advocacy an ethical responsibility. Social workers are increasing the use of electronic advocacy to influence client issues and policy development. As client and societal needs evolve, universities should emphasize advocacy in their curricula, and the National Association of Social Workers should promote electoral and legislative initiatives that reflect an emphasis on social and economic injustices.
Steven P. Segal
Social workers are increasingly working in authoritative settings—that is, settings where they have the power to mandate conformity by the client to the normative and often legal requirements of the organization. Such settings may be residential, such as jails, prisons, and rehabilitation facilities, or community-based organizations that are part of the criminal justice system, the mental health system, the health system, and the child welfare system. The exercise of power derived from the authority vested in the setting’s objectives may and often does alter the total life situation of an individual, such as when a client is compelled to move to supervised care without the client’s consent. Under an outpatient civil commitment order or mental health court supervision, the patient may be told where to live and with whom to associate as well as be required to participate in interactive treatment and to take medication. In authoritative settings, social workers are working with “involuntary” clients—clients who understand, whether or not it is explicitly stated, that the social worker possesses the power to effect unwanted change in their life circumstance. Since the early 1990s, the field has been developing new ideas and skills that are equally useful in working with voluntary and involuntary clients. In the process, social worker authority is now viewed less as a way to gain client compliance and, instead, is understood more as an opportunity to build partnerships with clients that lead to changes that are enduring and more meaningful to clients.
Larry W. Foster
Bioethics and biomedical ethics are defined. Common bioethical concepts, exemplary moral values, fundamental ethical principles, general ethical theories, and approaches to moral reasoning are reviewed. The scope of topics and issues, the nature of practice situations in bioethics, and social work roles on organizational bodies that monitor and respond to bioethical issues are summarized, as are trends in bioethics. Practice contexts, from beginning to end of life, are highlighted with biopsychosocial facts, ethical questions and issues, and implications for social work—a profession uniquely positioned in giving bioethics a social context.
William L. Pollard
Civil rights are rooted in the English laws that tried to protect citizens from abuses by the state. As the United States matured as a democracy, so did its citizens. Since World War II, there has been a virtual explosion in the awareness of citizens to the diverse needs and rights of individuals that require protection. Citizen awareness and actions have truly moved the civil rights struggle beyond a focus on color. Greater attention is being paid to fundamental protection and expanded understanding of human rights and responsibilities.
Kristin M. Ferguson
Considerable definitional vagueness exists regarding civil society, in part due to the concept's long history and multiple underlying schools of thought. Issues of multiculturalism and social justice are central to the term. Civil society is also a global concept, referring to the supranational sphere. The social work profession can benefit from collaborative action with local civil society associations in working to dismantle structural inequality and enhance opportunities for disadvantaged populations.
Social work values and ethics provide the foundation for social work practice around the world. Almost all countries where social work is a recognized profession have a Code of Ethics. Although there are many similarities among Codes of Ethics in different countries, cultural and societal differences have influenced their content and focus. The extent to which Codes of Ethics have a direct effect on social work practice has been debated. While Codes of Ethics reflect societal and national differences, what is universal and fundamental to social work practice from a human rights perspective should prevail.
Carolyn I. Polowy, Sherri Morgan, W. Dwight Bailey, and Carol Gorenberg
Confidentiality of client communications is one of the ethical foundations of the social work profession and has become a legal obligation in most states. Many problems arise in the application of the principles of confidentiality and privilege to the professional services provided by social workers. This entry discusses the concepts of client confidentiality and privileged communications and outlines some of the applicable exceptions. While the general concept of confidentiality applies in many interactions between social workers and clients, the application of confidentiality and privilege laws are particularly key to the practice of clinical social workers in various practice settings.
Donald M. Linhorst
Consumers of health and mental health services are afforded numerous legal rights. Broad categories of rights include self-determination, access to health information, protections for mental health consumers who are hospitalized, and a right to community integration. Two areas of consumer rights are emerging: a greater emphasis on human rights, and the right of consumers to participate in developing and implementing programs and services within the organizations from which they receive services. Various means for enforcing rights exist in both the private and the public sectors. Social workers play critical roles in ensuring that consumer rights become a reality.
This article defines cultural competence and culturally competent practice and focuses on cultural awareness, knowledge acquisition, and skill development as key components. It traces the historical development of cultural competence in the disciplines of psychology and social work, pointing out how cultural competence has become a professional standard. Cultural competence has also been recognized on the federal and state health and human services levels. Cultural competence is viewed on the practitioner, agency, and community levels as well as the micro, mezzo, and macro dimensions. Among the implications for practice are the issues of cultural competence and cultural competencies, the ethics of cultural competence, social context, and biculturation and multiculturalization. Cultural competence research is briefly surveyed, as is the relationship between cultural competence and critical race theory.
W. Patrick Sullivan
The psychosocial catastrophe that accompanies serious mental illness negatively impacts individual performance and success in all key life domains. A person-in-environment perspective, and with a traditional and inherent interest in consumer and community strengths, is well positioned to address psychiatric disabilities. This entry describes a select set of habilitation and rehabilitation services that are ideally designed to address the challenges faced by persons with mental illness. In addition, it is argued that emphasis on a recovery model serves as an important framework for developing effective interventions.
The role of disability rights has developed and evolved over the course of the United States’ history. The definition of disability has broadened as well as the pursuit for equal treatment, inclusion, and more accessible environments. Key pieces of legislation such as the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act demonstrate a course of steps toward these more empowering themes of independence for those with disabilities. Disability advocates are strong in their message of “nothing about us, without us.” The disability rights movement helped to propel culture shifts and has promoted inclusion of individuals with disabilities. Despite the intention of disability policy to move the nation to more accessible, inclusive, and less discriminatory environments, more work is still needed to support the rights of those with disabilities.
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.
Ruth J. Parsons and Jean East
The concept of empowerment has deep roots in social work practice. Building upon the work of empowerment theorists of the 1980s and 1990s and applied broadly in the 2000s [Itzhaky and York (2000), Social Work Research, 24, 225–234; Travis and Deepak (2011), Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 20, 203–222], the concept of empowerment has evolved from a philosophical level to practice frameworks and methods. Substantial research confirms empowerment outcomes as personal, interpersonal, and sociopolitical. Practice interventions contain both personal and structural dimensions and are accomplished through multilevel interventions. Based on transformation ideology, empowerment is a counter to perceived and objective powerlessness. Social work relationships provide an opportunity for experiencing power and collaboration. Empowerment interventions are often useful with vulnerable populations, such as women and members of stigmatized groups.
Ellen L. Csikai
As medical technology advances producing the ability to prolong life almost indefinitely, individuals and families are asked to make increasingly complex choices about what treatments best correspond to their conceptions of how they wish to die. These decisions create a need for attention to medical aspects as well as psychosocial consequences. Social workers play pivotal roles in ensuring access to needed information and resources and in safeguarding individuals' rights to self-determination in end-of-life decisions. This entry discusses issues related to advance care planning, the process of end-of-life decision making, and social work roles with individuals, families, and health care providers.
Frederic G. Reamer
Social workers’ understanding of professional values and ethics has matured considerably. During the earliest years of the profession’s history, social workers’ attention was focused primarily on cultivating a set of values upon which the mission of the profession could be based. More recently, social workers have developed comprehensive ethical standards to guide practitioners and decision-making frameworks that are useful when practitioners face difficult ethical dilemmas. Today’s social workers also have a better understanding of the relationship between their ethical decisions and potential malpractice risks.
Jeane W. Anastas
Social work researchers hold themselves to general ethical standards for biomedical and social science research and to the values specific to social work. This article describes (a) the general ethical principles guiding research involving human beings, (b) mechanisms for the ethical review of studies involving human beings, (c) ethical issues in research on vulnerable populations such as children and adolescents, recipients of care, and other socially marginalized groups, and (d) plagiarism, authorship, and conflict of interest. Current topics in the responsible conduct of research include the use of clinical and audio or video data, participatory action research, and Internet-based studies.
S. J. Dodd and Andrea Savage
Evidence-informed practice (EIP) is a model that incorporates best available research evidence; client’s needs, values, and preferences; practitioner wisdom; and theory into the clinical decision-making process filtered through the lens of client, agency, and community culture. The purpose of this article is to define and describe the evidence-informed practice model within social work and to explore the evolution of evidence-informed practice over time. The article distinguishes evidence-informed practice from the more commonly known (and perhaps more popular) evidence-based practice. And, having outlined the essential components of evidence-informed practice, describes the barriers to its effective implementation. Critical contextual factors related to the implementation of evidence-informed practice at the individual level, as well as within social work organizations, are also addressed. Finally, implications both for social work practice and education are explored.
This entry discusses some topics in social work and social welfare history. It covers different approaches to that history, such as an emphasis on social control functions of social welfare; a stress on the “ordinary people” involved in historical events; or particular attention to the stories of women, people of color, and other groups who have often been excluded from formal sources of power. It notes the importance of using original sources in writing history, and explains the various steps involved in researching and interpreting these sources.
Michael A. Dover
Human need and related concepts such as basic needs have long been part of the implicit conceptual foundation for social work theory, practice, and research. However, while the published literature in social work has long stressed social justice, and has incorporated discussion of human rights, human need has long been both a neglected and contested concept. In recent years, the explicit use of human needs theory has begun to have a significant influence on the literature in social work.