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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Joseph M. Wronka
At the heart of social work, human rights are a set of interdependent guiding principles having implications for meta-macro (global), macro (whole population), mezzo (at risk), micro (clinical), meta-micro (everyday life), and research interventions to eradicate social malaises and promote well-being. They can be best understood vis-à-vis the UN Human Rights Triptych. This consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, increasingly referred to as customary international law on the center panel; the guiding principles, declarations, and conventions following it, on the right panel—like the conventions on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); and implementation mechanisms, on the left panel—like the filing of country reports on compliance to conventions, the Universal Periodic Review, thematic and country reports by special rapporteurs, and world conferences. Briefly, this powerful idea, which emerged from the ashes of World War II, emphasizes five crucial notions: human dignity; non-discrimination; civil and political rights; economic, social, and cultural rights; and solidarity rights. Whereas this article emphasizes issues pertaining to the United States, it touches upon other countries as appropriate, calling for a global vision in the hopes that every person, everywhere, will have their human rights realized. Only chosen values endure. The challenge, through open discussion and debate, is the creation of a human rights culture, which is a lived awareness of these principles in one's mind, heart, and body, integrated dragged into our everyday lives. Doing so will require vision, courage, hope, humility, and everlasting love, as the indigenous spiritual leader Crazy Horse reminds us.
Martha S. Bragin
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) is the arm of the international community that provides guidelines for practice in humanitarian emergencies and coordinates among the three parts of the humanitarian system: the United Nations and its agencies; the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee for the Red Cross; and the consortia of International non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This article describes the IASC Guidelines for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings, their role and history, and the role of social work in their development. The article notes the concurrence of various aspects of the Guidelines with social work practice, and provides case examples of social work interventions in the context of the Guidelines. Practical tools that social workers can use when confronting emergencies at home or abroad are included in the reference list.
Charles D. Cowger
This entry discusses the relationship of war and peace to social work practice. The historic and current mandate for social workers to work for peace is presented. The inevitable tie of war to everyday social work practice is described, and the relationship between social justice and peace is illustrated.
Political ideologies shape public policy debates as well as the social policy strategies developed to address social problems. The clashes among these long-standing political traditions—conservatism, liberalism, radicalism—reflect fundamental and often irreconcilable differences regarding social, economic, and political life. Ideology also shapes theories of racial and gender inequality. These ideological perspectives and theories are compared for their views on several core issues that underpin social welfare provision, including human nature, need, the general welfare, social problems, and the role of government. The resulting distinctions provide social workers with a framework to more effectively assess contemporary social welfare policies.
Since the Progressive Era, social workers have played important roles in political struggles for social justice. They have criticized, designed, and implemented an array of social policies and have increasingly campaigned for and held political office. Even so, there has been considerable ambivalence within the profession about the extent to which social workers should engage in political action. A major challenge facing the profession during this century will be to ensure that social work students and practitioners understand the impact of political processes on their own and their clients' lives and develop the skills to identify which forms of political intervention are effective for different goals and contexts.
Rosemary Barbera, Mary Bricker-Jenkins, and Barbara Hunter-Randall Joseph
Since the beginning of the profession, progressive social work has been characterized by a lived commitment to practice dedicated to advancing human rights and social and economic justice. Since the mid-1980s, the rise of global capitalism has vitiated support for robust social welfare programs and has had a conservatizing effect on the profession, rendering the progressive agenda both more urgent and more difficult. Since the economic crisis of 2008, with a rise in people suffering, while at the same time those programs that would help ease that suffering have been cut back, further perpetuating the myth that austerity is the cure for the disease that it has caused. Progressive social work has responded to both challenges with innovation and energy, but theoretical and practical conundrums remain. This article is offered as an effort to discuss and define progressive social work and its connection to social work values with the hope of contributing to advancing social work practice that addresses social injustices and human rights violations.
Selena T. Rodgers
Racism is pervasive, endemic, and historically rooted in systematic assumptions inherent in superiority based on race and requires the critical attention of all social workers. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has made strides in tackling racism as demonstrated by the social worker and civil rights activist Whitney Young Jr. (1921–1971), other pioneers, and more recently, the NASW zero-tolerance racism policy. Undergirded in empirical discussion, this article leads with the etymology of race(ism), followed by a discussion of Racial Formation Theory and Critical Race Theory. The article gives a historical sketch of racism, followed by examples of its contemporary indicators—throughout social institutions—in the United States. Racism is pervasive and impinges on micro-level and macro-level systems. It is, therefore, beyond the scope of this article to address how racism impacts each group in America. Social work scholars and other experts have provided extensive empirical documentation about the historical trauma and sufferings of other racial groups (e.g., Native Americans/Native peoples/American Indians, Mexican Americans) discussed elsewhere. Specifically, the racism endured by blacks in America is the emphasis of this article. Themes of “colorism” and historical trauma are provided to contextualize advances in national reform and encourage a broader conversation about the racism that blacks experience globally. In addition, this article highlights strides by the social work profession to eradicate racism. Implications for social work are discussed.
Katherine van Wormer
This article defines restorative justice and describes the models most relevant to social work. These include victim–offender conferencing (sometimes incorrectly referred to as mediation), family group conferencing, healing circles, and community reparations.
Restorative justice is an umbrella term for a victim-oriented method of righting a wrong, promoting healing following a conflict, including war, and/or providing a safety in the aftermath of violence (for example, child abuse). Such restorative strategies have their roots in the rituals of indigenous populations and modern-day religious practices, as stated by restorative justice pioneer, Howard Zehr. Restorative justice, as defined by the Social Work Dictionary is “a non-adversarial approach usually monitored by a trained professional who seeks to offer justice to the individual victim, the offender, and the community, all of whom have been harmed by a crime or other form of wrongdoing.” This emerging model for resolving conflict and/or righting a wrong focuses on repairing the harm done by an offense by involving the victim, the offender, and the community.
This article identifies resources on restorative justice theories and strategies with special relevance to social workers and to mental health professionals, as well as school and correctional counselors. At the micro level, restorative justice is played out as conferencing between victims and offenders—for example, by way of family group conferences and healing circles. At the macro or societal level, restorative justice takes the form of reparations or truth commissions—to compensate for the harm that has been done, for example, when mass persecutions of people have taken place. The magnitude of the situations covered under the rubric of restorative justice ranges from interpersonal violence to school bullying to mass kidnappings to full-scale terrorism and warfare.
Restorative justice refers not only to a number of strategies for resolving conflicts peacefully but also to a political campaign of sorts to advocate for the rights of victims and for compassionate treatment of offenders. Instead of incarceration, for example, the option of community service coupled with substance abuse treatment might be favored. From the offender’s standpoint, accountability and truth-telling are stressed, as the offender typically offers to make amends for the harm that was done. From the victim’s standpoint, a key theme is empowerment, through receiving an apology from the wrongdoer and receiving the support of caring participants.
The past few years have seen a surge in effort to incorporate rights-based approaches in programming. The rise has been spearheaded by growing awareness that human rights may be the most effective way to reduce or eradicate poverty and injustice while advancing human dignity and welfare. The profession of social work has played a major role in issues of welfare and human rights. In fact, at the core of social work is the “intrinsic” value of every person and the mandate to promote social justice while upholding human dignity. Also reflected in the profession’s code of ethics are the profession’s ethical responsibilities to the broader society (NASW, 1999). This entry reviews the basic underpinnings of the rights-based discourse as it relates to programming and assessment. An historical overview is presented. Approaches to rights-based programming along with tools supporting the approach are highlighted. Areas of intersection between social work and rights-based programming are also identified.
William J. Hall
Sexual orientation is a multidimensional phenomenon involving a person’s sexual attraction, sexual behavior, and sexual orientation identity. Sexual orientation patterns may remain consistent or fluctuate over time. Although heterosexual attractions, behaviors, and identities appear to be the dominant manifestations of sexual orientation, other sexual expressions exist. The causes of sexual orientation are still not completely understood; however, evidence suggests that biological factors play a strong role. Sexual development is an important part of human development, and there are parallel and differing developmental tasks and trajectories for those who are heterosexual and those who are queer. Non-heterosexual sexualities are often stigmatized, which contributes to homophobia and heterosexism. There is a continuing history in the mental health professions of efforts to change the sexual orientation of people who are queer, despite evidence of harm and ethical mandates. Researchers and service providers should assess sexual orientation because it is one of many important characteristics in the lives of individuals.