James S. Mickelson
Although most policy is created as a series of processes, these processes differ considerably depending on which political actors are engaged. Knowledge of formal political system processes (rules, rule-making, promulgation of rules) and the informal political system processes (relationships, influence, negotiations) are necessary if one is to understand both how political systems work and how to begin to make the necessary changes if a relevant social justice goal is not being met.
Suzanne Pritzker and Shannon Lane
Political social work is social work practice, research, and theory involving explicit attention to power dynamics in policymaking and political mechanisms for eliciting social change. It is an ethical responsibility for social workers. Political social work takes place in a variety of fields and settings and includes influencing candidates and their agendas, working on campaigns, expanding political participation, working in full-time political positions, and holding elected office. Political participation among social workers is higher than in the general public, although much variety exists within groups of social workers, and the activities that social workers engage in tend to be more passive than active. This article discusses the role of social work education in preparing generalist and specialist political social workers, and the presence of both challenges and opportunities for political social work in the context of current practice.
Mark R. Rank
Poverty has been a subject of concern since the beginnings of social work. This entry reviews three key research areas. First, the extent and dynamics of poverty are examined, including the measurement of poverty, patterns of cross-sectional and comparative poverty rates, the longitudinal dynamics of poverty, and poverty as a life-course risk. Second, reasons for poverty are discussed. These are divided into individual versus structural level explanations. The concept of structural vulnerability is offered as a way of bridging key individual and structural determinants in order to better understand the existence of poverty. Third, strategies and solutions to poverty are briefly reviewed.
This entry presents an overview of prison violence and how issues such as overcrowding and scarcity of resources may contribute. Exploring both collective and interpersonal levels of violence, issues such as incidents between inmates and those between inmates and staff are examined. This entry looks at the issues facing males, females, juveniles, and the mentally ill as they contend with correctional institutions and violence within these institutions. The potential effects of violent victimization are also examined, as well as potential interventions and solutions to reduce violence.
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. The economic crisis of 2008 has seen a rise in people suffering, while at the same time those programs that would help ease suffering are being cut back, further perpetuating the myth that austerity is the cure for the disease that it has caused. Meanwhile, the modernist ideals that gave rise to progressivism are being challenged by postmodernist thinkers. Progressive social work has responded to both challenges with innovation and energy, but theoretical and practical conundrums remain.
Susan A. McCarter
Social work and criminal justice have a shared history in the United States dating back to the 19th century when their combined focus was rehabilitation. But with an increase in crime, this focus shifted to punishment and incapacitation, and a schism resulted between social work and criminal justice. Given current mass incarceration and disparities in criminal justice, social work has returned in force to this important practice. The latest Bureau of Justice Statistics research reports that 1% of all adult males living in the United States were serving a prison sentence of a year or longer (Carson & Anderson, 2016) and rates of diversion, arrest, sentencing (including the death penalty), incarceration, etc., vary considerably by race/ethnicity (Nellis, 2016). This entry explores race and ethnicity, current population demographics, and criminal justice statistics/data analysis, plus theories and social work-specific strategies to address racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system.
Marjorie R. Sable and Patricia J. Kelly
Reproductive health includes family planning, prenatal care, and the broader scope of primary care. Because a woman's health status at conception is as important as prenatal care, genetic screening and 20th century medical technology, reproductive health includes “the preconceptual and interconceptual periods and the menopause, and finally, not only reproductive tract problems but the wide range of risk factors that influence a woman's health in general.” Quantitative indicators of reproductive outcomes are useful for summarizing progress in reproductive health. Important indicators are discussed and reveal significant racial disparities.
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.
Social enterprise is a management practice that integrates principles of private enterprise with social sector goals and objectives. Social enterprise is a relatively new type of social work macro practice and includes a variety of sustainable economic activities designed to yield social impact for individuals, families, and communities. Despite the increased popularity of social enterprise scholarship, social work is visibly absent from it. Social enterprise is a field that promises to harness the energy and enthusiasm of commercial entrepreneurship combined with macro practice to address many long-standing social issues. Despite being a popular practice phenomenon, empirical research on social enterprise is still quite nascent, indeed: only a few empirical articles on the subject have thus far appeared in academic journals, and even fewer in social work journals. This article provides an overview of social enterprise, and the potential for synergy between social enterprise, the social work profession, and education.
Karen Lyons and Nathalie Huegler
The term social exclusion achieved widespread use in Europe from the late twentieth century. Its value as a concept that is different from poverty, with universal relevance, has since been debated. It is used in Western literature about international development, and some authors have linked it to the notion of capabilities. However, it is not widely used in the social work vocabulary. Conversely, the notion of social inclusion has gained in usage and application. This links with values that underlie promotion of empowerment and participation, whether of individuals, groups, or communities. Both terms are inextricably linked to the realities of inequalities within and between societies and to the principles of human rights and social justice that feature in the international definition of social work.
Janet L. Finn and Maxine Jacobson
This entry examines the concept of social justice and its significance as a core value of social work. Diverse conceptualizations of social justice and their historical and philosophical underpinnings are examined. The influence of John Rawls' perspectives on social justice is addressed as are alternative conceptualizations, such as the capabilities perspective. The roots of social justice are traced through social work history, from the Settlement House Movement to the Rank and Film Movement, Civil Rights Movement, and contemporary struggles in the context of globalization. Challenges for social justice-oriented practice in the 21st century are address. The discussion concludes with concrete example of ways in which social workers are translating principles of social justice into concrete practices.
Since the 19th century, social movements have provided US social work with its intellectual and theoretical foundations and many of its leaders. Social workers were among the founders of the Progressive movement and have played important roles in the labor, feminist, civil rights, welfare rights, and peace movements for over a century. Since the 1960s, social workers have been active in New Social Movements (NSMs), which have focused on issues of identity, self-esteem, human rights, and the development of oppositional critical consciousness, as well as international movements that have emerged in response to economic globalization, environmental degradation, and major population shifts, including mass immigration. More recently, they have played a supportive role in the transnational Occupy movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, and movements to establish marriage equality, protect immigrants and refugees, promote the rights of transgender persons, and advocate for environmental justice.
John M. Herrick
Social policy is how a society responds to social problems. Any government enactment that affects the well-being of people, including laws, regulations, executive orders, and court decisions, is a social policy. In the United States, with its federal tradition of shared government, social policies are made by governments at many levels—local, state, and national. A broad view of social policy recognizes that corporations and both nonprofit and for-profit social-service agencies also develop policies that affect customers and those they serve and therefore have social implications. Social policies affect society and human behavior, and their importance for social-work practice has long been understood by the social-work profession. Modern social welfare policies, which respond to basic human needs such as health care, housing food, and employment, have evolved since their introduction during the New Deal of the 1930s as responses to the Great Depression. In the aftermath of the recent “Great Recession” that began in 2006, the nation has once again experienced the kinds of social problems that led to the creation of innovative social welfare policies in the 1930s. How policy makers respond to human needs depends on who has the power to make policy and how they conceptualize human needs and the most effective ways to respond to them. In the early 21st century, the idea that the state should guarantee the welfare and well-being of its citizens through progressive welfare state policies and services has few adherents among policy makers. The complex social problems resulting from the recession—the highest unemployment since the Great Depression of the 1930s, escalating budget deficits at all levels of government, an unprecedented housing crisis exemplified by massive foreclosures, increasing social and economic inequality, a nation polarized by corrosive political conflict and incivility—create a context in which social policies are debated vociferously. Social workers, long committed to the ideal of social justice for all, are obligated to understand how policies affect their practice as well as the lives of those they serve and to advocate for policies that will improve social well-being as the United States recovers.
Phyllis J. Day
American social welfare began in the colonial period with the adoption of the Elizabethan Poor Laws as the basis for treatment of society's poor and deviant. By the beginning of the Progressive Era (1900), immigration, the Women's Movement, scientific investigation of social problems, and societal growth produced significant innovations in both public and private perceptions, programs, and treatment in such areas as poor relief, mental and physical health, and corrections, and led to the beginnings of professionalization of social work.
This entry traces American social welfare development from the 1890s to 1950. It also includes social work's participation and response to need during two critical times in American history: the Progressive Era and the New Deal. Social reformers were instrumental in the development of social legislation, including the establishment of the Children's Bureau as well as the development of a public welfare system at the state level. America's response to human suffering left many groups, such American Indians, African Americans, and Asians, marginalized. In response, African Americans established a parallel system of private relief through organizations such as the National Urban League, unlike the other racial groups.
Mark J. Stern
Between 1950 and 1980, the United States developed a welfare state that in many ways was comparable to those of other advanced industrial nations. Building on its New Deal roots, the Social Security system came to provide a “social wage” to older Americans, people with disability, and the dependents of deceased workers. It created a health-care insurance system for the elderly, the disabled, and the poor. Using the tax system in innovative ways, the government encouraged the expansion of pension and health-care protection for a majority of workers and their families. By 1980, some Americans could argue that their identification as a “laggard” in the field of social provision was no longer justified.
Shrivridhi Shukla and Arpita Gupta
India’s rapid economic growth is accompanied by economic inequality, poverty, and a range of social issues, thus, raising important questions concerning the breadth and depth of social protection and promotion policies prevalent in the country. The social welfare system in India is different for the formal and informal sectors of the economy. It consists of two largely parallel systems. With respect to the formal economy or the organized sector, it operates directly through the government, state-owned enterprises, and/ or private corporations that provide reasonably strong social protection to their employees through mandatory legislations spanning aspects such as payment of gratuity, employees’ provident fund, and the employees’ state insurance fund. In contrast, the informal or the unorganized sector is covered through a fragmented system of welfare schemes and benefits provided by the central government and the respective state governments.
Along with tracing the historical evolution of India’s welfare system, this article outlines the constitutional place of welfare in the country. With respect to the informal sector of the economy, it provides an overview of some of the key promotion and protection-orientated welfare policies and schemes, including those that address poverty, unemployment, education, health and food insecurity. Further, it discusses the barriers experienced by people in accessing welfare benefits, such as corruption and bureaucratic hurdles, and challenges faced by the government in welfare provision, such as scale of operation and identification of the target population groups. Finally, it assesses the country’s welfare system in light of the Global Social Protection Floor Initiative of the ILO-UN.
Robin S. Mama
The profession of social work has a long and rich history of participating in and influencing the work of the United Nations and its affiliate agencies, almost since the inception of the institution. This history includes not only the work of social work or social welfare organizations as accredited nongovernmental organizations, but also of individual social workers who were trailblazers in the field of international work. The founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945 played a key role in establishing what has come to be a formal relationship between civil society and the United Nations. Article 71 of the United Nations Charter cemented this relationship by allowing the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to make consultative arrangements with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) (United Nations, 2003). The number of NGOs at the founding conference numbered 1,200; at present there are 3,900 NGOs that have consultative status with ECOSOC (Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2014). Three of the leading social work organizations that have consultative status with the United Nations are: International Association of Schools of Social Work (received consultative status in 1947), International Federation of Social Workers—(received consultative status in 1959), and International Council on Social Welfare (received consultative status in 1972).
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is an immigration classification that provides a pathway to lawful permanent residency for non-citizen immigrant children in the United States who have experienced abuse, neglect, abandonment, or similar basis under state law; who cannot reunify with one or both parents; who are under state court jurisdiction; and for whom it is not in their best interests to be returned to their country of nationality or prior residence. Social workers have played a significant role in the development of SIJS, and they have an ongoing role in the identification and referral of potentially eligible children as well as in the refinement of SIJS policies. Social workers’ roles with SIJS represent the profession’s multifaceted capacity, including support and referral with individual children, advocacy across multiple systems, and policy practice in the creation and continued improvement of this protective status.
Being undocumented does not mean being without ties to one’s host society: undocumented immigrants might work and have family and friends; they might be active in community life, etc. However, due to a lack of formal status, they are vulnerable to detention and deportation. Instead of vilifying migrants for their irregular situation, the article sees immigration controls as a source of unjust policies and practices. Immigrant detention means administrative imprisonment without the normal due process safeguards commonly demanded in liberal democracies. Its consequences are separated families and broken individuals. Social work is seen as a profession developing ethical considerations and arguments to advocate for the right to belong to an organized political community, the right to social security, and the right to personal liberties being applicable to all people, regardless of their immigration status.