As awareness has grown about the damage being done to the natural environment, limits of the earth’s finite resources, and the realities of climate change, environmental advocates have demanded sustainable development practices so that future generations will be able to meet their needs. Meanwhile, the widespread exploitation of workers in the industrial sector triggered the labor movement’s fight for social-economic justice. This focus on socio-economic justice that characterizes the labor movements is enlarged in the “sustainable development” framework which articulates triple bottom line practices that emphasize the interconnectedness of people, planet, and profit. The social work profession has joined these efforts, expanding its notion of the person-in-environment as it advocates for the needs of individuals, families, organizations, and communities. However, some scholars have problematized “sustainability,” questioning what exactly is being sustained, how sustainability is measured/evaluated, and who benefits.
Juliana Svistova, Loretta Pyles, and Arielle Dylan
Martell Teasley and Bonita Homer
Despite years of education reform, the United States continues to have disparities in academic outcomes among racial and ethnic groups in primary, secondary, and post-secondary education. High school graduation rates have increased for racial and ethnic minorities, but gross disparities in high school graduation and college attendance still exist. In this article, the authors first examine the literature on racial and ethnic group disparities in education within public K–12 education, followed by a brief review of recent research literature on racial and ethnic disparities within higher education. In each section, there is some examination of race, ethnicity, and critical factors that lead to disparities within the education system. Information on socioeconomic status, school readiness, special education, school discipline, culture, and teacher bias are discussed. The authors conclude that while family income and socioeconomic status help to explain disparities in education outcomes among racial and ethnic groups, cultural factors are a salient part of the conversation.
Monica Nandan and Gokul Mandayam
Social workers possess several skills, values, and perspectives that enable them to practice as social innovators, intrapreneurs, and entrepreneurs. Given the complex, dynamic, and challenging contexts for social work practice, these strategies become essential for social workers to continue creating social value and good. The article defines these strategies, describes the rationale for social workers to practice in a socially innovative, intrapreneurial, or entrepreneurial fashion, draws parallels between these strategies and social work practice, and builds a case for the social work curriculum to include contents related to these strategies to assist graduates in creating and sustaining change.
Peter C. Treitler and Beth Angell
Each year in the United States, more than 600,000 individuals transition from prisons back to the community upon release. This transition process, referred to as prisoner re-entry, is often fraught with challenges as individuals who in many cases already faced barriers to opportunity prior to incarceration are further marginalized because of the collateral consequences of incarceration. Common challenges experienced by released prisoners include difficulty securing stable housing and employment, limited social support, mental and physical health problems, barriers to social and political participation, and the stigma of a criminal record. Not surprising given the barriers to successful reintegration, recidivism rates are high, and more than half of released prisoners are re-incarcerated within five years. Although punitive approaches were dominant in the United States criminal justice system from the 1970s through the early 2000s, there has been a move toward a more rehabilitative approach since that time, resulting in policy changes that reduce incarceration and support reentry, and expansion of services for prisoners before and after release. Although relatively few social workers are employed in criminal justice settings, the ripple effects of incarceration on social and health outcomes imply that social workers employed in a wide variety of settings can expect to regularly encounter individuals who are at various points in the re-entry process, or families and significant others who are affected secondarily. Social workers will be better prepared to assist formerly incarcerated individuals with an awareness of the issues faced by this population, and the unique barriers they experience in accessing housing, employment, and other resources. This article therefore aims to provide an overview of prisoner re-entry, with a focus on matters relevant to social work researchers and practitioners. As a boundary-spanning profession, social work is ideally positioned to propel forward approaches that prioritize promoting social capital, strengthening communities that receive former prisoners, and adopting a strengths-based lens to rehabilitation and promoting desistance from crime.
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.
Vincent A. Fusaro
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federal block grant program with a state contribution requirement that supports the provision of state aid to low-income families with children in the United States, including but not limited to cash assistance. Created by the 1996 welfare reform law, which ended entitlement to cash benefits under TANF’s predecessor Aid to Families with Dependent Children, TANF cash aid includes time limits and work requirements. States are also free to set their own program rules and may use funds for purposes other than direct poverty relief and services for cash assistance clients. Consequently, TANF varies widely across states in generosity of benefits, behavioral rules to which clients must adhere, and in the uses of program resources, with only about one-quarter of all state and federal TANF funds used for traditional cash assistance. Other priorities funded under TANF include work supports and child care, programming to promote two-parent families, refundable tax credits, and support of state child welfare systems. The end of entitlement to cash assistance under TANF was associated with a sharp decline in welfare caseloads and increases in employment in single-mother families nationwide. The initial implementation of TANF also coincided with a boom economy in the mid- to late-1990s and was immediately preceded by a large expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-wage workers. Studies disagree on the relative role each of these factors played in both caseload and employment trends, and women who moved off of welfare and into the labor force are often in unstable, low-paying jobs. The defining characteristic of cash-assistance receiving families is deep economic deprivation, and benefits do not bring a household above official income poverty in any state. In most states, they do not even bring a family to 50% of poverty. Cash assistance under TANF nonetheless remains an important backstop for families in extremely difficult circumstances.
Maria Rodriguez and Jama Shelton
Social media are defined as applications and websites that allow users to share content, usually of their own making. Social media users include individuals and organizations across a broad range of social strata. Key social work organizations, such as the National Association of Social Workers and the Association of Social Work Boards, have begun noting the proliferation of social media usage in education and practice and have begun developing guidelines to govern their use. The American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, in their Grand Challenges of Social Work initiative, highlighted social media as an important area of growth for research and education. Despite the field’s nascent enthusiasm, practical and ethical concerns persist. This article defines social media; discusses its usage in social work practice, research, and education; and discusses the ethical and practical considerations in each domain.
Julie Birkenmaier, Mathieu Despard, Terri Friedline, and Jin Huang
Financial inclusion, the goal of financial access, broadly refers to the ability of all people in a society to access and be empowered to use safe, affordable, relevant, and convenient financial products and services for achieving their goals. Financial inclusion promotes household and societal financial well-being and requires access to an array of financial products and services such as savings accounts, credit cards, mortgage and small business loans, and small-dollar consumer loans. Despite the advantages, too many individuals and households lack financial inclusion and access by being unbanked, underbanked, and/or they are forced to use alternative financial services. Achieving financial inclusion will require participation from many different types of formal financial institutional actors, such as banks, credit unions, community development financial institutions, and national credit bureaus. Social work assists to build financial inclusion and access through practice innovations, research, and policy advocacy.
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.
Michael Sherraden, Li-Chen Cheng, Fred M. Ssewamala, Youngmi Kim, Vernon Loke, Li Zou, Gina Chowa, David Ansong, Lissa Johnson, YungSoo Lee, Michal Grinstein-Weiss, Margaret M. Clancy, Jin Huang, Sondra G. Beverly, Yunju Nam, and Chang-Keun Han
Child Development Accounts (CDAs) are subsidized savings or investment accounts to help people accumulate assets for developmental purposes and life course needs. They are envisioned as universal (everyone participates), progressive (greater subsidies for the poor), and potentially lifelong national policy. These features distinguish CDAs from most existing asset-building policies and programs around the world, which are typically regressive, giving greater benefits to the well-off. With policy innovation in recent years, several countries now have national CDA policies, and four states in the United States have statewide programs. Some of these are designed to be universal and progressive. Evidence indicates that true universality can be achieved, but only with automatic account opening and automatic deposits. In the absence of automatic features, advantaged families participate and benefit more. Today, momentum for universal and automatic features is gradually gaining traction and accelerating. At this stage in the emergence of inclusive asset-based policy, this is the most important development.