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Article

Culturally Competent Practice  

Doman Lum

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.

Article

Digital Technology  

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

Direct Social Work Practice  

Joseph Walsh

Direct social work practice is the application of social work theory and/or methods to the resolution and prevention of psychosocial problems experienced by individuals, families, and groups. In this article, direct practice is discussed in the context of social work values, empowerment, diversity, and multiculturalism, as well as with attention to client strengths, spirituality, and risk and resilience influences. The challenges of practice evaluation are also considered.

Article

Disability  

Dawn Apgar

Characteristics associated with contemporary definitions of disabilities have existed in the human population from earliest recorded history. However, societal views on disability and those who have them have varied greatly over time. Disability has been viewed as a blessing from deity or the deities, a punishment for sin, or a medical condition. Social workers have worked with people with disabilities from the inception of the profession and have critical roles in the prevention and treatment of disabilities. Practice is driven by the promotion of the core values of the profession, including the dignity and worth of all people. Social workers recognize that variability in physical and cognitive abilities should not compromise access to opportunities and human rights. Social and political action focused on people with disabilities aim to promote inclusion, foster self-determination, and fight discrimination. Despite increasing services and policies to promote the well-being of people with disabilities, significant income, employment, housing, and quality of life issues still exist for those with disabilities. Macro social work practice is greatly needed to ensure that laws, organizations, and policies do not marginalize or oppress based on varying physical and/or intellectual abilities. Social work’s focus on policy and community development is well suited for reforming existing structures that prevent people with disabilities from achieving full integration within schools, work settings, and community living. Macro social work methods are needed to ensure that quality supports are provided to those with disabilities, to maximize their well-being and participation in all aspects of society.

Article

Disability: Neurocognitive Disabilities  

Lisa S. Patchner and Kevin L. DeWeaver

The multiplicity of disability definitions can be attributed to the heterogeneity of disability, its multifactoral nature, and its effects across the life span. Of particular concern to the social work profession are those persons with neurocognitive disabilities. Neurocognitive disabilities are ones where a problem with the brain or neural pathways causes a condition (or conditions) that impairs learning or mental/physical functioning or both. Some examples are intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and savant syndrome. Neurocognitive disabilities are the most difficult to diagnose often times because of their invisibility. Providing services for people with neurocognitive disabilities is very difficult, and people with these disabilities are among the most vulnerable populations in today's society. This entry discusses neurocognitive disabilities and current and future trends in social work disability practice.

Article

Disability Rights  

Patricia Findley

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.

Article

Disasters  

David F. Gillespie

Disasters are a form of collective stress posing an unavoidable threat to people around the world. Disaster losses result from interactions among the natural, social, and built environments, which are becoming increasingly complex. The risk of disaster and people's susceptibility to damage or harm from disasters is represented with the concept of vulnerability. Data from the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and genocide in Darfur, Sudan, show poor people suffer disproportionately from disasters. Disaster social work intervenes in the social and built environments to reduce vulnerability and prevent or reduce long-term social, health, and mental health problems from disasters.

Article

Discrimination  

Kendra P. DeLoach McCutcheon

Social workers have a responsibility to challenge discrimination and promote social and economic justice. To fulfill this responsibility, it must be understood how discrimination exists and the detrimental affect it has on both the psychosocial functioning and well-being of individuals who are marginalized, disenfranchised, and disempowered (targeted groups) and individuals who have privilege, resources, and power (advantaged groups).

Article

Disparities and Inequalities: An Overview  

Hyejin Jung and King Davis

This entry presents an overview of disparities and inequalities. Disparity is defined as measurable differences between individuals, groups, races, regions, states, or nations. The frequency and severity of disparities distinguish groups by multiple identifiable characteristics. In the United States, minority populations have historically ranked higher in prevalence and incidence than others on most disparity indices. In many nations, at-risk groups are distinguished by historically high rates of disparities. Although the level of adverse conditions has declined in the United States and abroad, troublesome disparities exist in nations torn by war, disagreements, disputes, tribal differences, and dictatorial leaders. The major disparity indices include excess mortality rates from infectious diseases like COVID-19, poor health, poverty, unemployment, limited access to fresh and affordable food, absence of health care, absence of potable water, violence, and substandard housing. It is assumed that populations do not voluntarily choose these disparate conditions or cause them through personal deficits. The historical persistence of disparities and inequalities over decades is indicative of systemic or structural causation. This entry contributes to the historical, theoretical, and evidentiary base of macro social work practices that focus on changes in policies, leadership, planning, resource distribution, agency processes and functions, network development, organizations, lobbying, and communities.

Article

Disproportionality and Disparities  

Rowena Fong, Ruth G. McRoy, and Alan Dettlaff

Racial disproportionality and disparities are problems affecting children and families of color in the child welfare, juvenile justice, education, mental-health, and health-care systems. The term “disproportionality” refers to the ratio between the percentage of persons in a particular racial or ethnic group at a particular decision point or experiencing an event (maltreatment, incarceration, school dropouts) compared to the percentage of the same racial or ethnic group in the overall population. This ratio could suggest underrepresentation, proportional representation, or overrepresentation of a population experiencing a particular phenomenon. The term “disparity” refers to “unequal treatment or outcomes for different groups in the same circumstance or at the same decision point.” A close examination of disproportionality and disparities brings attention to differences in outcomes, often by racial group, and by social service systems. It is necessary to examine the reasons for these differences in outcomes and to be sure that culturally competent practices are upheld.

Article

Dual Degree Programs  

Srinika Jayaratne

Dual degree programs are growing rapidly around the country with increasing numbers of universities offering students an opportunity to earn an M.S.W. along with another degree. While two degrees offer clear benefits to the students and provide revenue to the institutions, they also raise some issues and concerns about the “relative worth” of an M.S.W.

Article

Economic Justice  

Louise Simmons

Social work often refers to economic justice but rarely considers what economic justice truly entails. This article discusses the rationale for social workers to be knowledgeable of and involved with economic justice initiatives. It specifies several areas that comprise an economic justice agenda. Examples of advocacy and organizations which lead the campaigns are discussed. Six realms of economic justice are discussed: Inequality, workplace rights, living wage levels and minimum wages, immigrant rights in the workplace, community–labor partnerships, and social programs that support working families and individuals.

Article

Employment and Unemployment  

Michelle Livermore

Different types of employment and unemployment are defined and the measurement of these concepts is illustrated. Unemployment trends among different groups in the United States are described and competing theories of the causes of unemployment are explained. Finally, policies relating to employment, including those focusing on labor supply, labor demand, and labor regulation, are discussed.

Article

Empowerment Practices  

Debora Ortega and Jessica Rodriguez-JenKins

Empowerment practices are rooted in empowerment theory and fundamentally focus on power as a source of equity and inequity. Based on transformation ideology, empowerment is a counter to perceived and objective powerlessness. Amelioration of client problems contain both personal and structural dimensions and are accomplished through multilevel interventions. In this approach to practice, the professional is not the central power figure who assesses, designs, implements, and intervenes on behalf of the client. Rather, historically marginalized people, families, and communities are considered experts in their experience of problems. Empowerment practices are rooted in an understanding of power (personal, social, and structural), consciousness transformation, interactive systems, importance of relationships, and the long history of societal dehumanization of marginalized communities. In this model, social work research is characterized as a form of practice that is influenced by larger social inequities and can be used to reproduce inequity or create partnerships for change with marginalized communities.

Article

Environmental Justice  

Christina L. Erickson

Environmental justice in social work is the study and practice of assuring all people are protected from environmental burdens and are able to live, work, learn, and play in safe and healthy communities. Reducing the burdens and increasing the benefits of nature and human-made infrastructures are important social work efforts toward environmental justice. Awareness of environmental injustices followed the social movements of Civil Rights, recognition of environmental degradations, and efforts to save large swaths of land and endangered species in the Wilderness Act. Environmental justice is intertwined with social and economic justice, and the pursuit engages social workers in local to international struggles for access to nature’s benefits, and freedom from hazards that are shielded from people who are economically wealthy. Moreover, environmental justice calls wealthy individuals and communities to realign resource consumption to reduce environmental degradation and increase environmental sustainability.

Article

Ethics for Macro Social Work  

Cecilia Aguayo and Magdalena Calderón-Orellana

The concept of ethics in social work is the practical knowledge based on professional experience. To understand ethics in macro social work, first, ethics and morals will be described broadly as well their relevance to social work identity. Then, codes of ethics, standards, and ethics committees are presented as components of integrity systems. In the same way, professional principles and values together with their relation to macro–social work definitions are reviewed. These account for procedures that display autonomy, reciprocity, reflexivity, and conflict acceptance to arrive at prudent and fair decisions. As an applied ethics, social work ethics is concerned with the systematic analysis of ethical issues in practical contexts. In this sense, the work is focused on decision-making in macro social work, bringing out the challenges that professionals face and how they address these challenges. This analysis will be done considering the moral dilemmas that might arise for social workers in practice with/in communities, organizations, and the public policy arena. Finally, to argue decisions and actions in professional practice, some philosophical approaches are presented, which are selected according to their relevance to macro social work. Summarizing, communicative ethics, the ethics of conflict, the ethics of recognition and moral offense, and intercultural ethics are reviewed in order to avoid all kinds of fundamentalism and relativity in professional action.

Article

Family Services  

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

Feminist Macro Social Work Practice  

Cheryl A. Hyde

Feminist macro practice is based on principles derived from the political and social analyses of women’s movements in the United States and abroad. As a practice approach, feminism emphasizes gendered analyses and solutions, democratized structures and processes, diversity and inclusivity, linking personal situations with political solutions, and transformative actions. Feminist practice is in concert with a multisystemic approach; it complements and extends strength-based social work. It requires that the practitioner be relational and open to other ways of knowing and understanding.

Article

Fiscal Policy in the United States  

Karen M. Staller

U.S. fiscal policy is of interest to social workers as it concerns issues including structural racism, economic justice, and income inequality. U.S. fiscal policy refers to the role of the government in taxing and spending, the budget appropriations process, and public budgets (including federal and state revenue and spending). Federal revenue includes payroll and income taxes (personal and corporate). Federal outlays include discretionary and mandatory entitlement spending. There are a number of ongoing contentious debates about U.S. fiscal policy, including those involving the size and function of government, deficit financing and borrowing, inequality, and the redistribution of wealth in tax policies.

Article

Food Insecurity and Nutrition Programs in the United States  

Carrie L. Draper

Food insecurity and hunger continue to persist around the world and in the United States, disproportionately impacting female-headed households of color. Further, those working on the front lines of the food system (e.g., grocery store, restaurant, and farm workers) face gross inequities in accessing food compared to those working in any other industry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers 15 nutrition assistance programs aimed at increasing domestic food security and reducing hunger. In recent years, innovations and expansions within some of these programs have presented new opportunities for ensuring greater and more dignified access to healthy foods for all, yet more than 13% of the households continue to experience food insecurity. Food insecurity is not only an individual or household phenomenon; theoretical frameworks, such as the social-ecological model, demonstrate how social and built environments and policy contexts drive a person's dietary behaviors and, therefore, health outcomes. Measures and tools have been developed to better assess and address food insecurity at these levels, including through the USDA’s Community Food Security Assessment Toolkit and Food Environment Atlas, community food assessment models, the national SNAP-Ed Evaluation Framework and Interpretive Guide, and the values-based Whole Measures framework. These policy, programmatic, and assessment advances coupled with reframing the causes and solutions for addressing food insecurity systemically present opportunities for macro social workers at community, organizational, institutional, and policy levels to help realize the goal of food as a human right.