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Article

Legal System  

Robert G. Madden

The law is a powerful force in all aspects of contemporary U.S. society. The legal system furnishes the context and procedures for the creation and enforcement of laws to resolve disputes, to protect rights, and generally to maintain order. Social workers are expected to understand the basic workings of the legal system generally, in addition to having knowledge of specific laws relevant to their area of practice. Knowledge of the legal system provides the foundation to support social workers to undertake social justice initiatives, to give voice to vulnerable client populations, and to work for legal rules that support good social work practice and positive outcomes for the clients and communities served.

Article

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Families and Parenting  

Gerald P. Mallon

According to U.S. census data, an estimated 270,313 American children were living in households headed by same-sex couples in 2005, and nearly twice that number had a single lesbian or gay parent. Since the 1990s, a quiet revolution has been blooming in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. More and more lesbians and gay men from all walks of life are becoming parents. LGBT people become parents for some of the same reasons that heterosexual people do. Some pursue parenting as single people and others seek to create a family as a couple; still other LGBT people became parents in a heterosexual relationship. Although there are many common themes between LGBT parenting and heterosexual parenting, there are also some unique features. Unlike their heterosexual counterparts, who couple, get pregnant, and give birth, most LGBT individuals and couples who wish to parent must consider many other variables in deciding whether to become parents because the birth option is not the only option.

Article

Lesbians: Overview  

Lori Messinger and Jennifer Wheeler Brooks

This entry provides an overview of research on lesbians in the United States using an overarching framework of oppression and empowerment. Historical and current demographic and cultural information about lesbians will be reported, along with an analysis of personal and environmental factors critical to social work practitioners' ability to enhance the well-being of lesbian individuals, couples, and families.

Article

Lesbians: Practice Interventions  

Deana F. Morrow

This entry will provide an overview of psychosocial issues and social work intervention relevant to working with lesbians. Practice issues related to the impact of heterosexism, coming out, lesbian identity development, and lesbian couple and family formation will be discussed. Assessment and intervention methods appropriate for social work practice with lesbians will be addressed.

Article

Liberation-Based Practice  

Rhea Almeida, Diana Melendez, and José Miguel Paez

The process of decolonizing is a precursor to liberatory transformation and the foundation for the creation of liberation-based practices. Decolonizing strategies call for changing the lens and the language and debunking the myth of healing through diagnostic codes; and the rigid compartmentalization of mind-body of individuals, and of individuals with regard to their families, their context, and their healing spaces Decolonizing strategies encompass the multiplicity of personal and public institutional locations that frame identities within historic, colonial, economic, and political life. People in various global localities are unwittingly situated within a range of broad and nuanced descriptors, such as indigenous hosts, nationality, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or religious preference or a combination of these. These personal economic, social, and political intersections are largely unacknowledged by early-21st-century Western models of psychological practice in social work and allied disciplines. Postmodernism and poststructuralism as epistemological frameworks still reproduce a particular form of coloniality. Alternatively, liberation-based practice locates the complexities of these frameworks within a societal matrix that shapes relationships in the context of power, privilege, and oppression. Accompanied by tools for identifying and decolonizing lived experiences within culture circles, liberation-based practice builds on the foundations of critical consciousness, empowerment, and accountability.

Article

Locating School Social Work in the Reconstruction Period  

Samantha Guz

The origin of school social work in the United States is frequently traced back to the early 20th century’s visiting teachers movement. To expand on previous scholarship, school social work can be situated in the 19th century by focusing on the organizing impact of Black communities on public education during Reconstruction. First, history provides context for public education during chattel slavery and for the formation of racialized politics in education. This historical context primarily focuses on how access to education was used as a tool to stratify citizenship in the South. Next, the work of Southern Black communities, the Freedmen’s Bureau, and Northern abolition organizations advanced efforts during Reconstruction, specifically the coalition-building to establish Freedmen’s Schools and the advocacy to make education a publicly funded institution. Thus, coalition-building and policy advocacy within school social work’s practice history have the potential to impact contemporary school social work practice.

Article

Macro Social Work Practice  

F. Ellen Netting, M. Lori Thomas, and Jan Ivery

Macro social work practice includes those activities performed in organizational, community, and policy arenas. Macro practice has a diverse history that reveals conflicting ideologies and draws from interdisciplinary perspectives within the United States and around the world. Much has been written about how to balance macro and micro roles and how social work education can inform this balance. Organization and community theories, as well as theories of power, politics, and change inform macro practice. Macro practice models and methods include organization and community practice; community organizing, development, and planning; and policy practice, all of which underscore the social work profession’s emphasis on using a person-in-environment perspective. Underlying issues and future opportunities for macro practitioners include, but are not limited to, addressing equity, inclusion, and human rights; leading sustainability and environmental justice efforts; recognizing the importance of data, evidence, and accountability; and keeping up-to-date on technology and innovation.

Article

Marriage and Domestic Partnership  

Elaine M. Maccio

This entry briefly covers the history, demographics, research, clinical practice, diversity, debates, and trends surrounding marriage and domestic partnership in the United States. Who marries and why, when, and at what rate people marry is covered, as are some of the statistics behind alternatives to marriage, such as cohabitation, domestic partnership, and civil unions. It is beyond the scope of this entry to discuss in detail relationship dissolution and divorce, although information is provided insomuch as it relates to marriage and domestic partnership. The ability to form close relationships with others is a crucial component of life span development. In fact, an inability to do so may be considered partial criteria for some types of mental disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Psychologist Erik Erikson (1980) theorized that young adults must master intimacy over isolation if they are to move successfully through his proposed stages of psychosocial development. Apart from these theoretical obligations, much of global society sanctions the forming of close relationships that it deems appropriate. Proms, engagements, weddings, and anniversary celebrations serve to socially reinforce (usually heterosexual) couplings and the norms surrounding acceptable relationships. Marriage is the legal, and most often consensual, partnering of two persons of either sex. Domestic partnership can refer to any unrelated persons 18 years of age or older living together for a minimum specified period of time (for example, one year) and in a financially interdependent relationship. Both unmarried heterosexual couples and same-sex couples can apply for domestic partner status in those jurisdictions, companies, and institutions that recognize it. However, such distinction still falls short of the 1,138 federal benefits and protections afforded to legally married couples (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1997, 2004). For example, access to a partner's Social Security benefits, Medicaid and Medicare benefits, and veterans' pensions, and the exemption from gift and estate tax liabilities, are just a few of the laws mentioned in the U.S. Code that are affected by marital status. Only marriage offers couples such entitlements; civil unions, a proposed substitute for same-sex marriage and available in only a handful of states, afford no federal benefits and protections.

Article

Marriage and Healthy Relationship Intervention  

Colita Nichols Fairfax

Marriage remains a central institution among all races and ethnic groups. Legalized marriages have become an important aspect of family life among LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning, or intersex, asexual or allied) community. Given the cultural significance that marriages underscore in all communities, applied social scientists should have access to the most appropriate and affirming interventions. By having knowledge about and access to a wealth of marital interventions, social workers, family therapists, community developers, counselors will be empowered to attend to the needs of couples who desire to experience purposeful marriages. This in turn will strengthen family and community life for all who value intimacy. This article explores a brief history of marriage in America, specifics with regards to cultural groups, and a variety of interventions that may be reproduced in best practice approaches from a conflict theory lens.

Article

Men: Practice Interventions  

Robert Blundo

A consistent theme for the majority of men in the United States remains the code of manhood. Men are expected by society to be stoic in the face of danger and to play out, in all aspects of life, the idea of the rugged individual going it alone, even in the face of a quickly changing world. Whereas social-work theorists and practitioners talk about male aggression, sexuality, intimacy, depression, anxiety, addiction, ageing, and work-related concerns, most men are less likely to view these as problems. If they do enter into counseling or treatment, they are less likely to remain for any length of time. Faced with these issues, practitioners are challenged to find ways of engaging men and forming successful collaboration and meaningful outcomes.

Article

Migrant Workers  

Richard Wolff and Karen Dodge

This entry discusses migrant workers in the United States and the unique circumstances and conditions they face. Included in the discussion are social problems faced by migrants with respect to health, housing, working conditions, child labor, and education. Policy issues are addressed, including relevant national, international, and corporate laws. Migrant patterns, demographics, and definitions are presented. Finally, social work programs, responses, and interventions are identified.

Article

Neoliberalism  

Jessica Toft

Neoliberalism is an international, transdisciplinary, and interdisciplinary concept with political, economic, and social dimensions. Neoliberalism is a governing rationality based on market logic that protects free markets by reducing business regulations, restricting citizen and resident welfare state protections, and increasing welfare state discipline. This entails three dimensions: First, neoliberalism consists of economic governing principles to benefit free markets both globally and domestically to the advantage of corporations and economic elites. Second, this includes concurrent state governing principles to limit welfare state protections and impose disciplinary governance so service users will be individually responsible and take up precarious work. A third component is neoliberal governmentality—the ways neoliberalism shapes society’s members through the state to govern themselves as compliant market actors. Neoliberalism is at its core a political reasoning, organizing society around principles of market rationality, from governance structure to social institutions to individual behavior in which individuals should behave as responsible and accountable market actors. Among its central tenets are that individuals should behave as independent responsible market actors; the social welfare state should be downsized and delegated to lower levels of government; and public welfare should be privatized, marketized, and commodified. While neoliberal policy design sets public provision parameters, its signature tool is to govern through state public administration. New public managerialism is a common example, as is managerialism more generally; they both borrow business management principles and apply them to the management of all aspects of social services. Because of its prescriptive nature, there is concern that neoliberalism dictates practice, threatening professional authority of social workers and challenging the implicit trust the public puts in professions. Writ large, there are concerns about democracy itself as neoliberalism works against the will of the people and collective responses to social problems. Resistance to neoliberalism is growing and early examples are provided.

Article

The Opioid Crisis  

M. Aryana Bryan, Valerie Hruschak, Cory Dennis, Daniel Rosen, and Gerald Cochran

Opioid-related deaths by overdoses quadrupled in the United States from the years 1999 to 2015. This rise in mortality predominately occurred in the wake of historic changes in pain management practices and aggressive marketing of opioid medications such as oxycontin. Prescription opioid misuse and subsequent addiction spilled over to heroin and fentanyl for many. This drug epidemic differed from others in its impact among non-Hispanic whites, leading to drastic changes in how the United States views addiction and chooses to respond. This article offers an overview of opioid use disorder (OUD), its treatment and its relationship with pain. It also discusses special populations affected and provides insight into future directions for research and social work practice surrounding opioid management in the United States. Because of the profession’s emphasis on the person and social environment as well as its focus on vulnerable and oppressed populations, social work plays a critical role in addressing the crisis.

Article

Oppression  

Betty Garcia, Dorothy Van Soest, and Dheeshana Jayasundara

A firm grasp of the nature of oppression, with its dynamics of power and systemic character, is required so that social workers can avoid unintended collusion with pervasive oppressive systems in order to be successful in promoting social and economic justice. Recognizing that macrolevel forces have microlevel implications and addressing those in the social work relationship comprise an essential part of social work practice. A key aspect of this learning is recognition of the institutionalization of privilege and oppression, which results in exclusionary and marginalizing interactions and practices being viewed as normative. Oppression is a model that provides a unique lens that links what could be taken as solely personal as, instead, “shared problems requiring social solutions.” The following discusses the concept of oppression, its dynamics and common elements, and anti-oppression practice that can expose and dismantle oppressive relationships and systemic power arrangements.

Article

Peace  

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.

Article

Police Social Work  

Rosemary Alamo and Rick Ornelas

Police social workers are professionally trained social workers or individuals with related academic degrees employed within police departments or social service agencies who receive referrals primarily from police officers. Their primary functions are to provide direct services such as crisis counseling and mediation to individuals and families experiencing social problems such as mental illness, alcohol and substance use and abuse, domestic violence, and child abuse, among others. Additional functions of police social workers are mezzo and macro related and include training police officers in stress management, mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, and child abuse; providing consultation and counseling to police officers and their families; program planning, development, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation; grant writing; legislative advocacy; and community and organizational needs assessment. Essentially, police social workers influence laws, legislation, policies, and practices that impact individuals, families, groups, law enforcement, organizations, and communities.

Article

Policy Practice  

Angela S. Henderson and Angela Bullock

The everchanging influence of policy in addressing social problems and societal conditions greatly contributes to the vital need for macro and social policy practice in social work. Social policy practice based on specific macro social work nature, values, approaches, and processes includes problem-solving interventions and strategies for the protection and advancement of human well-being. Thus, social policy practice enhances and challenges the social work profession’s delivery, examination, and evaluation of social justice through policy development and analysis, planning, and implementation.

Article

Political Ideologies and Social Welfare  

Mimi Abramovitz

Political ideologies developed to address “social problems” shape public policy debates, social policy strategies, and social work practice. The clashes among the long-standing political traditions—conservatism, liberalism, and 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 diverge on several core issues that underpin social welfare provision, including human nature, the role of the market and the state, definition of social problems, and the role of the welfare state. The resulting distinctions provide social workers with a framework to more effectively assess and change social welfare policies.

Article

Political Interventions  

Megan Meyer

Since the Progressive Era, social workers have played important roles in political struggles and social movements for social justice. They have advocated for, designed, and implemented an array of domestic and international 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, considered by some to be “radical” social work. A major challenge facing the profession during the 21st century is to ensure that social work programs and associations prepare students and practitioners to understand the impact of political processes on their and their clients’ lives and to develop the skills to identify the forms of political intervention that are effective for different goals and different political, social, and economic contexts.

Article

Political Process and Youth Empowerment  

Jason Anthony Plummer

The political process refers to how individuals and groups make their concerns known to political actors. The animating force of the political process is social power. To that end, social workers should acquire political knowledge (e.g., factual understanding of voting rights) and critical analysis skills (e.g., an awareness of how social inequalities affect political outcomes) in order to support their clients’ and communities’ engagement in the political process.