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Article

Political Social Work  

Suzanne Pritzker and Shannon R. Lane

Political social work navigates power in policymaking and politics to elicit social change. It is grounded in core social work values and ethics, including the professional responsibility to challenge systemic discrimination and institutional inequalities through political action. Political social workers address systemic barriers to social, political, economic, and racial justice, and engage in political action to promote individual and communal well-being through policy processes and outcomes. This article discusses the five domains of political social work: engaging individuals and communities in political processes; influencing policy agendas and decision-making; holding professional and political staff positions; engaging with electoral campaigns; and seeking and holding elected office. It also examines social workers’ political activity in the United States and globally, the role of social work education, and challenges for political social work, including the profession’s legacy of supporting injustices and tensions around the role of political social work, and identifies opportunities to address these barriers.

Article

Post-Disaster Trauma and Recovery  

Tara M. Powell, Shannondora Billiot, and Leia Y. Saltzman

Natural and man-made disasters have become much more frequent since the start of the 21st century. Disasters have numerous deleterious impacts. They disrupt individuals, families, and communities, causing displacement, food insecurity, injury, loss of livelihoods, conflict, and epidemics. The physical and mental health impact of a disaster can have extensive short- and long-term consequences. Immediately after a traumatic event, individuals may experience an array of reactions such as anxiety, depression, acute stress symptoms, shock, dissociation, allergies, injuries, or breathing problems. Given the economic and human impact of disasters, social workers are often quick to respond. Historically, the social work profession has provided services on the individual level, but initiatives have expanded to address community preparedness, response, and recovery. This article will explore the complexities of disaster response and recovery. Health and mental health impacts will be examined. Resilience and posttraumatic growth will then be discussed, exploring how individuals overcome adversity and trauma. Individual and community level preparedness mitigation, response, and recovery will explore how the field of social work has evolved as disasters have increased. Followed by an exploration of how social work has evolved to develop individual and community level preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery activities as disasters have increased. Finally, the article will examine special populations, including those with disabilities, children, indigenous people, older adults, and social service workers in all phases of disasters. As disasters grow more frequent it is vital for social work professionals to improve their efforts. We will conclude the chapter by examining the coordinated efforts the social work profession is involved in to help communities recover and even thrive after a traumatic event.

Article

Poverty  

Mark R. Rank

Poverty has been a subject of concern since the beginnings of social work. Three fundamental areas are of importance in understanding the nature of poverty in the United States. 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 to better understand the existence of poverty. Finally, strategies and solutions to poverty are briefly reviewed.

Article

Prison Social Work  

Jason Matejkowski, Toni Johnson, and Margaret E. Severson

This entry provides a description of prison social work and the array of responsibilities that social workers in prison settings have, including intake screening and assessment, supervision, crisis intervention, ongoing treatment, case management, and parole and release planning. The authors provide the legal context for providing social-work services to prisoners and delve into issues involving three specific populations of growing concern to corrections officials and to prison social work: women inmates, inmates who are parents, and inmates with mental illness. The tension between the goals of social work and corrections is explored and opportunities for social workers to apply their professional values within the prison setting are highlighted.

Article

Prison Violence  

Kristine Levan

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.

Article

Privilege  

Ovita F. Williams and Cheryl L. Franks

Sitting in a place of having an unearned benefit because of a particular social identity or social group membership is defined by the term privilege. Privilege is described as advantages across multiple dimensions of identity, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, age, ability status and more. For example, white privilege is the types of access white people have in society because of the color of their skin. This includes access to better schools, higher pay, good housing, and more. Privilege offers protection, advantage, access to resources, and limited surveillance. Privilege implies the freedom to be allowed to navigate easily through daily activities and life milestones, and to benefit from long-term advantages and gains. Social groups that have privilege reap specific benefits, which ultimately means another social group doesn’t have the same advantages and are thus disadvantaged, often severely. The social work profession demands social justice is sought, and in this effort, it is important to recognize that, where privileges are granted to people because of an observed social identity, this is harmful and creates systems and structures of oppression. Understanding how privilege operates to oppress and subjugate people increases the ability to see these injustices and inspires people to seek equity and liberation.

Article

Queer Communities, LGBTQIA2S+ Populations, and Macro Practice  

Michael P. Dentato

Related to understanding queer identities, an ongoing need exists for the expansion of competency among social workers across micro and macro practice frameworks. Practitioners must be aware of their own positionality and use of cultural humility associated with practice and advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and two-spirit+ (LGBTQIA2S+) communities, which include those identifying as demisexual, omnisexual, and pansexual, among others. Relatedly, social workers must be attentive to evolving terminology and contexts through which the term queer has been defined over the years, as well as relevant challenges with connectedness to (or separation from) the larger LGBTQIA2S+ community. Age cohort associations and the role of intersectionality also have relevance and underscore the multidimensional discourse necessary to develop effective competency and the ability to engage in affirming macro practice with queer communities. Social work practitioners must understand the implications for best practices associated with establishing and maintaining an affirming alliance with queer clients via policy practice efforts, advocacy efforts, community organizing, service provision, or therapeutic context. In addition, there remains a continued need for ongoing research associated with understanding the unique needs of queer identities and the queer community at large.

Article

Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System  

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.

Article

Racial Justice  

Darcey H. Merritt, Rachel D. Ludeke, Krushika Uday Patankar, Muthoni Mahachi, and Morgan Buck

Racial justice remains a hot-button issue in the United States, particularly in the aftermath of several high-profile murders of Black and Brown people due to state-sanctioned violence. There is an increased need to explore how racial injustice remains prevalent intentionally and comprehensively in all aspects of micro, mezzo, and macro social work practice. Racism is pervasive in the social work profession, and it is therefore important to address the ways in which it underpins established human service systems (e.g., public assistance and child welfare).

Article

Racial Profiling and Policing Black Communities  

Joshua Kirven

Strained police-community relations are not new to distressed and black communities. However, recent decades of modern-day policing have become a challenging, stressful job for officers in terms of safety and social order, job performance, and being recorded (often on cell phones) and quickly judged by the public. This article looks at racial profiling, implicit bias, and how the heavy hand of order-maintenance policing is used to the detriment of black communities, especially black males. The relevance of contact theory will be discussed in terms of its relevance for reaching mutual ground between black males and police officers. This article offers practical strategies for (a) social workers (community practitioners), (b) black males and citizens of color , and ( c) police officers themselves. For officers specifically, this potential awareness can lead to healthier, neutral experiences with black males leading to positive policing of black communities.

Article

Racism  

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.

Article

Racism and Accountable Policing for Black Adults in the United States  

Robert O. Motley Jr. and Christopher Baidoo

Racism is a public health concern for Black adults in the United States given its prevalence and association with adverse health outcomes for this population. The frequency of high-profile cases involving police use of gratuitous violence against Black adults has raised concerns regarding racially discriminatory law enforcement practices. In this article, racism is defined and a discussion is offered on its impact on the health and well-being of Black adults in the United States; the intersection of racism and policing; contemporary racialized policing practices; emerging evidence on prevalence rates for exposure (direct and indirect) to perceived racism-based police violence and associated mental and behavioral health outcomes; and police accountability through executive, legislative, legal, and other remedies.

Article

Radical Social Work  

Mary Bricker-Jenkins, Rosemary Barbera, and Barbara Hunter-Randall Joseph

Since the beginning of the profession, radical social work has avowed a commitment to practice dedicated to advancing human rights and social and economic justice. Since the 1980s, the rise of neoliberal global capitalism has vitiated support for robust social welfare programs; its conservatizing effect on the profession has rendered the radical agenda both more urgent and more difficult. Ensuing polarization in the economic, social, and political arenas has been mirrored in the profession as well: differences widen between the micro and macro realms and privatization engulfs the public welfare arena; the epistemological bases of knowledge and prevailing theories form competing camps; the entire project of social work for social welfare is challenged as Eurocentric and implicitly white supremacist. Radical social work has responded to these challenges with innovation and energy, deriving insight from and participating in spontaneous uprisings and resistance, while engaging theoretical and practical conundrums.

Article

Rehabilitation  

David W. Springer and Kathleen A. Casey

Rehabilitation is a complex, multidimensional approach within health care that uses an interdisciplinary model of specialized services. The comprehensive treatment team generally includes medical specialists and therapists who specialize in physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, cognitive therapy, psychology, and recreational therapy. Social workers play a key role in the treatment team, particularly in care coordination, discharge planning, and community reintegration. Trends in comprehensive medical rehabilitation will continue to be significantly influenced by forces within the larger health-care arena. Technological advancements and the social trend toward health and fitness offer great promise for the improvement and expansion of rehabilitation services.

Article

Reproductive Health  

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.

Article

Reproductive Health Justice  

Silvia M. Chávez-Baray, Eva M. Moya, and Omar Martinez

Reproductive health endeavors in regard to prevention, treatment, and emerging disparities and inequities like lack of access to comprehensive and equitable reproductive health for immigrants and LGBTQ+ populations are discussed. Practice-based approaches for reproductive health justice and access care models, to advance reproductive justice, are included. Implications for macro social work practice and historical perspectives, practices, and social movements of reproductive health justice in the United States to promote reproductive health justice in the context of political, legal, health, and social justice efforts are salient to advance social justice.

Article

Restorative Justice  

Katherine van Wormer

Restorative justice is an umbrella term for a victim-oriented method of righting a wrong, promoting healing following conflict, and providing a sense of safety in the aftermath of violence. 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 compassionate treatment of offenders. Instead of incarceration, for example, the option of community service coupled with substance abuse treatment might be favored. When the offender is an organization or governing body, reparations to affected individuals or populations might be in order. 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/survivor’s standpoint, a key theme is empowerment, through receiving an apology from the wrongdoer and receiving the support of caring participants. Several models of restorative justice are relevant to social work, including victim–offender conferencing (sometimes incorrectly referred to as mediation), family group conferencing, healing circles, and community reparations. Social work involvement in the field of restorative justice occurs at all levels of practice. Its application in the context of macro social work involves communities, policy, and organizations.

Article

Rights-Based Framework and Social Work  

David Androff

The past few years have seen a surge in efforts to incorporate rights-based approaches in social work practice. This rise has been spearheaded by a growing awareness that human rights can reduce or eradicate poverty and injustice while advancing human dignity and social welfare. Professional Codes of Ethics around the world maintain social workers’ responsibilities to uphold human rights. However, few rights-based approaches to social work practice have been developed. This encyclopedia entry introduces the concept of rights-based approaches, presents new models of rights-based social work, reviews the rights-based principles for social work practice of human dignity, nondiscrimination, participation, transparency, and accountability, and discusses how this framework can be applied to various practice settings and populations.

Article

Rural Social Work on the US–Mexico Border  

Robert Villa

The profession of social work continues to struggle with the provision of services that must be culturally sensitive to the values and traditions of the people who live in rural neighborhoods and colonias along the U.S.–Mexico border. The diverse populations that live in the border environment are self-reliant and distrust outsiders. This most salient fact creates opportunities for social work programs to adopt the person-in-the-environment approach to assessment. In so doing, the gente (people) in need of services are more apt to feel respected and will facilitate access to their families and communities. The rurality paradigm was developed to provide an understanding of the underlying ideologies of the community first and foremost. Rurality views people’s self-image as constructed by their interactions with each other and the environment. Social work practice in rural areas continues to be at the forefront of both educational and professional concerns. A paradigm shift is advocated to capture the “rurality”- defined lifestyle found along the U.S.–Mexico border of South Texas. This approach provides a more in-depth view of the social interactions necessary for competent, culturally sensitive social work practice.

Article

Sexual Harassment  

Sondra J. Fogel and Doris A. Boateng

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination as well as a complex social issue with psychological implications for both those who are harassed and those who perpetrate the harassment. Women continue to be primary targets, although men, youths, and sexual minorities are increasingly pursued. Legally prohibited in the workplace and educational institutions, sexual harassment persists in personal interactions as well as by electronic means despite prevention efforts such as education programs and zero-tolerance policies. This entry will define sexual harassment, provide an overview of its prevalence, and describe approaches for its remedy.