A history of transracial and intercountry adoptions in the United States is briefly provided as well as highlights trends, demographics, practices, and policies that have evolved as families have become more diverse. The current prevalence of intercountry and transracial adoptions in the United States is examined as well as the impact of policy changes in the United States and abroad on rates of intercountry adoption. Additionally, the challenges that have emerged for children adopted transracially and from abroad, as well as for their adoptive families, are reviewed. These include navigating ethnic and racial identity formation, cultural sensitivity, and challenging behaviors. Finally, future directions for social work practice, research, and policy are explored, and implications are provided for social workers intervening with families who have adopted children transracially or internationally. Specifically, adoption-competent professionals should also integrate cultural humility and competence into their therapeutic work with adoptive children and families. Implications for research in the conclusion focus on expanding prior studies on intercountry and transracial adoptions to incorporate racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in the literature. Policy implications include increasing access and funding for post-adoption services for all adoptive families.
Adoption: Transracial and Intercountry
Rowena Fong, Ruth G. McRoy, Amy Griffin, and Catherine LaBrenz
African Americans: Immigrants of African Origin
Fariyal Ross-Sheriff and Tamarah Moss-Knight
The number and percentage of immigrants and refugees from Africa to the United States have increased substantially since the mid-1990s. Though still a relatively small percentage of the immigrant population, immigrants from Africa encounter many challenges that are important for social work professionals to address. This entry examines two groups of immigrants from Africa: legal migrants (immigrants) and refugees. It provides information on distinctive characteristics of recent African immigrants, reasons for emigration from Africa, challenges they face in the United States, and their settlement (geographical distribution) patterns. While black Africans are the focus of this entry, the research literature does not provide clear distinctions within the group of African immigrants. The emphasis is on black African immigrants to the United States as their experience is unique in terms of their race in America and the types of stigma and discrimination they face as a result. Critical issues for social work practice are examined through a case example of Somali refugees, followed by implications for social work practice and research.
African American Social Welfare History
This article discusses the African American social welfare system that began to develop during the early 20th century. This social welfare system, designed by African Americans to serve African Americans, addressed needs that were not being met by any other formal social services while the nascent social work profession was emerging. The myriad programs included settlement houses, boys and girls programs, training schools, and day nurseries. The women’s club movement played a critical role in the development of this social welfare system and provided much of the impetus for change and inclusion. Through formal organizations, including the National Urban League (NUL) and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), and an array of clubs and social groups, social services were extended to urban and rural communities throughout the United States.
African Americans Overview
Larry E. Davis, Trina R. Williams Shanks, and John M. Wallace Jr.
Since their arrival 400 years ago, African Americans have endured 246 years of chattel slavery and 100 years of apartheid followed by decades of systematic racial discrimination and injustice. Nevertheless, Africans and their descendants have contributed significantly to the building of the United States and have greatly influenced every sector of society. To document this tenuous position, we summarize key demographic, economic, and social trends as well as the potential role of macro social work to improve outcomes. Present-day racism in the United States is persistent and frequently underestimated, so combatting anti-Blackness and White supremacy at structural and societal levels is essential.
Afrocentric Social Work
Colita Nichols Fairfax
Afrocentric social work is a concept and praxis approach applicable in environmental and global settings where people of African descent are located. Using concept analysis as a methodology, this article explores Afrocentric social work theory and its applicability in the social sciences. Concept analysis is an examination of a thought or theory with the intent to create a more concise operational definition. Afrocentric social work not only is applicable to racial and social justice issues, it also is applicable to intellectual and philosophical discourses of social work, which has largely ignored Afrocentric social work as a viable theory and philosophical canon. The Walker and Avant method of concept analysis is employed in this article to provide a systemic discourse to define the attributes of Afrocentric social work, as well as its structural elements that scholars and practitioners utilize as a theory and praxis application.
Aging: Racial and Ethnic Groups
Daniel S. Gardner and Caroline Rosenthal Gelman
Minority and immigrant elders constitute a greater proportion of the population than ever before and are the fastest growing segment of the older population. Within these racial and ethnic groups there is considerable variation with regard to age, gender, country of origin, language, religion, education, income, duration of U.S. residency, immigration status, living arrangements, social capital, and access to resources. The authors summarize research on older adults regarding racial and ethnic disparities, barriers to health and social service utilization, and dynamics of family caregiving. Implications are offered for social-work practice, policy, and research.
Lisa A. Ferretti and Philip McCallion
Growth in the aging population and increasing concerns in terms of health issues and financial and caregiving challenges among older adults are well established. Historically, the Older Americans Act has provided the delivery structure and services for older adults in need. Agencies within these structures have also engaged with housing and health care providers and funders. The structures and relationships are not adequate to support the desires of older adults for self-determination and aging in place and remain too treatment oriented rather than preventative and supportive in focus. Macro social work must engage in building aging structures, services, communities, and resources more fit for changing purposes.
Sarah (Hicks) Kastelic
Alaska Natives represent less than 1% of the U.S. population but reside in more than 229 Native villages and account for 40% of federally recognized tribes. Most Alaska Native communities shared common Euro-American contact experiences: exposure to western religions, education, and disease. Historical trauma contributes to many of the social welfare problems Natives experience today: low educational attainment, unemployment, inadequate health care, substance abuse, and violence. Service delivery mechanisms, lack of cultural appropriateness, and isolation compound these pressing issues. Locally delivered social welfare services that take into account traditional Native worldviews, values, languages, and intergenerational relationships are effective in addressing many of these issues.
Kristine J. Ajrouch
This entry defines the term Arab American, followed by a discussion of the two waves of immigration: before 1924 and post-1965. A demographic overview is presented next, drawing from data available through analysis of the ancestry question on the long form of the United States Census. Previously invisible in the scholarly and practice literatures, key concerns related to stereotypes emanating through recent world events, assumptions about gender relations, and struggles concerning family relations are highlighted. Finally, practice implications are considered, with an emphasis on cultural sensitivity and social justice. The term Arab American is relatively new, signifying a pan-ethnic term meant to capture a diverse group of people who differ with respect to national origins, religion, and historical experiences of migration to the United States. Arab American refers to those individuals whose ancestors arrived from Arab-speaking countries, including 22 nations in North Africa and West Asia. Religious faiths include both Christian and Muslim; Lebanon is the number one country of origin for Arab immigrants to the United States, followed by Syria and Egypt. Defined objectively, any individual with ancestral ties to an Arabic-speaking country may be considered an Arab American. This characterization, however, rests upon a language-based definition, obscuring the cultural and structural variations that differentiate those who fall within this pan-ethnic category (Ajrouch & Jamal, 2007).
Asian Americans: South Asians
This entry briefly profiles the dynamic fusion, fluidity, and future of South Asians in America. While Diaspora India is emblematic of immigrant culture as a whole, South Asian duality still remains uniquely enigmatic. People from South Asia represent a confluence of diversity and complexity that calls for understanding and acceptance as a model to deconstruct a tolerant and successful pluralist society.
Asian Americans: Filipinos
Paula T. Morelli, Alma Trinidad, and Richard Alboroto
Filipinos are the second largest group of Asians in the United States; more than 3.4 million Filipino Americans live primarily within the largest U.S. continental cities (including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York) and Hawaii. Annexation of the Philippines, following the Philippine-American War (1899–1902), granted Filipinos unrestricted immigration to the United States as “American nationals” without right to U.S. citizenship. Throughout this more than one-hundred-year relationship, Filipinos in the United States endured discrimination, race-based violence, and a series of restrictive federal legislation impacting civil rights and immigration. Filipinos may present with a distinctly Western orientation in areas such as values and contemporary ideas; however, their traditional social and cultural characteristics contrast considerably with mainstream American culture. This entry provides a brief historic, geopolitical and cultural context to facilitate the work of social work practitioners.
Asian Americans and Macro Practice
Shetal Vohra-Gupta and Rowena Fong
This entry Structural racism exists among Asian American communities and affects the family members residing in them. Therefore it is necessary to describe the contexts to understand cultural values and their role in the underpinnings of daily life in Asian American communities. While there is great diversity in Asian American populations, there are still stereotypes about Asian Americans being the model minority or passive victims. Racism is still a problem within Asian American communities as policies and macro level practices are subtle or even blatant in their discriminatory tendencies, impacts, and consequences. With the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, racial profiling was reported toward Chinese Americans living in the United States who were not in China when the pandemic started in 2019. Addressing racism and understanding its biased tenets are very important to stop oppressive attitudes and discriminatory practices. Used in legal studies and education, critical race theory (CRT) allows an examination of racism from a structural racism lens in macro social work practice. A descendent of CRT, AsianCrit theory looks at Asian American populations with a critical lens toward the permanence of racism, color blindness, counter storytelling, intersectionality, historical and contemporary contexts, and commitment to social justice. Understanding how these macro systems impact individual racist attitudes and actions is important to know for future social justice implications for practice, policy, and research with this population.
Asylum Seekers, Refugees, and Immigrants in the United States
Miriam Potocky and Mitra Naseh
This article presents introductory information on asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants in the United States, including distinctions among them, major regions of origin, demographic, and socioeconomic characteristics, challenges in social, economic, and cultural adaptation, and best practices for social work with these populations.
Black Americans: Practice Interventions
Sharon E. Moore
Black people number about 46.8 million or 14% of the U.S. population. Throughout U.S. history, regardless of social class, Black people have had to remain cognizant of their race. The COVID-19 pandemic and police shootings of unarmed Black people have revealed that American racism toward Blacks is as virulent today as it has always been. Because of purposeful structural inequality, Black people in America suffer disproportionately in every sector of human activity. They are still facing social issues such as racism, substance abuse, mass incarceration, poverty, police brutality and police murder, infant mortality that is twice as high as among whites, residential segregation, racial profiling, and discrimination. And yet the strengths of the Black community have allowed it to thrive amid these arduous circumstances.
Black Lives Matter
Mildred Delozia and Charles M. S. Birore
Black Lives Matter (BLM), which led to the Black Lives Matter movement (BLMM), has been described as a movement with a global following. The movement is aligned with the social work profession’s purpose and values. The social work profession is a human rights profession and has a history of involvement with movements, beginning with the settlement house movement in the late 19th century. The BLMM frames its narrative based on human rights and espouses an agenda that calls out injustice in all facets of social justice. Therefore, a central aim is to understand the BLMM from multiple perspectives. Definitions, theoretical perspectives, and types of social movements are presented, and then the framework of social movements is used to understand the BLMM. Finally, the BLMM is examined in relation to historical social movements, advocacy organizations, and criminal justice reform.
Marcia Bayne-Smith and Annette M. Mahoney
The diverse group of people referred to as Caribbean Americans come from the Circum-Caribbean region, which includes the island nations of the Caribbean Sea and the nations of Central America from Belize to Panama—35 nations in all. The heterogeneity of the Caribbean population is due to the colonization and geopolitical division of the region among English, Dutch, Spanish, and French colonizers, which resulted in many different cultures, ethnic groups, languages, educational systems, religious beliefs, and practices. However, the majority of the Caribbean populations share an African ancestry.
This article provides an overview of the phenomenon of child soldiers in war theaters around the world. Research studies are used to illustrate the deficits approach frequently applied to young people’s involvement in armed combat. In addition to a review of the legal protections surrounding the involvement of children in armed conflict, this article broadens the discourse on child soldiers. Diversity is introduced to counter the monolithic characterization of the child soldier, including descriptions of the various forms, levels, and dimensions participation may take, affecting all spheres of life—providing a holistic, community-level view not limited to individualized intrapsychic experiences. The subject of the child soldier has been approached through scholarship from a number of disciplines and centers on reintegration practices, the use of children as a military strategy, the process of weaponizing children, children’s moral development, and the use of traditional healing practices. Core social work ethics, along with the discipline’s strengths-based approach to inquiry are employed to further counter the narrative of “brokenness” that is prevalent in these fields. The introduction of resilience factors is used to broaden awareness of the diversity of outcomes among the various cohorts studied. Childhood as a social construction is discussed, along with its Western-informed biases. Humanitarian aid and development bodies have structured educational programs and livelihood opportunities to assist former child soldiers reintegrate into post-conflict societies, and Western understandings of childhood influence the architecture of these efforts. Although protections surrounding the involvement of minors in armed conflict have grown, the use of child soldiers remains. The article uses the Convention of the Rights of the Child along with the African Charter on Children in Armed Conflict to help unpack the disparate meanings of what it means to be a child within various sociocultural contexts.
Community Healing and Reconciliation
Joshua Kirven and George Jacinto
Community healing and reconciliation have been a focus of many nations in response to civil war, genocide, and other conflicts. There also has been an increase in the number of high-profile murders of young African Americans at the hands of law enforcement in the United States. In 2020 this problem was even more real and growing with the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and Ahmaud Arbery. These tragic incidents have led to public outcry, civil unrest, and police protests for social change moving from a threshold of peaceful assemblies to violent confrontations across the United States causing the world to take notice and posit the question, “do Black lives really matter?” To answer this question a critical overview of gun violence, a reflective aftermath of the killings of two African American youths in Sanford, Florida and Cleveland, Ohio, and the community’s voice and reaction and the community’s resiliency towards healing and reconciliation are examined. Community model initiatives are introduced of the two cities affected in bridging police-community relations through acknowledging and addressing historical injustices with police and systematic racism and how they attempted to bring positive change, healing and reconciliation.
Conflict Theory for Macro Practice
Susan P. Robbins and George S. Leibowitz
Conflict theory encompasses several theories that share underlying assumptions about interlocking systems of oppression and how they are maintained. The relevance of Marx’s theory of class conflict, C. Wright Mills’s power elite, and pluralist interest group theory are all important to understand and address social and economic gaps and informing policy for macro practice. Conflict theory can provide an understanding of health disparities, racial differences in mortality rates, class relationships associated with negative outcomes, poverty, discrimination in criminal justice, as well as numerous factors that are broadly associated with inequality embedded in social structures. Social workers play a significant role in addressing disparities in research, curricula, primary and secondary intervention, and public policy, and conflict theory can provide the framework necessary to enrich this understanding.
Criminal Justice: Overview
Michael C. Gearhart
The American criminal justice system is comprised of four main components: law enforcement, the judiciary, corrections, and legislature. These components work together to investigate crimes, arrest individuals, weigh evidence of guilt, monitor individuals who are found guilty, and make laws. Though the criminal justice system is meant to administer justice in an equitable manner, a number of controversial policies and practices exist within the criminal justice system. These practices are typically rooted in historical biases that continue to create disparities today. Social work has a long history of reforming the criminal justice system. However, modern disparities illustrate that there is still work to be done. The skills of macro social workers are foundational to present-day advocacy efforts and emerging criminal justice practice, highlighting the enduring significance of macro social work practice in criminal justice reform.