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Article

Robert L. Schneider, Lori Lester, and Julia Ochieng

Social work advocacy is “the exclusive and mutual representation of a client(s) or a cause in a forum, attempting to systematically influence decision-making in an unjust or unresponsive system(s).” Advocacy was identified as a professional role as far back as 1887, and social workers consider client advocacy an ethical responsibility. Social workers are increasing the use of electronic advocacy to influence client issues and policy development. As client and societal needs evolve, universities should emphasize advocacy in their curricula, and the National Association of Social Workers should promote electoral and legislative initiatives that reflect an emphasis on social and economic injustices.

Article

Larry W. Foster

Bioethics and biomedical ethics are defined. Common bioethical concepts, exemplary moral values, fundamental ethical principles, general ethical theories, and approaches to moral reasoning are reviewed. The scope of topics and issues, the nature of practice situations in bioethics, and social work roles on organizational bodies that monitor and respond to bioethical issues are summarized, as are trends in bioethics. Practice contexts, from beginning to end of life, are highlighted with biopsychosocial facts, ethical questions and issues, and implications for social work—a profession uniquely positioned in giving bioethics a social context.

Article

William L. Pollard

Civil rights are rooted in the English laws that tried to protect citizens from abuses by the state. As the United States matured as a democracy, so did its citizens. Since World War II, there has been a virtual explosion in the awareness of citizens to the diverse needs and rights of individuals that require protection. Citizen awareness and actions have truly moved the civil rights struggle beyond a focus on color. Greater attention is being paid to fundamental protection and expanded understanding of human rights and responsibilities.

Article

Kristin M. Ferguson

Considerable definitional vagueness exists regarding civil society, in part due to the concept's long history and multiple underlying schools of thought. Issues of multiculturalism and social justice are central to the term. Civil society is also a global concept, referring to the supranational sphere. The social work profession can benefit from collaborative action with local civil society associations in working to dismantle structural inequality and enhance opportunities for disadvantaged populations.

Article

Donald M. Linhorst

Consumers of health and mental health services are afforded numerous legal rights. Broad categories of rights include self-determination, access to health information, protections for mental health consumers who are hospitalized, and a right to community integration. Two areas of consumer rights are emerging: a greater emphasis on human rights, and the right of consumers to participate in developing and implementing programs and services within the organizations from which they receive services. Various means for enforcing rights exist in both the private and the public sectors. Social workers play critical roles in ensuring that consumer rights become a reality.

Article

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

Uschi Bay

Ecological social work requires a shift in thinking for social workers because it does not place humans at the center of its concerns. Rather ecological social work puts the interrelationship between humans and nature at its center. This radically de-centered view of humanity aims to bring consideration of the planet and all of its environmental systems into decision making to ensure the sustainability of natural resources for the long term. Ecological principles can guide social work practice, research, and education in ways that promote a transition to sustainable practices in every sphere of life. Widespread ecological consciousness is advocated as an important focus for change by some social work authors promoting this approach. A global consciousness is understood to enable humanity’s capacity to deal with the growing concerns about the survival of planet earth as a suitable habitat for humans, animals, and plants. Humanity’s activities are understood to contribute to the ongoing degradation of fresh water, fertile soils, and pollution of the atmosphere. Drastic changes in the way humans behave and relate to the earth are considered necessary at the global, national, and local levels. Social workers are thus called on to engage with others in taking on significant roles in many areas of practice to facilitate these crucial societal transformations.

Article

Joseph M. Wronka

At the heart of social work, human rights are a set of interdependent guiding principles having implications for meta-macro (global), macro (whole population), mezzo (at risk), micro (clinical), meta-micro (everyday life), and research interventions to eradicate social malaises and promote well-being. They can be best understood vis-à-vis the UN Human Rights Triptych. This consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, increasingly referred to as customary international law on the center panel; the guiding principles, declarations, and conventions following it, on the right panel—like the conventions on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); and implementation mechanisms, on the left panel—like the filing of country reports on compliance to conventions, the Universal Periodic Review, thematic and country reports by special rapporteurs, and world conferences. Briefly, this powerful idea, which emerged from the ashes of World War II, emphasizes five crucial notions: human dignity; non-discrimination; civil and political rights; economic, social, and cultural rights; and solidarity rights. Whereas this article emphasizes issues pertaining to the United States, it touches upon other countries as appropriate, calling for a global vision in the hopes that every person, everywhere, will have their human rights realized. Only chosen values endure. The challenge, through open discussion and debate, is the creation of a human rights culture, which is a lived awareness of these principles in one's mind, heart, and body, integrated dragged into our everyday lives. Doing so will require vision, courage, hope, humility, and everlasting love, as the indigenous spiritual leader Crazy Horse reminds us.

Article

The International Federation of Social Workers is an international organization representing the interests of social workers around the world. This organization works in cooperation with global regional social work bodies, national organizations, and other associations to organize international events, publish policy statements, encourage cooperative initiatives, and link to other international bodies. It is active in human rights and social development and in the promotion of best practices and high professional social work standards.

Article

Robert G. Madden

The law is a powerful force in all aspects of contemporary American society. The legal system furnishes the context and procedures for the creation and enforcement of laws to resolve disputes, protect rights, and generally to maintain order. Social workers are expected to understand the basic workings of the legal system. 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.

Article

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership association of professional social workers in the world with nearly 145,000 members. Formed in 1955 by uniting seven predecessor organizations, NASW has a dual mission of protecting and advancing the profession of social work and of advocating for social justice issues. The NASW national office is based in Washington, DC, with chapters in each state, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. There are also separate chapters in New York City and metropolitan Washington, DC, as well as an international chapter for U.S. social workers living abroad.

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

Political ideologies shape public policy debates as well as the social policy strategies developed to address social problems. The clashes among these long-standing political traditions—conservatism, liberalism, 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 are compared for their views on several core issues that underpin social welfare provision, including human nature, need, the general welfare, social problems, and the role of government. The resulting distinctions provide social workers with a framework to more effectively assess contemporary social welfare policies.

Article

Megan Meyer

Since the Progressive Era, social workers have played important roles in political struggles for social justice. They have criticized, designed, and implemented an array of 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. A major challenge facing the profession during this century will be to ensure that social work students and practitioners understand the impact of political processes on their own and their clients' lives and develop the skills to identify which forms of political intervention are effective for different goals and contexts.

Article

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

Since the beginning of the profession, progressive social work has been characterized by a lived commitment to practice dedicated to advancing human rights and social and economic justice. Since the mid-1980s, the rise of global capitalism has vitiated support for robust social welfare programs and has had a conservatizing effect on the profession, rendering the progressive agenda both more urgent and more difficult. Since the economic crisis of 2008, with a rise in people suffering, while at the same time those programs that would help ease that suffering have been cut back, further perpetuating the myth that austerity is the cure for the disease that it has caused. Progressive social work has responded to both challenges with innovation and energy, but theoretical and practical conundrums remain. This article is offered as an effort to discuss and define progressive social work and its connection to social work values with the hope of contributing to advancing social work practice that addresses social injustices and human rights violations.

Article

H. Stephen Cooper and Freddie L. Avant

Rural social work, the history of which stretches back more than a century, has been revitalized since the mid-1970s. The renewed interest in rural social work has led to an increase in scholarship on rural social work practice, much of which is a direct result of the efforts of the Rural Social Work Caucus and its annual National Institute on Social Work and Human Services in Rural Areas. Recent research endeavors have moved our understanding of the differences between rural and urban communities beyond the common definitions, which are limited to population and population density. We have also come to realize that there are many different types of rural communities, all of which have different characteristics, needs, etc. Specifically, the concept of rural is not monolithic. Rural practitioners and researchers have also reached a better understanding of the following: rural culture and lifestyles, the importance of approaching rural communities from a strengths perspective rather than a deficit or problem focus, and the challenges to rural practice presented by the characteristics that are common across rural communities (e.g., lack of anonymity, dual relationships). Not surprisingly, the increase in research on rural social work practice has been accompanied by an interest in preparing social workers for rural practice and growth in the number of graduate programs focused on such. The importance of these programs lies in the unique nature of the challenges faced by rural communities. For example, many rural communities are experiencing sharp population declines while at the same time seeing substantial increases in adults who are 65 years of age and older. Other common trends include: economic decline and subsequent increase in social issues; substantial issues with substance abuse, especially methamphetamine and opioids; lack of technology infrastructure; concerns related to the environment and/or conversation of natural resources; and lack of services for veterans. The key to successfully addressing these issues in rural communities is involvement from social workers who are prepared to practice in the rural context.

Article

Rukshan Fernando

Social enterprise is a management practice that integrates principles of private enterprise with social sector goals and objectives. Social enterprise is a relatively new type of social work macro practice and includes a variety of sustainable economic activities designed to yield social impact for individuals, families, and communities. Despite the increased popularity of social enterprise scholarship, social work is visibly absent from it. Social enterprise is a field that promises to harness the energy and enthusiasm of commercial entrepreneurship combined with macro practice to address many long-standing social issues. Despite being a popular practice phenomenon, empirical research on social enterprise is still quite nascent, indeed: only a few empirical articles on the subject have thus far appeared in academic journals, and even fewer in social work journals. This article provides an overview of social enterprise, and the potential for synergy between social enterprise, the social work profession, and education.

Article

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.

Article

June Gary Hopps and Tony B. Lowe

The profession addressed a panoply of social problems that grew larger in an ever-expanding geopolitical environment, where social equity or justice was often a remedial value. Social welfare institutions and programs, initially private and later both public and private, filled the societal void, bringing social care to the disadvantaged. Lay caregivers formed the foundation for a nascent, but now over 100 year old, profession. Growth was sustained for over 50 years from the 1930s to 1980s, when progressive thought was challenged with conservative ideology. The challenge for contemporary social welfare and a maturing social work profession is how to navigate a changing milieu, highlighted by complex human conditions, in the face of real and contrived shortages, increasing class stratification, political polarization, and heighten judicial scrutiny. Workforce realities—education, technology, and integration of new diverse practitioners throughout the practice continuum—which can address demanding fields (that is, aging, health, child welfare), focused on evidence to move the human condition forward.