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Article

African American Social Welfare History  

Iris Carlton-LaNey

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.

Article

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.

Article

Aging: Overview  

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.

Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

Child Soldiers  

Julie Guyot-Diangone

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.

Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

Critical Pedagogy in Community Practice  

Laurie A. Walker

Contemporary community engagement pedagogies require critical frameworks that facilitate diverse groups working collaboratively toward socially just outcomes. Critical frameworks acknowledge different ways of knowing and experiencing the world, as well as many means to achieve the desired outcomes. Indigenous values focused on relationship, respect, reciprocity, responsiveness, relevance, and responsibility inform key community engagement principles that are often applicable across many groups. Instructors who center Indigenous and other perspectives of groups that experience marginalization and oppression in social work curriculum are able to create community-engaged and socially just outcomes via institutional change and knowledge production efforts. Contemporary community engagement work embedded in social work values requires frameworks that are strengths based, center historically underrepresented groups working toward social justice on their own terms, and include an analysis of power, positionality, systemic causes of disparities, needed institutional changes, and critiques inclusion assumptions.

Article

Critical Race Theory  

V. Thandi Sulé

Critical race theory (CRT) is a framework that unapologetically asserts how and why race matters in the maintenance of U.S. policies and practices. In doing so, CRT counters discourse that situates discrimination and disparities within the realm of individual behaviors or psychological deficits. Therefore, racism is seen for what it is—a willful, institutionalized, and dehumanizing way of being. Though racism prevailed as the quintessential problem of the 20th century, the 21st century has revealed that the color line remains remarkably undisturbed. Whether one is focusing on housing, education, employment, wealth, health, safety, or justice, racial disparities and inequities exist to the disadvantage of racially minoritized people. Born out of discontent for legal remedies for inequality, CRT speaks to the universal way that racism immobilizes minoritized people—thereby providing an almost unwavering advantage to white people. This review provides an overview of the tenets of CRT and how those tenets connect with social work values and practice.

Article

Critical Race Theory and Macro Social Work Practice  

Aswood Bousseau and Diane Martell

American racism has produced systems of oppression that continue to impact Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in the United States. Critical race theory (CRT) asserts that racism is a longstanding, pervasive, and permanent component of social structure. Perceptions of and concepts relating to race are used to manipulate societal conditions to add value to and benefit the dominant, white population. CRT can be used as a lens to (a) understand current social and economic conditions, (b) analyze policies including municipal, state, and federal laws, regulations, and court decisions, and (c) develop and implement policies and programs that increase racial justice. For social work administrators, CRT provides a framework for identifying and assessing implicit and explicit racism in internal and external organizational policies, structures, and practices. In community work, CRT places race and racism at the center of localized patterns of disempowerment and inequality.

Article

Cultural Competence  

Terry L. Cross

Cultural competence emerged as a concept in the 1980s; took form as a set of organizational, educational, advocacy, policy, and practice constructs in the 1990s; and has since matured into a broad rubric that addresses social justice and service delivery quality, equity, access, and efficacy for people and groups of diverse backgrounds. Cultural competence, sometimes referred to as cultural competency, ethnic competence, cross-cultural competence, or multicultural competence, has become an essential element of social work at every level of the field, from direct practice to social policy. The history, literature, policy developments, controversies, and implications of cultural competence are discussed. The evolution of cultural competence and its role in social work is examined and summarized in this entry.

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

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

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.