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Article

Juvenile Justice: Juvenile and Family Courts  

Mark Ezell

This section defines and discusses the jurisdictions of the juvenile and family courts as well as their influences on social work practice. The history of the court, several interpretations of it, as well as various reform efforts are reviewed. Opportunities for social workers to be employed by the numerous agencies affiliated with the court, as well as several nontraditional social work roles, are outlined in this section. The final two parts of the section discuss the major innovations and primary challenges faced by the contemporary court such as gender, class, and racial biases in the system, questions about the effectiveness of the court and associated programs. Finally, proposals to abolish or reinvent the juvenile court are presented.

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

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

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

Social Development  

Benjamin J. Lough

Social development is a broad and somewhat elusive concept connoting the well-being of people, community, and society. The United Nations has assumed a key role of promoting social development globally, with historical efforts focused on advancing human rights, social and economic equality, and inclusion. Social development strategies are classified as enterprise, communitarian, and statist based on their ideological orientations. An institutional approach to social development offers a pragmatic synthesis of these strategies with a balanced integration of bottom-up and top-down methods. The centrality of social development for international social work practice is accentuated in the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development. Current trends emphasize the complementary integration of market-oriented, community-based, and government supports to advance social development.

Article

Social Exclusion and Inclusion  

Karen Lyons and Nathalie Huegler

The term social exclusion achieved widespread use in Europe from the late twentieth century. Its value as a concept that is different from poverty, with universal relevance, has since been debated. It is used in Western literature about international development, and some authors have linked it to the notion of capabilities. However, it is not widely used in the social work vocabulary. Conversely, the notion of social inclusion has gained in usage and application. This links with values that underlie promotion of empowerment and participation, whether of individuals, groups, or communities. Both terms are inextricably linked to the realities of inequalities within and between societies and to the principles of human rights and social justice that feature in the international definition of social work.

Article

Social Justice  

Janet L. Finn, Jen Molloy, and Ashley Trautman

The concept of social justice is significant as a core value of social work. Conceptualizations of social justice are diverse, with important philosophical underpinnings. A range of philosophical perspectives influences social work’s conceptualization of social justice, including those of John Rawls, Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum, Nancy Fraser, and Iris Marion Young. The roots of social justice are traced through social work history, from the settlement house movement to the rank and file movement, the civil rights movement, and contemporary struggles in the context of globalization and neoliberalism. Challenges for social justice-oriented practice in the 21st century are addressed. Examples are provided of ways in which social workers are translating principles of social justice into concrete practices.

Article

Social Policy: History (Colonial Times to 1900)  

Phyllis J. Day

American social welfare began in the colonial period with the adoption of the Elizabethan Poor Laws as the basis for treatment of society's poor and deviant. By the beginning of the Progressive Era (1900), immigration, the Women's Movement, scientific investigation of social problems, and societal growth produced significant innovations in both public and private perceptions, programs, and treatment in such areas as poor relief, mental and physical health, and corrections, and led to the beginnings of professionalization of social work.

Article

Social Policy: History (1900–1950)  

Iris Carlton-LaNey

This entry traces American social welfare development from the 1890s to 1950. It also includes social work's participation and response to need during two critical times in American history: the Progressive Era and the New Deal. Social reformers were instrumental in the development of social legislation, including the establishment of the Children's Bureau as well as the development of a public welfare system at the state level. America's response to human suffering left many groups, such American Indians, African Americans, and Asians, marginalized. In response, African Americans established a parallel system of private relief through organizations such as the National Urban League, unlike the other racial groups.

Article

Unemployment Insurance  

Larry Nackerud and Lauren Ricciardelli

This entry addresses unemployment insurance as the cornerstone of the Social Security Act of 1935 and, accordingly, as a cornerstone of the modern U.S. social welfare system. After providing a brief historical background of the Unemployment Insurance program, including key ties to the social work profession, this entry provides information about underlying ideological perspectives, and about program design and implementation. Key considerations are discussed with regard to the impact of the economic downturn and the global COVID-19 pandemic on unemployment insurance using a Keynesian framework. Finally, a discussion is offered pertaining to the legacy and possible reform of the Unemployment Insurance program.

Article

Urban Planning and Social Work  

Laurie A. Walker

Urban neighborhood disinvestment in the United States resulted in deferred maintenance of buildings and common social problems experienced by residents. Strategies to redevelop neighborhoods include collaboration among many subsystems seeking to collectively invest in places and people. Contemporary federal initiatives focus on incentivizing coordinated investments between existing local community-based organizations, local and federal government, and private investors. Public–private partnerships include anchor institutions with commitments to the long-term success of place-based initiatives who invest their financial, intellectual, social, and political capital. Social workers are embedded in local community-based organizations and relationships with residents in neighborhoods experiencing redevelopment. Social workers can help guide top-down and bottom-up approaches to neighborhood revitalization toward more equitable and inclusive processes and outcomes. Resident engagement in redeveloping neighborhoods takes many forms and requires differing skill sets for social workers. Urban redevelopment is a global trend with common critiques regarding relying on gentrification and market-driven strategies with private investors.

Article

Welfare Rights  

David Stoesz and Catherine Born

American social and economic justice advocates, social workers included, have struggled to establish a national mindset that welfare is a right, a duty owed to the people by government, not a privilege that can be revoked at will. Industrialized nations with a universalistic, rights-based philosophy have strived to provide citizens with some measure of a basic, minimum income; the United States has not, yet. The United States has been hobbled by ideology; a two-tier system consisting of assistance and insurance; and cultural misgivings about direct, ongoing public payments (welfare) to the poor. Revitalization of a national welfare rights movement, early signals from the Biden administration, and awareness that major social policy changes most often happen at times of crisis offer reasons for a degree of optimism. The COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath are a moment in time—an inflection point—when social workers, because of their training, ethical codes, skill sets, and appreciation of the lessons of social welfare history, could play a key role in charting a new course of action suited to 21st-century needs and realities.

Article

Worker Justice Campaigns  

Fred Brooks and Amanda Gutwirth

If one of the goals of macro social work in the United States is to decrease poverty and inequality, by most measures it has largely failed that mission over the past 40 years. After briefly documenting the four-decade rise in inequality and extreme poverty in the United States, three organizing campaigns are highlighted—living wage, Fight for $15, and strikes by public school educators—that fought hard to reverse such trends. A strategy, “bargaining for the common good,” which was implemented across those campaigns, is analyzed as a key ingredient to their success.