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Article

Occupational Social Work  

Paul A. Kurzman

Occupational (industrial) social work, one of the newest fields of policy and practice, has evolved since the mid-1960s to become a dynamic arena for social service and practice innovation. Focusing on work, workers, and work organizations, occupational social work provides unique opportunities for the profession to affect the decisions and provisions of management and labor. Despite the risks inherent in working in powerful and often proprietary settings, being positioned to help workers, their families, and job hunters enables professional social workers to have the leverage both to provide expert service and to become agents of progressive social change.

Article

Oncology Social Work Research  

Julianne S. Oktay and Bradley Zebrack

Oncology social work researchers have made (and continue to make) important contributions to the knowledge base that supports the profession. This article discusses the profession of oncology social work, its roots in medical social work in the United States, the development of cancer treatment, and the body of research that informs its art and practice. Oncology social work research is placed in the broader contexts of the social work profession, the field of oncology, and the specific field of oncology social work. Through the decades, the profession of oncology social work has grown, gained stability and legitimacy. Oncology social work itself, along with oncology social work research, have made rapid strides in the 21st century and accelerating in impact and relevance. Oncology social work research is stronger now than ever. Recent developments, such as the addition of a research institute at the annual AOSW conference and initiatives to establish a “practice-based research network” are expanding capacity in the field. Oncology social work researchers bring a unique perspective to their research. Social work’s patient-centered perspective is reflected in research that explores the cancer experience of patients and family members and leads to new interventions based on that experience. Social work’s focus on human development over the life course results in research that reflects a developmental framework or focuses on specific age groups, such as children, adolescents, young adults, or the elderly. Social work’s conceptual model of “Person-in-Environment” is reflected in research on cancer patients in the context of their interpersonal relationships. The values of social justice and cultural competence are reflected in research on health disparities, minority populations, and multicultural perspectives. Finally, the field of oncology social work itself has been the focus of recent research on distress screening and its implementation. In the 21st century, oncology social work research stands in a pivotal position. Although this type of research is now widely recognized as important, it is still a challenge to access the level of support from major funders of cancer research required to establish and reinforce a strong and vibrant knowledge base for the profession.

Article

Organizational Change  

Thomas Packard

Human service organizations (HSOs) continue to face significant challenges to improve performance and the quality of working life for employees. Planned organizational change can help HSOs meet these challenges through the use of evidence-based tactics and methods ranging from team building and organizational redesign to implementation science. While organizational change is a dynamic rather than a liner process, a phase model can provide valuable structure. Organizational leaders or other potential change agents typically begin by identifying a change need or opportunity and creating a change goal that describes a desired future state. Initial assessments of the problem should include assessment of the organization’s and its leaders’ readiness and capacity for change. Implementation tactics include creating a sense of urgency and communicating the change vision and plan for implementation. Developing and maintaining support for the process are ongoing. An action system for implementing the change initiative should include representatives from throughout the organization. Provisions should be made for team building and conflict resolution. Widespread staff participation in activities including problem solving groups enhances staff commitment and improves the quality of the change results through the expertise that employees bring to the process. Action planning and monitoring systems can track progress and identify emerging concerns to address. Progress on the change process should be regularly and fully communicated to all employees. Agreed upon changes should be institutionalized through new policies and procedures, staff training, and organizational culture changes. All changes made should be evaluated to assess success and identify future change opportunities.

Article

Organizational Wellness  

Erlene Grise-Owens, J. Jay Miller, and Larry W. Owens

The profession of social work increasingly experiences the damaging impact of professional burnout, staff turnover, and compromised services. Organizational wellness involves planful efforts to address these concerns and promote employee well-being. A rationale for organizational wellness is articulated, including its value for social work. The evolving paradigm of a holistic, systemic approach to organizational wellness is then discussed. Next, how social work is ideally situated to lead organizational wellness efforts is detailed as an arena of macro practice and as providing a framework for designing and developing an organizational wellness culture. Using social work competencies, social workers can use this framework to provide leadership in conceptualizing, planning, implementing, evaluating, and sustaining organizational wellness. Further critical considerations underscore how this leadership promotes the profession’s mission, supports the profession’s viability, and establishes a vital arena for ongoing macro practice.

Article

Philanthropic Funding for Human Services  

Kirsten A. Grønbjerg

Of the 1.75 million tax-exempt organizations registered with the Internal Revenue Service in April 2020, about one-third are human service nonprofits, including about 267,000 charities with about $371 billion in total combined revenues. In 2019, human service public charities (excluding private foundations) received an estimated $56 billion in charitable contributions. This represents 12% of all charitable contributions, and is about 21% of the combined revenues reported by the almost 270,000 registered human service public charities reporting financial information. While government funding is a major driving force for human service charities, philanthropic funding clearly is important as well. Securing such funding requires solid understanding of the fundraising process and dedicated time and effort. However, competition for donations (and fundraising expertise) appears to be growing across the board, with donations from individuals, United Way, and corporate contributions most at risk for human service charities. These trends in philanthropic funding reflect growing income inequality, which also impacts the scope and types of human services needed and is complicated even further by persistent racial disparities.

Article

Philanthropy  

Jerry D. Marx

Philanthropy can be defined as the voluntary effort to increase the well-being of humankind. It includes the giving of money, time, or other resources to charitable organizations. Philanthropy is especially important in the United States, because of the nation's emphasis on private initiative and minimal government in promoting societal well-being. The profession of social work has its roots in the development of a more scientific approach to philanthropy. In the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008, social workers have faced increased challenges in soliciting donations to human service charities.

Article

Policy Practice  

Angela S. Henderson and Angela Bullock

The everchanging influence of policy in addressing social problems and societal conditions greatly contributes to the vital need for macro and social policy practice in social work. Social policy practice based on specific macro social work nature, values, approaches, and processes includes problem-solving interventions and strategies for the protection and advancement of human well-being. Thus, social policy practice enhances and challenges the social work profession’s delivery, examination, and evaluation of social justice through policy development and analysis, planning, and implementation.

Article

Political Interventions  

Megan Meyer

Since the Progressive Era, social workers have played important roles in political struggles and social movements for social justice. They have advocated for, designed, and implemented an array of domestic and international 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, considered by some to be “radical” social work. A major challenge facing the profession during the 21st century is to ensure that social work programs and associations prepare students and practitioners to understand the impact of political processes on their and their clients’ lives and to develop the skills to identify the forms of political intervention that are effective for different goals and different political, social, and economic contexts.

Article

Positive Emotion  

Jessica M. Black

Scientific findings from social sciences, neurobiology, endocrinology, and immunology highlight the adaptive benefits of positive emotion and activity to both mental and physical health. Positive activity, such as engagement with music and exercise, can also contribute to favorable health outcomes. This article reviews scientific evidence of the adaptive benefits of positive emotion and activity throughout the life course, with examples drawn from the fetal environment through late adulthood. Specifically, the text weaves together theory and empirical findings from an interdisciplinary literature to describe how positive emotion and activity help to build important cognitive, social, and physical resources throughout the life course.

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

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

Professional Conduct  

Ann A. Abbott

The professional review process delineates procedures for hearing complaints of alleged professional misconduct by members of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). It provides mechanisms for conducting hearings and alternate dispute resolution via mediation, monitoring professional behavior, and sanctioning and developing corrective actions for NASW members who are in violation of the NASW’s Code of Ethics. The process, originally developed in 1967, has been modified over time to reflect the best identified means for conducting fair hearings and carrying out the most appropriate interventions.

Article

Professional Impairment  

Wilma Peebles-Wilkins

Practitioners who were presumed to be competent may develop difficulties that interfere with job performance. Such professionals are considered impaired and may suffer from compassion fatigue, substance abuse, mental disorders, and other forms of distress associated with daily living. Practicing while impaired is unethical and can potentially be harmful to clients. Colleague Assistance Programs from professional associations or diversion systems and legal sanctions imposed by state regulatory boards are forms of intervention strategies that are employed. Self-care strategies and consciousness-raising among professionals are the best forms of prevention.

Article

Professional Liability and Malpractice  

Yvonne Chase

Malpractice claims against social workers are a reality. Although social workers are trained as students in the importance of adhering to the NASW Code of Ethics, the results of ethics and other practice violations are increasing liability and risk. Social workers have a strong commitment to clients, to communities, and to social justice, but attention to ways of reducing risk, including malpractice insurance and ethics audits, is critical to reducing the numbers of malpractice and ethics complaints against social workers and, ultimately, to enhancing the profession.

Article

Public Health Social Work  

Sarah Gehlert, Julie A. Cederbaum, and Betty J. Ruth

Public health social work is a substantive area within the discipline of social work that applies social work and public health theories, frameworks, research, and collaborative practices to address contemporary health issues through a transdisciplinary lens. It is epidemiologically informed and characterized by prevention, health promotion, and other integrative practices. With its strong focus on health impact and population health, public health social work is central to the profession’s viability and success for tackling pervasive 21st-century challenges, such as health inequity, behavioral health integration, chronic disease, health reform implementation, and global health.

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

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

Rapid Assessment Instruments  

Steven L. McMurtry, Susan J. Rose, and Lisa K. Berger

Accurate measurement is essential for effective social work practice, but doing it well can be difficult. One solution is to use rapid assessment instruments (RAIs), which are brief scales that typically require less than 15 minutes to complete. Some are administered by practitioners, but most are self-administered on paper or electronically. RAIs are available for screening, initial assessment, monitoring of service progress, and outcome evaluation. Some require author permission, others are sold commercially, and many more are free and in the public domain. Selection of an RAI should be based first on its psychometric strength, including content, concurrent, and known-groups validity, as well as on types of reliability such as internal consistency, but practical criteria such as readability are also important. And when used in practice settings, RAIs should be part of a well-rounded measurement plan that also includes behavioral observations, client logs, unobtrusive measures, and other approaches.