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Article

Age Justice  

Steve Burghardt, Joseph Dibenedetto, and Bobbie Sackman

As baby boomers enter their later years, it has become apparent that ageism is a primary cause of much of the social marginalization and economic inequity experienced by older people. It is thus important to understand that ageism has both structural as well as cultural causes that require collective mobilization to correct. As such, anti-ageism and the fight for age justice fit within the intersectional movements of the 21st century seeking systemic change. This attention to systemic issues of ageism and the call for collective forms of action and organizing have become the foundation for an age justice movement. Therefore, an age justice organizing approach to the problems of older Americans is necessary and its solutions to aging-related problems are similar to solutions in other social justice movements. The historical context of aging and ageism informs present models of age justice organizing and issues addressed in age activism. For example, older workers have experienced workplace discrimination, and in the early COVID-19 pandemic, older people were marginalized. Looking to the future, an age justice framework that consistently addresses ageism as the systemic issue it is can be developed in micro, mezzo, and macro settings for all social workers and the older people with whom they work.

Article

Reducing "Extreme Economic Inequality": A Social Work Grand Challenge  

Laura Lein, Jennifer Romich, Trina R. Williams Shanks, and Dominique Crump

The Social Work Grand Challenge to reduce economic inequality is one of 13 Grand Challenges guiding future practice, research, and education. This article on the Grand Challenge to reduce extreme economic inequality documents the problem, probes the mechanisms by which inequality continues and deepens, and proposes approaches for addressing this problem so interwoven into our economy and society. This article describes economic inequality in the U.S. context as well as social work–oriented responses. It briefly compares the inequality level of the U.S. with that of other countries. It explores the distinctions between poverty and economic inequality and the particular ways in which economic inequality is maintained and grows in the U.S. It also explores the kinds of policy and program initiatives addressing this grand challenge, the barriers to and potential benefits of such ideas, and the roles for social workers and the social work profession in reducing extreme economic inequality in our society.

Article

Asset Building: Toward Inclusive Policy  

Michael Sherraden, Lissa Johnson, Margaret M. Clancy, Sondra G. Beverly, Margaret Sherrard Sherraden, Mark Schreiner, William Elliott, Trina R. Williams Shanks, Deborah Adams, Jami Curley, Jin Huang, Michal Grinstein-Weiss, Yunju Nam, Min Zhan, and Chang-Keun Han

Since 1991, a new policy discussion has arisen in the United States and other countries, focusing on building assets as a complement to traditional social policy based on income. In fact, asset-based policy with large public subsidies already existed (and still exists) in the United States. But the policy is regressive, benefiting the rich far more than the poor. The goal should be a universal, progressive, and lifelong asset-based policy. One promising pathway may be child development accounts (CDAs) beginning at birth, with greater public deposits for the poorest children. If all children had an account, then eventually this could grow into a universal public policy across the life course.

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 Labor  

Usha Nayar, Priya Nayar, and Nidhi Mishra

The paper presents a global scenario of child labor by placing the issue in a historical context as well as comparing current work in the field. It specifically explains the psychosocial, political, and economic determinants of child labor and the prevalence of different forms as well as its magnitude in the different regions of the world. It features innovative programs and actions taken against child labor by local governments, civil societies, and United Nations bodies—mainly the International Labor Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund. The paper also highlights multilateral collaborations among the UN and other international agencies that stand against child labor in general and the employment of children in hazardous conditions. It illustrates the cooperation among local governments, civic organizations, and child-rights movements that have brought gradual changes over the decades toward ending child labor. Further, it suggests that social work, relevant professional schools, and associations working in various disciplines should be engaged in research-based advocacy and find innovative solutions to control child labor.

Article

Civil Rights  

Tanya Smith Brice, Denise McLane-Davison, and Tyler A. Brice

Civil rights is the protection of citizens from infringement by governmental entities and the extension of basic rights. Civil rights are based on citizenship status. The 14th Amendment establishes U.S. citizenship that has been extended throughout history to different groups. Civil rights legislation is grounded in this question of citizenship. As social workers, it is important that we understand this relationship and advocate to continue broadening the constitutional promise of “equal protection under the laws” to all who reside within the United States.

Article

Climate Change and Macro Social Work  

Kelly Smith

The compounding and escalating effects of environmental degradation, which include climate change, threaten the human-earth system with severe implications for the future of macro social work. Systems of power and oppression, including racial, economic, and gendered inequities, are exacerbated by environmental changes with significant impacts on human rights, public health, and various measures of well-being. While climate change is often not the root cause of inequality, it compounds existing inequities, making it substantially more difficult for marginalized populations to rebound from escalations of the myriad acute and chronic consequences due to climate change and environmental collapse. Experiences of environmental change consistently highlight the expanding resource and resiliency gaps among vulnerable populations, leading to disproportionate repercussions felt initially and, to an arduous degree, by marginalized groups. Simultaneously, these circumstances create opportunities for social workers to intervene and advance the causes of social justice. Macro-level interventions and climate solutions can emerge from social work development and support of policies and interventions that overcome short-term thinking to produce beneficial outcomes for populations and the environment by building capacity in the human-earth system and economic policy systems. Social work is ideally situated to confront climate change by balancing immediate needs with long-term ecological sustainability and relying on its historical understanding of systems to improve policy development and practical climate change mitigation approaches.

Article

Community Economic Development  

Steven D. Soifer and Joseph B. McNeely

The basic concepts and history of community economic development (CED) span from the 1960s to the present, during which there have been four different waves of CED. During this time period, practitioners in the field have worked with limited resources to help rebuild low-to-moderate-income communities in the United States. There are particular values, theories, strategies, tactics, and programs used to bring about change at the community level. The accomplishments in the CED field are many, and social workers have played a role in helping with community building at the neighborhood, city, county, state and federal levels.

Article

Community Organizing  

Geoffrey W. Wilkinson, Lee Staples, Ashley Slay, and Iliana Panameño

Community organizing centers the leadership of community members in developing and controlling organizations created to express, sustain, and build community power through action for social justice. It is distinguished from other forms of community practice by the ethos, “nothing about us without us,” and may combine elements of community development, direct action, popular education, and community action research. Community organizing promotes individual and collective empowerment. It is practiced in communities of geography, identity, shared experience, and other arenas. In the United States, organizing takes three major approaches to building sustainable bases of community power—organizations formed through individual membership, institutional networks, and coalitions. Innovations in community organizing arising particularly from the leadership of women and people of color—known as transformational organizing—take an intersectional approach to addressing racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of systemic oppression while also addressing the personal and social needs of community members. Organizing increasingly takes advantage of internet technology and is effective for influencing legislation and electoral politics, as well as a wide range of community-based issues.

Article

Community: Practice Interventions  

Anne Williford and Marie Villescas Zamzow

This article offers an introduction to macro social work practice interventions. Specifically, it seeks to: (a) identify the difference between direct service (micro) and macro practice; (b) describe historical and contemporary foundations for macro practice; (c) establish a connection between macro practice and core social work values; (d) describe specific examples of macro social work practice using 21st-century social justice issues as exemplars; and (e) identify roles needed for macro social work practice. This article emphasizes the need for macro social work practice to create much needed change in the areas of social, environmental, and economic justice. It will examine the trend in social work that has increasingly placed emphasis and value on micro practice, which has marginalized macro-level social work as a result. Society continues to confront seemingly intractable social justice issues and is, in the early 21st century, experiencing a critical reckoning of how systems of oppression continue to exact violence against vulnerable populations. This article uses examples of social, environmental, and economic justice issues with specific recommendations on how to adopt an anti-oppressive macro practice framework.

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

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

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

Economic Justice  

Louise Simmons

Social work often refers to economic justice but rarely considers what economic justice truly entails. This article discusses the rationale for social workers to be knowledgeable of and involved with economic justice initiatives. It specifies several areas that comprise an economic justice agenda. Examples of advocacy and organizations which lead the campaigns are discussed. Six realms of economic justice are discussed: Inequality, workplace rights, living wage levels and minimum wages, immigrant rights in the workplace, community–labor partnerships, and social programs that support working families and individuals.

Article

Environmental Justice  

Christina L. Erickson

Environmental justice in social work is the study and practice of assuring all people are protected from environmental burdens and are able to live, work, learn, and play in safe and healthy communities. Reducing the burdens and increasing the benefits of nature and human-made infrastructures are important social work efforts toward environmental justice. Awareness of environmental injustices followed the social movements of Civil Rights, recognition of environmental degradations, and efforts to save large swaths of land and endangered species in the Wilderness Act. Environmental justice is intertwined with social and economic justice, and the pursuit engages social workers in local to international struggles for access to nature’s benefits, and freedom from hazards that are shielded from people who are economically wealthy. Moreover, environmental justice calls wealthy individuals and communities to realign resource consumption to reduce environmental degradation and increase environmental sustainability.

Article

Fiscal Policy in the United States  

Karen M. Staller

U.S. fiscal policy is of interest to social workers as it concerns issues including structural racism, economic justice, and income inequality. U.S. fiscal policy refers to the role of the government in taxing and spending, the budget appropriations process, and public budgets (including federal and state revenue and spending). Federal revenue includes payroll and income taxes (personal and corporate). Federal outlays include discretionary and mandatory entitlement spending. There are a number of ongoing contentious debates about U.S. fiscal policy, including those involving the size and function of government, deficit financing and borrowing, inequality, and the redistribution of wealth in tax policies.

Article

Food Insecurity and Nutrition Programs in the United States  

Carrie L. Draper

Food insecurity and hunger continue to persist around the world and in the United States, disproportionately impacting female-headed households of color. Further, those working on the front lines of the food system (e.g., grocery store, restaurant, and farm workers) face gross inequities in accessing food compared to those working in any other industry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers 15 nutrition assistance programs aimed at increasing domestic food security and reducing hunger. In recent years, innovations and expansions within some of these programs have presented new opportunities for ensuring greater and more dignified access to healthy foods for all, yet more than 13% of the households continue to experience food insecurity. Food insecurity is not only an individual or household phenomenon; theoretical frameworks, such as the social-ecological model, demonstrate how social and built environments and policy contexts drive a person's dietary behaviors and, therefore, health outcomes. Measures and tools have been developed to better assess and address food insecurity at these levels, including through the USDA’s Community Food Security Assessment Toolkit and Food Environment Atlas, community food assessment models, the national SNAP-Ed Evaluation Framework and Interpretive Guide, and the values-based Whole Measures framework. These policy, programmatic, and assessment advances coupled with reframing the causes and solutions for addressing food insecurity systemically present opportunities for macro social workers at community, organizational, institutional, and policy levels to help realize the goal of food as a human right.

Article

Gentrification  

Amie Thurber and Amy Krings

Gentrification can be understood as the process through which geographical areas become increasingly exclusive, which disproportionately harms people living in poverty and people of color, as well as the elderly, families, and youth. As such, this article argues that macro social work practitioners should view gentrification as a key concern. Thus, to help guide macro interventions, the article begins by first defining gentrification and describing ways to measure it, while emphasizing its difference from revitalization. Second, the article explores causes of gentrification, including its relationship to systemic racism. Third, the article explores the consequences of gentrification on individuals’ and communities’ well-being, considering how these consequences can influence macro practice. Finally, the article provides insight into ways that macro practitioners can strategically with others to prevent gentrification, mitigate its harms, and proactively support community well-being in areas threatened by gentrification.

Article

Housing  

Anita Zuberi, Gale Schwartz, and Tracy M. Soska

Housing remains foundational to the American Dream, but it is also among our most challenging social issues. The collapse of the housing market in the early 21st century, along with the persistent challenges of affordable housing access, funding, and instability, continue to shape housing issues today. These housing issues are inextricably linked to both national economic disparities and wavering social policies. Housing is symptomatic of and a catalyst for overarching social and economic issues, including racial disparities; economic, educational, and health inequalities; and poverty. It remains an unmet need for a significant portion of our population, such as the working poor, elderly people, those living with a disability, victims of abuse, those aging out of child welfare, veterans, those involved with the justice system, and others who encounter unique difficulties and lack supportive services and service coordination. Advancing comprehensive and coordinated housing policies and programs remains important for social work and to ensure decent and affordable housing for all.