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Article

Larry E. Davis, John M. Wallace Jr., and Trina R. Williams Shanks

African Americans have been a part of the nation's history for nearly four hundred years. Although their history includes the forced imposition of chattel slavery, the strict enforcement of legal segregation, and a tenuous acceptance as equal citizens, African Americans have been, and continue to be, major contributors, creators, investors, and builders of America. In this article we summarize briefly the history of African Americans, we examine racial disparities in key indicators of social, mental, and physical well-being, and we highlight persistent strengths that can be built upon and areas that provide hope for the future. The challenge for social work is to simultaneously celebrate the historical successes and ongoing contributions of African Americans to this country while also recognizing the vestiges of structural racism and fighting for greater civil rights and social and economic justice.

Article

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

Patricia Brownell

Older workers make important contributions to the workplace, its productivity, and its culture. Work remains important for older adults for financial security, to give meaning to later life, to maintain social networks, and to promote lifelong learning. However, ageist beliefs about the capacity of older adults to remain productive and contributing workers in the workforce can create barriers for older workers. Understanding how older workers experience ageist behavior in the workplace can help employers, policy makers, and social workers learn more about how to address this social problem. Organizations can become more age friendly through enabling workplace programs, supportive management, and proactive human resource managers. Social workers serving older adults in employee assistance programs and in private practice can help them to challenge ageism in the workplace. Finally, legislation such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects the rights of older workers; however, more legislation is needed to address bullying and harassment of older adults in the workplace.

Article

Nancy R. Hooyman and Amanda Barusch

The rapidly growing older population is more heterogeneous than any other age group. Although many face vulnerabilities and inequities as they age, most are resilient. This entry explores the “greying of America,” examines the definition and measurement of aging, reviews the diversity among older adults in the United States, discusses productive, successful, and active aging, and suggests leadership roles for social workers in enhancing the well-being of elders and their families.

Article

Jeanette C. Takamura

Public policy advances in the field of aging in the United States have lagged compared to the growth of the older adult population. Policy adjustments have been driven by ideological perspectives and have been largely incremental. In recent years, conservative policy makers have sought through various legislative vehicles to eliminate or curb entitlement programs, proposing private sector solutions and touting the importance of an “ownership society” in which individual citizens assume personal responsibility for their economic and health security. The election of a Democratic majority in the U.S. House and the slim margin of votes held by Democrats in the U.S. Senate may mean a shift in aging policy directions that strengthens Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, if the newly elected members are able to maintain their seats over time. The results of the 2008 presidential election will also determine how the social, economic, and other policy concerns will be addressed as the baby boomers join the ranks of older Americans.

Article

Sarah (Hicks) Kastelic

Alaska Natives represent less than 1% of the U.S. population but reside in more than 229 Native villages and account for 40% of federally recognized tribes. Most Alaska Native communities shared common Euro-American contact experiences: exposure to western religions, education, and disease. Historical trauma contributes to many of the social welfare problems Natives experience today: low educational attainment, unemployment, inadequate health care, substance abuse, and violence. Service delivery mechanisms, lack of cultural appropriateness, and isolation compound these pressing issues. Locally delivered social welfare services that take into account traditional Native worldviews, values, languages, and intergenerational relationships are effective in addressing many of these issues.

Article

Sharon E. Milligan

This article will cover the history, theory, and empirical and practical knowledge of community building. Social networks and social ties contribute to informal social control, while neighborhood behavior is key to the development and maintenance of social cohesion. The author will provide a discussion of the relationships among these elements and their relationships to other community resources, such as civic participation and collective action. The author will discuss the empirical work regarding the effective ways to produce and promote community building in poor neighborhoods, as well as the practical knowledge that suggest its importance.

Article

Margaret Sherrard Sherraden and Lisa Reyes Mason

Community economic development (CED) is an integrated and community-driven approach to development aimed at generating wealth, capabilities, and empowerment in low-income and low-wealth communities. Nonprofit organizations partner with public and for-profit interests to develop social and economic investment strategies for community economic renewal and revitalization. Social workers in CED engage in interdisciplinary work in community organizing, leadership development, program development and implementation, social-service management, and policy advocacy. To achieve large and sustainable success, CED requires solidarity with and investment in poor communities by society as a whole.

Article

Elisheva Sadan

This entry discusses community planning in the context of community social work. Distinctions are made between community planning as a rational comprehensive process of the planning discipline, and the process of community planning in community social work. Community planning is defined as a process of participatory and inclusive organized social change, directed toward community empowerment, building community, and developing members’ capacities to take part in democratic decision making. A three-dimensional model of empowering community planning is presented and discussed. The model focuses on the tasks of community social work in the planning process, and the empowering outcomes they can enable.

Article

Martha A. Sheridan and Barbara J. White

Effective social work practice with deaf and hard-of-hearing people requires a unique, and diverse, collection of knowledge, values, skills, and ethical considerations. Salient issues among this population are language, communication, and educational choices, interpreting, assistive devices, cochlear implants, genetics, culture, and access to community resources. Competencies at micro, mezzo, and macro levels with a deaf or hard-of-hearing population include knowledge of the psychosocial and developmental aspects of hearing loss, fluency in the national sign language, and an understanding of deaf cultural values and norms. In the United States, the use of American Sign Language (ASL) is the single most distinguishing factor that identifies deaf people as a linguistic minority group. This entry presents an overview of the practice competencies and intervention approaches that should be considered in working with deaf and hard-of-hearing people, their families, communities, and organizations. It introduces the knowledge base, diversity in community and cultural orientations, social constructions, and international perspectives, current research and best practices, interdisciplinary connections, trends, challenges, and implications for effective social work practice with this population. An integrative strengths-based transactional paradigm is suggested.

Article

Gunnar Almgren and Ji Young Kang

This entry provides a brief overview of the field of social demography, the components of population change, projections for future population growth, and recent transformations in population composition pertaining to age, race, and ethnicity. Trends that shape family household structure (for example, marriage, divorce, cohabitation, and nonmarital child bearing) are also considered, as are trends pertaining to the distribution of income, wealth, and poverty. Population trends given particular attention include the growth of class-based disparities in marriage and nonmarital child bearing, the contributions of immigration to population growth and diversity, and a disturbing increase over recent decades in the prevalence of poverty among children of immigrants.

Article

Eloise Rathbone-McCuan

Elder abuse is now recognized internationally as a social problem among the aging population. Intentional abuse, neglect, and exploitation among caregivers to frail and isolated elderly create serious risks across diverse formal and informal care settings. This field has expanded continuously since the early 1970s. Accurate prevalence and incidence rates have not been determined. There is a national system of elder victim protection operating within each state. The social work profession is legally mandated to report situations where an elderly person is suspected to be at risk of abuse. Social workers are involved in all aspects of elder abuse prevention and intervention services.

Article

Mary E. Rogge

The concept of environmental justice gained currency in the public arena during the latter part of the 20th century. It embodies social work's person-in-environment perspective and dedication to people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and poor. The pursuit of environmental justice engages citizens in local to international struggles for economic resources, health, and well-being, and in struggles for political voice and the realization of civil and human rights.

Article

Margaret Sherrard Sherraden

Financial capability combines the ability to act with the opportunity to act in ways that contribute to financial functioning. As large numbers of people struggle to manage their household finances, financial capability has become increasingly important. Improving financial capability requires financial education and guidance as well as improved access across the life span to appropriate and beneficial financial products and services. Examples of policies that promote financial capability across the life span include Children’s Development Accounts and myRAs, long-term investment vehicles that build financial capability. Social work can play a key role in building financial capability through interventions in households, communities, and policies. However, these contributions require practice and research to develop and test interventions. They also require financial education for social workers.

Article

Maryah Stella Fram

This entry provides an overview of current knowledge and thinking about the nature, causes, and consequences of food insecurity as well as information about the major policies and programs aimed at alleviating food insecurity in the United States. Food insecurity is considered at the nexus of person and environment, with discussion focusing on the biological, psychological, social, and economic factors that are interwoven with people’s access to and utilization of food. The diversity of experiences of food insecurity is addressed, with attention to issues of age, gender, culture, and community context. Finally, implications for social work professionals are suggested.

Article

Yin-Ling Irene Wong and Claudia J. Vogelsang

Homelessness is a major social problem in the United States. The article starts with an overview of homelessness in American history, followed by the definition of contemporary homelessness, its prevalence, and the composition and diverse characteristics of the homeless population. Contrasting perspectives on what causes homelessness are discussed, while the multidimensionality of the homeless experience is explored. The unique experiences of three subpopulations, including homeless persons who are involved in criminal justice, emerging youth leaving foster care, and older homeless persons are further featured. Public and community responses to homelessness are examined, highlighting evidence-based and emerging practices that aim at reducing and preventing homelessness. A discussion of international homelessness follows, as homelessness is recognized as a global issue affecting people living in poverty in both the developed and developing world. The article concludes with discussion of the implications for social work.

Article

Uma A. Segal

Individuals and families from around the globe form a continuous stream of immigrants to the United States, with waiting lists for entry stretching to several years. Reasons for this ongoing influx are readily apparent, because the United States is one of the most attractive nations in the world, regardless of its problems. There is much in the United States that native-born Americans take for granted and that is not available in most other countries, and there are several amenities, opportunities, possibilities, lifestyles, and freedoms in the United States (U.S.) that are not found together in any other nation. In theory, and often in reality, the U.S. is a land of freedom, of equality, of opportunity, of a superior quality of life, of easy access to education, and of relatively few human rights violations. This entry will focus on immigration policy through legislative history and its impact, demographic trends, the economic impact, the immigrant workforce, educational and social service systems, ethical issues, and roles for social workers.

Article

M. C. Terry Hokenstad

Social work education's development and focus around the world reflects the increasing reality of global interdependence in the initial decade of the 21st century. A number of countries have recently initiated programs of education for social workers, and there are an increasing number of international exchange programs for students and faculty. There continues to be considerable diversity in the focus and structure of educational programs across nations, but a recently developed set of Global Standards for Social Work Education and Training provides a common framework that can be voluntarily applied and adapted to local conditions.

Article

Racial disproportionality in out-of-school suspensions (suspensions) is a persistent, multi-level social justice and child well-being issue affecting not only youth, families, and schools but society as a whole. It is a complex, multiple-level social problem that will require an equally complex response. The design of effective remedies will require adequate understanding of the problem as well as the historical and sociocultural contexts in which it emerged and is perpetuated. Progressive educators have offered a number of alternatives to harsh and exclusionary discipline, but research is needed to examine their effectiveness, especially in reducing racial disproportionalities.

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.