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Abolitionist Social Work  

Noor Toraif and Justin C. Mueller

Abolitionist social work is a theoretical framework and political project within the field of social work and an extension of the project of carceral abolitionism more broadly. Abolitionists seek to abolish punishment, prisons, police, and other carceral systems because they view these as being inherently destructive systems. Abolitionists argue that these carceral systems cause physiological, cognitive, economic, and political harms for incarcerated people, their families, and their communities; reinforce White supremacy; disproportionately burden the poor and marginalized; and fail to produce justice and healing after social harms have occurred. In their place, abolitionists want to create material conditions, institutions, and forms of community that facilitate emancipation and human flourishing and consequently render prisons, police, and other carceral systems obsolete. Abolitionist social workers advance this project in multiple ways, including critiquing the ways that social work and social workers are complicit in supporting or reinforcing carceral systems, challenging the expansion of carceral systems and carceral logics into social service domains, dismantling punitive and carceral institutions and methods of responding to social harms, implementing nonpunitive and noncarceral institutions and methods of responding to social harms, and strengthening the ability of communities to design and implement their own responses to social conflict and harm in the place of carceral institutions. As a theoretical framework, abolitionist social work draws from and extends the work of other critical frameworks and discourses, including anticarceral social work, feminist social work, dis/ability critical race studies, and transformative justice.

Article

Ecological Social Work  

Uschi Bay

Ecological social work requires a shift in thinking for social workers because it does not place humans at the center of its concerns. Rather, ecological social work puts the interrelationship between humans and nature at its center. This radically de-centered view of humanity aims to bring consideration of the planet and all of its environmental systems into decision-making to ensure the sustainability of natural resources for the long term. Ecological principles can guide social work practice, research, and education in ways that promote a transition to sustainable practices in every sphere of life. Widespread ecological consciousness is advocated as an important focus for change by some social work authors promoting this approach. A global consciousness is understood to enable humanity’s capacity to deal with the growing concerns about the survival of planet Earth as a suitable habitat for humans, animals, and plants. Humanity’s activities are understood to contribute to the ongoing degradation of fresh water, fertile soils, and pollution of the atmosphere. Drastic changes in the way humans behave and relate to the Earth are considered necessary at the global, national, and local levels. Social workers are thus called on to engage with others in taking on significant roles in many areas of practice to facilitate these crucial societal transformations.

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

International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW)  

Nigel Hall

The International Federation of Social Workers is an international organization representing the interests of social workers around the world. This organization works in cooperation with global regional social work bodies, national organizations, and other associations to organize international events, publish policy statements, encourage cooperative initiatives, and link to other international bodies. It is active in human rights and social development and in the promotion of best practices and high professional social work standards.

Article

National Association of Social Workers  

Elizabeth J. Clark

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership association of professional social workers in the world with nearly 145,000 members. Formed in 1955 by uniting seven predecessor organizations, NASW has a dual mission of protecting and advancing the profession of social work and of advocating for social justice issues. The NASW national office is based in Washington, DC, with chapters in each state, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. There are also separate chapters in New York City and metropolitan Washington, DC, as well as an international chapter for U.S. social workers living abroad.

Article

Social Capital  

Katrina Balovlenkov

Social capital is a social science concept used within macro social work practice to describe the role of human relationships, connectivity, and networks in the planned change process. Social capital has been used to examine how marginalized populations and resource-limited communities mobilize and act to improve social conditions relying on human relationships, connectivity, and networks. Social capital, particularly as it relates to social support and collective efficacy, is linked to preventing and treating disease and addressing socioeconomic conditions that create community-level barriers to well-being. Cultivating social capital has influenced social movements in the United States to produce positive change, such as efforts to create green spaces, challenge discriminatory laws, expand access to healthy food in food deserts, preserve native lands, and enact healthcare reforms. While the definition and measurement of social capital has evolved over the years, in the broadest sense it informs macro social work by improving our understanding of how collective advocacy built on interconnectedness, reciprocity, and trust in both the quality and quantity of social relationships results in real change.

Article

Social Media  

Maria Rodriguez and Jama Shelton

Social media are defined as applications and websites that allows users to share content, usually of their own making. More than just a teenage pastime, social media users include individuals and organizations, across a broad range of social positionalities. Key social work organizations, such as the NASW and AWSB, have begun noting the proliferation of social media usage in education and practice and have begun developing guidelines to govern their use. The American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW), in their Grand Challenges of Social Work initiative, has also highlighted social media as an important area of growth for research and education. Despite the field’s nascent enthusiasm, practical and ethical concerns persist.