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Article

Adolescent Brain Development  

Jessica M. Black

Although it was once widely held that development through toddlerhood was the only significant time of tremendous brain growth, findings from neuroscience have identified adolescence as a second significant period of brain-based changes. Profound modification of brain structure, function, and connectivity, paired with heightened sensitivity to environment, places adolescence both as a heightened period of risk and importantly as a time of tremendous opportunity. These findings are of key relevance for social-work policy and practice, for they speak to the ways in which the adolescent brain both is vulnerable to adverse conditions and remains responsive to positive environmental input such as interventions that support recovery and resilience.

Article

Alcohol and Drug Prevention Among Youth and Young Adults  

Peter J. Delany, Jane Sanville, and Joseph J. Shields

Substance use and comorbid mental health disorders are widespread in the United States. Recent data suggests that previous declines in substance use among adolescents ages 12–17 years and young adults ages 18–25 observed between 2002 and 2014 may be abating. In fact, research suggests that alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use may be increasing in response to the social distancing and isolation related to COVID-19 restrictions. Drug use contributes to overdoses, poor health status, loss of income, family violence, accidents, auto fatalities, removal of children from a home, and impaired mental, emotional, and behavioral development in children. Substance misuse, substance use disorders, and related comorbid mental health and social problems are not inevitable. Substance use prevention services focus on strengthening protective factors and reducing risk factors that put individuals, families, and communities at risk for substance abuse and related health and social consequences. The social work profession performs an important role in advancing and implementing substance abuse prevention, not only in preventing the use and misuse of alcohol and other drugs and related negative health, mental health and economic outcomes, but also in working to improve the overall health of communities through intervention programs and policies.

Article

Autism and Suicide  

Oren Shtayermman

This article reviews the changes in the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM)-5. It reviews the risk factors associated with suicide in the general population and the link between these risk factors and individuals on the autism spectrum. When discussing autism and suicide (as a spectrum), the complexities that the two present influence parents, researchers, and practitioners. As an added dimension of convolution, there are only a small number of published studies in the area of autism and suicide, and many have marked the importance of awareness and connection between autism and suicide. The article presents the most recent and available research on ASDs and suicide. Methodological challenges related to these studies will be discussed as well as the implications for research, practice, and education.

Article

Autism Spectrum Disorder  

Sandy Magaña and Lauren Bishop

Autism spectrum disorder is a heritable, developmental disability that is characterized by challenges with social communication and the presence of restrictive and/or repetitive patterns of behavior. Autism spectrum disorder affects development and quality of life from very early development through old age. Social workers play a number of different roles in supporting and advocating for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. It is important that social workers understand the etiology, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder, how it manifests throughout the lifespan, and challenges faced by families affected by ASD.

Article

Bullying in Youth  

Jonathan Singer and Karen Slovak

Bullying is the most common form of violence in schools and has been shown to disrupt the emotional and social development of both the targets and the perpetrators of bullying (Raskauskas & Stoltz, 2007). Bullying can be physical, verbal, relational, and direct or indirect. There are well-established age and sex trends (Olweus, 1993; Smith, Madsen, & Moody, 1999). There has been considerable research on bullying-prevention programs and scholarship on best-practice guidelines for school social workers (Dupper, 2013). An emerging concern is with the use of electronic and Internet devices in bullying, referred to as “cyberbullying.” In this article we define bullying and cyberbullying; discuss risk factors associated with being a bully, a victim, and a bully-victim; describe prevention and intervention programs; and discuss emerging trends in both bullying and cyberbullying.

Article

Child and Adolescent Mental-Health Disorders  

Susan Frauenholtz and Amy Mendenhall

Mental-health disorders are widely prevalent in children and adolescents, and social workers are the primary service providers for children and families experiencing these disorders. This entry provides an overview of some of the most commonly seen disorders in children and adolescents: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and specific learning disorders. The prevalence, course, diagnostic criteria, assessment guidelines, and treatment interventions are reviewed for each disorder. In addition, the key role of social workers in the identification and intervention of these disorders, as well as ways social workers can support the children and families experiencing these disorders, is discussed.

Article

Children: Health Care  

Barbara L. Jones and Casey Walsh

Despite rapid medical advances, children in this country still face significant barriers to adequate health care, including unequal access to insurance and health care. There is great need and opportunity in our nation at this time to advocate for the advancement and prioritization of pediatric health care. Children remain vulnerable to the challenges of poverty, violence, firearms, mental health, and health care access. Social workers play an important role in assisting children and families who face health care crises by providing supportive services, advocacy, culturally grounded assessment, trauma informed care, and evidence-based interventions to improve healthcare outcomes and quality of life. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), signed into law in 2010, has increased access to pediatric health and behavioral health services. While the future of this law is uncertain at the time of this writing, social work is and will continue to be an important discipline to assist children and families in the areas of health promotion and adaptation to illness and injury.

Article

Children’s Health  

Shirley Gatenio Gabel

The history of social work is deeply rooted in helping vulnerable populations improve their well-being, and children have been at the forefront of these efforts since the inception of the profession. Health is long understood to be critical to children’s well-being. Social workers who are skilled in integrating different systems can play pivotal roles in engineering new and improving existing health-care infrastructures and can act as advocates for fusing health-service systems with other social infrastructures to optimize outcomes for children. This entry reviews trends in children’s health throughout the world, particularly in the United States. It describes the dramatic improvements in reducing infant mortality, child mortality and morbidity from many infectious diseases as well as accidental and environmental causes, and the unequal progress in realizing children’s health. The challenges that lie ahead that pose risks to children’s health are discussed, including the health inequities created among and within countries by social, economic, and political factors. An argument for a comprehensive, integrated, evidence-based, and cross-disciplinary approach to improve children’s future health is presented.

Article

Community Healing and Reconciliation  

Joshua Kirven and George Jacinto

Community healing and reconciliation have been a focus of many nations in response to civil war, genocide, and other conflicts. There also has been an increase in the number of high-profile murders of young African Americans at the hands of law enforcement in the United States. In 2020 this problem was even more real and growing with the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and Ahmaud Arbery. These tragic incidents have led to public outcry, civil unrest, and police protests for social change moving from a threshold of peaceful assemblies to violent confrontations across the United States causing the world to take notice and posit the question, “do Black lives really matter?” To answer this question a critical overview of gun violence, a reflective aftermath of the killings of two African American youths in Sanford, Florida and Cleveland, Ohio, and the community’s voice and reaction and the community’s resiliency towards healing and reconciliation are examined. Community model initiatives are introduced of the two cities affected in bridging police-community relations through acknowledging and addressing historical injustices with police and systematic racism and how they attempted to bring positive change, healing and reconciliation.

Article

Community Violence  

Muhammad M. Haj-Yahia, Neil B. Guterman, and Maria João Lobo Antunes

Community violence is a widespread concern that is receiving increasing attention by social workers. We consider here the problem of community violence and the present understanding of its rates, risk factors, protective factors, consequences, and some orientations for prevention and intervention. Growing evidence identifies a multifaceted and multisystemic ecological perspective of risk and protective factors linked with community violence exposure and its effects. Current research points to potentially helpful ameliorative and preventive strategies for social workers to consider at the micro and macro levels; however, the main focus of this article is on the macro-level factors and processes.

Article

Deinstitutionalization  

Steven P. Segal

The deinstitutionalization policy sought to replace institutional care for populations in need of care and control with prosocial community-based alternatives. U.S. institutional populations, however, have increased since the policy’s inception by 205%. As implemented, with the assistance of advocacy and cost-cutting factions, it has succeeded only in enabling the divestiture of state responsibility for target groups. It sought to prevent unnecessary admission and retention in institutions. As implemented, deinstitutionalization initiated a process that involved a societal shift in the type of institutions and institutional alternatives used to house its target groups, often referred to as transinstitutionalization. For many in need of institutional placements, it has succeeded in preventing all admissions, while it has expanded admissions for others. In seeking to develop community alternatives for housing, treating, and habilitating or rehabilitating its target groups, it has succeeded in establishing a variety of alternative living arrangements and showcase/model programs illustrating what can be done, yet it has failed to deliver on investments in such programs to serve the majority of its target groups. It has resulted in the abandonment of substantial numbers to homelessness. Deinstitutionalization policy has motivated political, economic, legal, and social change in the care and control of six populations—older adults, children, people with mental illness, people with developmental disabilities, people under correctional system supervision, and, more recently, individuals without a home. A truer implementation of deinstitutionalization’s initial aspirations requires reconsideration of these changes.

Article

Deinstitutionalization in Macro Practice  

Steven P. Segal

The deinstitutionalization policy sought to replace institutional care for populations in need of care and control with prosocial community-based alternatives. U.S. institutional populations, however, have increased since the policy’s inception by 205%. As implemented, with the assistance of advocacy and cost-cutting factions, it has succeeded only in enabling the divestiture of state responsibility for target groups. It sought to prevent unnecessary admission and retention in institutions. As implemented, deinstitutionalization initiated a process that involved a societal shift in the type of institutions and institutional alternatives used to house its target groups, often referred to as trans-institutionalization. For many in need of institutional placements, it has succeeded in preventing all admissions, expanding admissions for others. In seeking to develop community alternatives for housing, treating, and habilitating or rehabilitating its target groups, it has succeeded in establishing a variety of alternative living arrangements and showcase and model programs illustrating what can be done; yet, it has failed to deliver on investments in such programs to serve the majority of its target groups. It has resulted in the abandonment of substantial numbers to homelessness. It has been documented, from political, economic, legal, and social perspectives, how this policy has affected the care and control of populations such as older adults, children, people with mental illness or developmental disabilities, people under correctional-system supervision, and, more recently, individuals without a home. Suggestions for a truer implementation of deinstitutionalization’s initial aspirations are available.

Article

Early Brain Development for Social Work Practice  

Terri Combs-Orme

Development of the brain in the first 3 years of life is genetically programmed but occurs in response to environmental stimuli. The brain is organized “from the bottom up,” that is, from simpler to more complex structures and functions, so the experiences and environment that shape early development have consequences that reach far into the future. This entry describes the ontogeny and processes of fetal and infant brain development, as well as major risks to early brain development (during pregnancy and after birth), with emphasis on the factors seen in social-work practice. Neuroscience research is changing social work practice, and understanding early brain development and the contributors to poor development is critical for social workers in medical, mental health, child welfare, and other practice settings.

Article

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing  

Tonya Edmond and Karen Lawrence

Since its inception in 1987, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has been the subject of lively debate and controversy, rigorous research both nationally and internationally, and is now used by licensed practitioners across six continents as an effective treatment of trauma symptoms and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The aim of this entry is to provide social work practitioners and researchers with a description of the treatment approach for adults and children, EMDR’s development and theoretical basis, a review of controversial issues, and an overview of the evidence of effectiveness of EMDR across trauma types and populations.

Article

Home Visits and Family Engagement  

Barbara Wasik and Donna Bryant

The importance of engaging families in home visiting was recognized more than a century ago as M. E. Richmond provided guidelines for involving families in the visiting process. She stressed individualizing services and helping families develop skills that would serve them after the home visiting services ended. During the 20th century, early organized efforts in home visiting in the United States built on methods used in other countries, especially European countries. Although interest fluctuated in the United States during the past century, since 2010 interest has increased due primarily to the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that provided for home visiting services to respond to the needs of children and families in order to improve health and development outcomes for vulnerable children and their families. Engaging families is essential for a productive home visiting experience requiring thoughtful program activities as well as knowledge and skills on the part of the visitor. Program responsibilities begin with the need to make good employment decisions regarding home visitors and then to provide effective training, supervision, and ongoing professional development. Providing professional training in helping skills such as observation, listening, and ways of asking questions to gain or clarify information is essential to ensure visitors can engage families. Using principles for effective home visiting—including establishing a collaborative relationship with the family; individualizing services; being responsive to family culture, language, and values; and prompting problem-solving skills—can enhance the ability of the visitor to engage the family. Programs can provide opportunities for visitors to enhance their skills in developing relationships with and engaging families. Engaging families is a reciprocal process. Some families will have a positive orientation toward working with visitors to accomplish their own goals and objectives; others may be less willing to engage. Although the program and visitors have the main responsibility for engagement, they will face challenges with some families and may need to seek creative solutions to actively engage. Just as home visitors need to engage parents in order to facilitate new knowledge and skills, parents need to engage their children to foster development. Recent research identified a set of parent–child interactions that visitors can incorporate to foster parent engagement with young children. These challenges are shared across home visit programs, as well as across cultures and countries, regardless of the professional training of the visitors or the goals and procedures of the programs.

Article

Interventions for Adolescent Depression  

Jacqueline Corcoran

Rates of depression increase during adolescence and may put youth at risk for suicidality, future episodes, and impaired functioning in multiple life domains. Increased vulnerability for depression during this stage may occur because it is when the cognitive capacity for personal reflection, abstract reasoning, and formal operational thought develop; depressive styles for attributing events may hence form, along with hopelessness about the future. However, other biological and social influences may also interact with the increased cognitive vulnerability. Latino ethnicity and female gender appear to exert particular influence. Treatment for adolescent depression includes medication (mainly Prozac and Zoloft), cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and family therapy. Medication and psychosocial treatment is also combined, particularly for treatment-resistant depression.

Article

Interventions for Physically and Sexually Abused Children  

Kathleen Coulborn Faller

Social workers play a vital role in helping physically and sexually abused children. In order to play this role, they need knowledge about the nature of the problem: (1) legal definitions of physical and sexual abuse, (2) its incidence and prevalence, and (3) its signs and symptoms. Social workers have three major roles to play: (1) identifying and reporting child abuse to agencies mandated to intervene; (2) investigating and assessing children and families involved in child abuse; and (3) providing evidence-based interventions, both case management and treatment, to physically and sexually abused children.

Article

Mental Health: Adolescents  

Craig Winston LeCroy

Health care practitioners frequently ignore mental health problems in teens. Adolescents’ daily functioning may be hampered as they mature and are exposed to more dangerous settings. The common behavioral and mental health issues that teenagers face is critical to understanding how to best offer prevention and intervention services. Teenage mental health treatment often focuses on developing functional abilities and identifying models of care that can lessen dysfunctional symptomatology. The latest approaches to treating and preventing teenage mental health issues are presented. The mental health field has placed increased focus on implementing evidence-based treatments. In addition to treatment models, numerous additional elements must be taken into account while developing or implementing treatment.

Article

Mental Illness: Children  

Marlys Staudt

The primary focus of the entry is service utilization. As background, the risks for and prevalence of childhood mental disorders are summarized. Then, the current children's mental health services system is described, including the role of nonspecialty sectors of care and informal support systems. Service use barriers and disparities, pathways to services, and strategies to increase service use are discussed. The conclusion notes other current issues in child mental health, including the need to implement evidence-based treatments.

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.