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Article

Adult Protective Services  

Patricia Brownell and Joanne Marlatt Otto

Adult Protective Services (APS) are empowered by states and local communities to respond to reports and cases of vulnerable adult abuse, neglect, and self-neglect. While incorporating legal, medical, and mental health services, APS programs are part of the social services delivery system and incorporate principles and practices of the social work profession.

Article

Child Support  

Delanie P. Pope and Joseph Kozakiewicz

Child support is the legal mechanism requiring parents to share in the economic support of their children. Under the law, parents are obligated to support their children regardless of whether they reside with them. Support calculations for noncustodial parents are based on many different factors, which vary from state to state. Enforcement is the single biggest challenge in the area of child support. The federal government continues to pass laws enhancing states' enforcement capabilities. Recipients of child support differ by race and ethnic group. Child support obligations are distinct from alimony and are usually independent of parenting time.

Article

Economic Security and Family Well-Being  

Robert Cosby and Janice Berry-Edwards

Economic security and family well-being remain important issues for communities and for social workers, particularly during economic downturns. Workers in industries such as restaurants, hotels, healthcare, and communications were dramatically affected by the spread of the COVID-19 virus in 2020 and 2021 in the United States. Companies have struggled, many closing during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of those with significant economic capital and potential for growth during this time experienced huge growth opportunities in wealth, but not all. At the same time there were significant racial disparities associated with COVID-19, including disparate access to medical services. Social workers can benefit from understanding the complex issues associated with economic insecurity. The impact of economic insecurity among individuals, families, and communities can ravage their physical, emotional, and mental well-being, and understanding how macro, mezzo, and micro dynamics affect individual and family quality of life is paramount for social workers.

Article

Family Services  

Katharine Briar-Lawson and Toni Naccarato

This overview of family services addresses some of the demographic trends and diversity in U.S. families. Inclusionary and exclusionary dynamics are cited, including the ways that income and race may insidiously determine discriminatory practices and differential outcomes. An array of family services are presented. They build on the evidence-based reviews related to the Family First Prevention Services Act. Key programs cited are Functional Family Therapy, Multisystemic Therapy, Brief Strategic Family Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Nurse–Family Partnership, Healthy Families America, Parent–Child Interaction Therapy, Parents as Teachers, and Homebuilders and Kinship care. Questions are raised about the need for a family support agenda in the United States that addresses diverse intergenerational families, ensuring their capacity to deliver core services to their members and provide equitable and basic guarantees.

Article

Food (In)Security  

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

Foster Care  

Joyce E. Everett

Social work has long been involved in child foster care. Though its initial involvement de-emphasized the importance of infant–caregiver attachment, Bowlby’s theory of attachment is particularly relevant for child-welfare practice. This entry chronicles the history of child foster care and describes the evolution of legislation most pertinent for the provision of foster care. The characteristics of children in foster care since 2000 and the dynamic flow of children entering and exiting care are described. A brief account of foster care services and future trends in the field are highlighted.

Article

Intimate Partner Violence  

Bonnie E. Carlson

Intimate partner violence—physical, emotional, or sexual abuse experienced in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships—has emerged as a significant and complex social problem warranting the attention of social workers. Numerous risk factors have been identified in individual perpetrators and victims, as well as at the level of the relationship, community, and society. Partner violence has diverse consequences for female victims, as well as for perpetrators and children who are exposed to it. Although many female victims do seek help and end abusive relationships, seeking help from professionals such as social workers is often a last resort.

Article

Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse  

Jill Theresa Messing

Intimate partner violence—the continual and systematic exercise of power and control within an intimate relationship that often also includes physical and sexual violence—has emerged as a significant and complex social problem warranting the attention of social workers. Risk and protective factors have been identified at the individual, family, community, and societal levels. Some of these risk factors for repeat and lethal violence have been organized into risk assessment instruments that can be used by social workers to educate and empower survivors. Intimate partner violence has multiple negative health and mental health consequences for female victims and their children. Social workers in all areas of practice should be prepared to intervene with victims of intimate partner violence in a culturally competent manner using a strengths-based framework.

Article

Lesbians: Overview  

Lori Messinger and Jennifer Wheeler Brooks

This entry provides an overview of research on lesbians in the United States using an overarching framework of oppression and empowerment. Historical and current demographic and cultural information about lesbians will be reported, along with an analysis of personal and environmental factors critical to social work practitioners' ability to enhance the well-being of lesbian individuals, couples, and families.

Article

Marriage and Domestic Partnership  

Elaine M. Maccio

This entry briefly covers the history, demographics, research, clinical practice, diversity, debates, and trends surrounding marriage and domestic partnership in the United States. Who marries and why, when, and at what rate people marry is covered, as are some of the statistics behind alternatives to marriage, such as cohabitation, domestic partnership, and civil unions. It is beyond the scope of this entry to discuss in detail relationship dissolution and divorce, although information is provided insomuch as it relates to marriage and domestic partnership. The ability to form close relationships with others is a crucial component of life span development. In fact, an inability to do so may be considered partial criteria for some types of mental disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Psychologist Erik Erikson (1980) theorized that young adults must master intimacy over isolation if they are to move successfully through his proposed stages of psychosocial development. Apart from these theoretical obligations, much of global society sanctions the forming of close relationships that it deems appropriate. Proms, engagements, weddings, and anniversary celebrations serve to socially reinforce (usually heterosexual) couplings and the norms surrounding acceptable relationships. Marriage is the legal, and most often consensual, partnering of two persons of either sex. Domestic partnership can refer to any unrelated persons 18 years of age or older living together for a minimum specified period of time (for example, one year) and in a financially interdependent relationship. Both unmarried heterosexual couples and same-sex couples can apply for domestic partner status in those jurisdictions, companies, and institutions that recognize it. However, such distinction still falls short of the 1,138 federal benefits and protections afforded to legally married couples (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1997, 2004). For example, access to a partner's Social Security benefits, Medicaid and Medicare benefits, and veterans' pensions, and the exemption from gift and estate tax liabilities, are just a few of the laws mentioned in the U.S. Code that are affected by marital status. Only marriage offers couples such entitlements; civil unions, a proposed substitute for same-sex marriage and available in only a handful of states, afford no federal benefits and protections.

Article

Reproductive Health  

Marjorie R. Sable and Patricia J. Kelly

Reproductive health includes family planning, prenatal care, and the broader scope of primary care. Because a woman's health status at conception is as important as prenatal care, genetic screening and 20th century medical technology, reproductive health includes “the preconceptual and interconceptual periods and the menopause, and finally, not only reproductive tract problems but the wide range of risk factors that influence a woman's health in general.” Quantitative indicators of reproductive outcomes are useful for summarizing progress in reproductive health. Important indicators are discussed and reveal significant racial disparities.

Article

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families  

Catherine K. Lawrence

In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act repealed the 60-year-old national welfare program of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and replaced it with a new cash assistance program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The 1996 law introduced a new generation of rules and regulations for delivering cash and other assistance to families living in poverty, and it fundamentally reformed the way the United States assists such families and their children. Decades after welfare reform, opinions regarding the success of TANF and its impact on families still vary; welfare caseloads have declined since TANF implementation, but economic disparities have escalated in the nation, and self-sufficiency eludes many families.