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Article

African American Social Welfare History  

Iris Carlton-LaNey

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

African Americans Overview  

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

Since their arrival 400 years ago, African Americans have endured 246 years of chattel slavery and 100 years of apartheid followed by decades of systematic racial discrimination and injustice. Nevertheless, Africans and their descendants have contributed significantly to the building of the United States and have greatly influenced every sector of society. To document this tenuous position, we summarize key demographic, economic, and social trends as well as the potential role of macro social work to improve outcomes. Present-day racism in the United States is persistent and frequently underestimated, so combatting anti-Blackness and White supremacy at structural and societal levels is essential.

Article

Aging: Overview  

Lisa A. Ferretti and Philip McCallion

Growth in the aging population and increasing concerns in terms of health issues and financial and caregiving challenges among older adults are well established. Historically, the Older Americans Act has provided the delivery structure and services for older adults in need. Agencies within these structures have also engaged with housing and health care providers and funders. The structures and relationships are not adequate to support the desires of older adults for self-determination and aging in place and remain too treatment oriented rather than preventative and supportive in focus. Macro social work must engage in building aging structures, services, communities, and resources more fit for changing purposes.

Article

United States Social Security System  

Eric R. Kingson and Nancy J. Altman

Social Security—the American people’s most important insurance—does more to maintain living standards and prevent poverty than any other social welfare policy or program, public or private. This entry discusses why our nation’s Social Security system was built, what it does, how it evolved and how it continues to do so. Contemporary challenges and related policy options are identified regarding program financing and the public’s need for expanded protections—retirement, disability, survivorship, paid family leave, and paid sick leave, among other protections. The analysis highlights messaging and political strategies used by those seeking to diminish the role of Social Security and those seeking to expand its protections. The entry suggests that the values and objectives of the American Social Security system comport well with social-work; and that both opportunity and need exist for social workers to shape Social Security’s future through application of policy analysis, advocacy, organizing and administrative skills.

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

Attaining Sustainable Development Goals  

Shanta Pandey

At its 2015 General Assembly, the United Nations formulated the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to emergize its Member nations and social workers practicing in these countries to engage in environmentally sustainable social and economic development leaving no one behind. At the core of SDGs is the conviction that protecting planet Earth is possible by working collectively and ensuring that all human beings are able to realize their full potentials. The charges include solving a wide range of environmental, economic, and social problems including poverty, hunger, violence, and discrimination by 2030. The SDGs are inclusive of all people; they have galvanized all Member countries and their policy makers and practitioners, including social workers, to strive toward the common goals. Progress has been made from previous initiatives, but there are still challenges ahead. The first five SDGs are particularly relevant to social workers, who have an important role to play in alleviating poverty, promoting health and education, and empowering women and girls.

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

Disparities and Inequalities: An Overview  

Hyejin Jung and King Davis

This entry presents an overview of disparities and inequalities. Disparity is defined as measurable differences between individuals, groups, races, regions, states, or nations. The frequency and severity of disparities distinguish groups by multiple identifiable characteristics. In the United States, minority populations have historically ranked higher in prevalence and incidence than others on most disparity indices. In many nations, at-risk groups are distinguished by historically high rates of disparities. Although the level of adverse conditions has declined in the United States and abroad, troublesome disparities exist in nations torn by war, disagreements, disputes, tribal differences, and dictatorial leaders. The major disparity indices include excess mortality rates from infectious diseases like COVID-19, poor health, poverty, unemployment, limited access to fresh and affordable food, absence of health care, absence of potable water, violence, and substandard housing. It is assumed that populations do not voluntarily choose these disparate conditions or cause them through personal deficits. The historical persistence of disparities and inequalities over decades is indicative of systemic or structural causation. This entry contributes to the historical, theoretical, and evidentiary base of macro social work practices that focus on changes in policies, leadership, planning, resource distribution, agency processes and functions, network development, organizations, lobbying, and communities.

Article

Disproportionality and Disparities  

Rowena Fong, Ruth G. McRoy, and Alan Dettlaff

Racial disproportionality and disparities are problems affecting children and families of color in the child welfare, juvenile justice, education, mental-health, and health-care systems. The term “disproportionality” refers to the ratio between the percentage of persons in a particular racial or ethnic group at a particular decision point or experiencing an event (maltreatment, incarceration, school dropouts) compared to the percentage of the same racial or ethnic group in the overall population. This ratio could suggest underrepresentation, proportional representation, or overrepresentation of a population experiencing a particular phenomenon. The term “disparity” refers to “unequal treatment or outcomes for different groups in the same circumstance or at the same decision point.” A close examination of disproportionality and disparities brings attention to differences in outcomes, often by racial group, and by social service systems. It is necessary to examine the reasons for these differences in outcomes and to be sure that culturally competent practices are upheld.

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

Employment and Unemployment  

Michelle Livermore

Different types of employment and unemployment are defined and the measurement of these concepts is illustrated. Unemployment trends among different groups in the United States are described and competing theories of the causes of unemployment are explained. Finally, policies relating to employment, including those focusing on labor supply, labor demand, and labor regulation, are discussed.

Article

Human Rights Overview  

Joseph M. Wronka

At the heart of social work, human rights is a set of interdependent and indivisible guiding principles with implications for meta-macro (global), macro (whole population), mezzo (at risk), micro (clinical), meta-micro (everyday life), and research interventions to eradicate social malaise and promote well-being. Human rights can be best understood vis-à-vis the UN Human Rights Triptych. This consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, increasingly referred to as customary international law; the guiding principles, declarations, and conventions following it, such as the Guiding Principles to Eradicate Extreme Poverty, Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; and implementation mechanisms, such as the filing of country reports on compliance to conventions, the Universal Periodic Review, thematic and country reports by special rapporteurs, and world conferences. This powerful idea, which emerged from the ashes of World War II, emphasizes five crucial notions: human dignity; nondiscrimination; civil and political rights; economic, social, and cultural rights; and solidarity rights. The hope is that every person, everywhere, will have their human rights realized. Only chosen values endure. The challenge is the creation of a human rights culture, which is a lived awareness of these principles in one’s mind, spirit, and body, integrated into our everyday lives. Doing so will require vision, courage, hope, humility, and everlasting love, as the Indigenous spiritual leader Crazy Horse reminded us.

Article

Incarcerated Women  

Patricia O’Brien

This article summarizes the incidence of women in the United States who have been sentenced to prison as a consequence of a felony conviction for violation of state or federal laws. It also describes their characteristics and co-occurring health conditions; issues that contribute to women’s experiences after release from prison, including those that lead to success and failure during re-entry; and gendered practices and policies that provide alternatives to incarceration.

Article

Income Distribution  

Joel Blau

Income distribution is defined both as the process of distributing income to individuals and families and as the statistical consequences of that distribution. After examining the measurement issues that enter into this distribution, the discussion highlights the evidence for rising inequality in the United States. It finds the top quintile, and even more starkly the top 5% and 1% of all households, to have secured most of the gains. Identifying neoliberalism, the heightened power of business, and the effects of globalization as the primary causes for this shift, income distribution is then correlated with other social welfare policy issues such as economic growth, health, and political democracy.

Article

Income Security  

Martha N. Ozawa

The United States is undergoing tremendous changes in economic conditions and in demographics. However, the concept of income security and income security measures are often the reflections of the country's long-held value system regarding tolerance of the size of the welfare state and the choice of strategies for dealing with income security for certain segments of the population. Furthermore, the U.S. Constitution prevents the federal government from federalizing the financing of many income-security programs. Because of the traditional belief system, together with the constitutional constraints, the approach taken to address the current problems is often ineffective and obsolete. This entry provides a glimpse of how income policy is developed in the United States with inappropriate assumptions and rationality.

Article

International Aid, Relief, and Humanitarian Assistance  

Carmen Monico, Karen Smith Rotabi, and Taghreed Abu Sarhan

International development, humanitarian aid, and relief are at the heart of international social work practice. They have evolved historically and globally; shaped by world markets, social and environmental forces, including natural disasters. Considering this context, the authors cluster relevant social-work theories and practices as (a) human rights perspectives and (b) ecological, feminist, and cultural theories. They discuss both micro and macro practice, with an emphasis on the latter. Case studies are presented with the overlay of relevant international conventions, guidance, and international private law. A continuum of humanitarian assistance is presented considering different countries. Guatemala is a prominent example in addition to Haiti’s massive earthquake of 2010 with recent revelations of sexual abuse and exploitation by humanitarian aid workers, post-conflict community-based practices in Afghanistan, and the largest cross-border forced migration in modern history of Iraqi, and Syrian refugees with this second group being of particular concern given their mass displacement. Capacity building as related to social work training is emphasized. This entry concludes that much remains to be accomplished with regard to capacity building among humanitarian assistance organizations so that the principles and practice strategies of international social work are institutionalized.

Article

International Child Development Accounts  

Michael Sherraden, Li-Chen Cheng, Fred M. Ssewamala, Youngmi Kim, Vernon Loke, Li Zou, Gina Chowa, David Ansong, Lissa Johnson, YungSoo Lee, Michal Grinstein-Weiss, Margaret M. Clancy, Jin Huang, Sondra G. Beverly, Yunju Nam, and Chang-Keun Han

Child Development Accounts (CDAs) are subsidized savings or investment accounts to help people accumulate assets for developmental purposes and life course needs. They are envisioned as universal (everyone participates), progressive (greater subsidies for the poor), and potentially lifelong national policy. These features distinguish CDAs from most existing asset-building policies and programs around the world, which are typically regressive, giving greater benefits to the well-off. With policy innovation in recent years, several countries now have national CDA policies, and four states in the United States have statewide programs. Some of these are designed to be universal and progressive. Evidence indicates that true universality can be achieved, but only with automatic account opening and automatic deposits. In the absence of automatic features, advantaged families participate and benefit more. Today, momentum for universal and automatic features is gradually gaining traction and accelerating. At this stage in the emergence of inclusive asset-based policy, this is the most important development.

Article

International Council on Social Welfare  

Sergei Zelenev

The International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW) is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) focused on advocacy, knowledge-building, and technical assistance projects in various areas of social development carried out at the country level and internationally. Created in 1928 in Paris to address the complexities and challenges of social work, the ICSW has evolved through the years to embrace the major issues of social development, becoming a global organization committed to improving human well-being. Establishing common ground on issues of international significance and acting with partners through its nine regional networks, ICSW represents national and local organizations in more than 70 countries throughout the world. Membership also includes major international organizations. By virtue of its constitution, it operates as a democratic and accountable organization.