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Article

Sara Harmon

Homer Folks (1867–1967) was a social work pioneer, recognizing illness as a major cause of poverty. His public service activities included the care of dependent children, mental hygiene, tuberculosis control, public assistance programs, social research, and corrections and parole.

Article

Sadye L. M. Logan

Frances Lomas Feldman (1912–2008), Professor Emerita at University of Southern California (USC) School of Social Work, was an indomitable force in the social work profession. Her primary research focus was the social and psychological meanings of work and money in American life. She will be remembered for her compassion and for establishing a standard of best practice to families that protected their dignity and supported their inner strengths when seeking aid.

Article

Mary Bricker-Jenkins, Rosemary Barbera, and Barbara Hunter-Randall Joseph

Since the beginning of the profession, radical social work has avowed a commitment to practice dedicated to advancing human rights and social and economic justice. Since the 1980s, the rise of neoliberal global capitalism has vitiated support for robust social welfare programs; its conservatizing effect on the profession has rendered the radical agenda both more urgent and more difficult. Ensuing polarization in the economic, social, and political arenas has been mirrored in the profession as well: differences widen between the micro and macro realms and privatization engulfs the public welfare arena; the epistemological bases of knowledge and prevailing theories form competing camps; the entire project of social work for social welfare is challenged as Eurocentric and implicitly white supremacist. Radical social work has responded to these challenges with innovation and energy, deriving insight from and participating in spontaneous uprisings and resistance, while engaging theoretical and practical conundrums.

Article

Alexis P. Tsoukalas

America’s individualistic national identity and regressive tax systems that favor corporations and the wealthy over everyday people have increasingly exacerbated inequality. Meanwhile, social welfare needs continue to outpace the resources governments employ to address them. While fiscal issues can be complex and opaque, holding governments accountable is imperative to counter long-standing oppression of those identifying as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), women, immigrants, and others. How state governments, in particular, raise and expend revenue has a dramatic effect on the public, especially as the federal government continues to decentralize social welfare to the states. Social workers are uniquely equipped to influence this arena, given their person-in-environment view and having borne witness to the numerous ways misguided priorities have severely harmed those they are called to serve.

Article

Hilary N. Weaver

First Nations Peoples, the original inhabitants of what is now the United States, are a diverse and growing population. There are approximately 5.2 million First Nations Peoples within the boundaries of the United States. First Nations Peoples tend to be younger, poorer, and less educated than others in the United States. The contemporary issues faced by these Peoples are intimately intertwined with the history of colonization and federal policies that perpetuate dependency and undermine self-determination. Social workers must overcome the negative history of their profession with First Nations Peoples, in particular social work involvement in extensive child removals and coercive sterilization of Indigenous women. Social workers have the power and ability to make important differences in enhancing the social, economic, and health status of First Nations Peoples, but this must begin with an awareness of their own attitudes and beliefs, as well as an awareness of how social workers have contributed to, rather than worked to alleviate, the problems of First Nations Peoples.

Article

Every year thousands of children are removed from their families and are placed into out-of-home care. While these children are placed in care settings with a hope of a better future, they are often faced with many challenges that impact their short and long terms growth. As of 2017, 442,995 children have been removed from their families and placed in the U.S. foster care system for an average of 20.1 months. Placement occurs for several reasons, such as neglect, parent incarceration, drug abuse, and caretakers’ inability to cope. Twenty-seven percent (117,110) have been in care over two years, and all of these children face many obstacles in life that can impact their short- and long-term well-being. One of the most significant challenges they face is access to a stable educational environment that supports positive mental, emotional, behavioral, physical, and social growth. Frequent moves, lack of coordination between schools, and underdeveloped infrastructure to support unique needs are some of the significant predictors of disproportionately poor education outcomes for children in foster care and other residential settings. The lack of stable educational environment leads to a number of challenges related to enrollment, stability, access to special services, peer relations, grade retention, and caregiver and teacher familiarity with academic strengths and weaknesses of the child. To improve their educational outcomes, there is a need for advocacy and significant changes at the at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. Consistent efforts need to be made by stakeholders, such as state and federal government, schools, child welfare systems, and community partners to address systemic inequities, improve current policies and practices, increase accessibility to quality schools, provide mental health services, and, most importantly, establish a stable environment that will enable the youth to flourish and succeed.

Article

Dionne V. Frank

Gertie Wood (September 18, 1892–August 26, 1976) was a Guyanese social worker, music teacher, women’s rights activist, and the first female political candidate in the British West Indies. She is most often described by Caribbean historians, gender and development scholars, and supporters of the women’s movements as a pioneer women’s rights activist. However, Wood also made an invaluable impact on social work in then British Guiana during the 1930s and 1940s, articulating the plight of women and children in the former British colony. She found fame with the Circle of Sunshine Workers, the Second Inter-Colonial Conference of Women Social Workers, and her amplification of the need for social welfare workers and programs to the Royal West Indian Commission in 1939. Wood’s activism chartered the path for establishing the British Guiana League of Social Services, a trajectory that created a model for national and transnational collaborative work. Wood was honored for her self-sacrificing service as a recipient of the King’s Silver Jubilee Medal—an Order of the British Empire.

Article

Heather A. Walter-McCabe

This article describes the complex healthcare policy and financing systems in the US within a historic and political context for how the US arrived at these systems. It also provides an overview of frameworks useful for articulating how social work may have an increased influence on policies impacting the healthcare system along with specific arenas ripe for social work interventions towards healthcare system improvements. Social workers have the obligation, through the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, and the requisite skills, to participate in the healthcare policy process ensuring that they not only have a place at policy making tables, but that members of communities impacted by these policies have an opportunity to assist in setting the healthcare policy agenda and programs to best serve them.

Article

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.

Article

Bertram M. Beck

Mitchell I. Ginsberg (1915–1996) headed New York City's public welfare program in the 1960s. In 1953 he joined the faculty of the Columbia University School of Social Work, serving as dean of the school from 1971 to 1981.

Article

Leah Katherine Hicks Manning (1917–1979), a Shoshone-Paiute, was instrumental in the development of the Indian Child Welfare Act. She worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and promoted a better understanding of American Indian families and culture among social workers.

Article

Victor L. Garcia Toro

Rosa C. Marin (1912–1989) was a prominent social worker, educator, and research consultant. From 1944 to 1974 she worked at the School of Social Work of the University of Puerto Rico and in 1967, she founded the journal Revista Humanidad.

Article

John F. Longres

Ernest Frederic Witte (1904–1986) was an educator and administrator. His work in the social welfare field, particularly during World War II, was influential both in the United States and internationally. He was among the first to deal with survivors of the Nazi death camps.

Article

Wilma Peebles-Wilkins

Whitney Moore Young, Jr., (1921–1971) was a social work educator, civil rights leader, and statesman. He worked to eradicate discrimination against Blacks and poor people. From 1961 until his death he was executive director of the National Urban League.

Article

Eleanor L. Brilliant

Social work in the United States emerged out of the work of organized volunteers in the late 19th century. However, the search for professionalization, together with an emphasis on publicly funded social welfare after the 1930s, led social workers to devaluate volunteer activity. Since the 1970s volunteer activity has greatly increased in the United States, and now plays a significant part in American cultural life as well as in the delivery of human services. In recent years volunteerism has been recognized for its demonstrable contribution to the American economy in addition to its fundamental role in a democratic society. Social workers are involved in many ways with volunteers in a multitude of roles and diverse settings and need to understand how to manage and work with a wide range of volunteers.

Article

Maryann Syers

Donald S. Howard (1902–1982), an eminent social work educator and administrator, became the first dean of the School of Social Welfare, University of California, Los Angeles, in 1948. Later, he served as president of the American Association of Social Workers.

Article

Sadye L. M. Logan

Nancy A. Humphreys (1938–2019) was Dean of the University of Connecticut School of Social Work and founder and director of the Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work. She was a pioneer who served with distinction, and left a rich legacy in advocating for women rights, social justice, and the development of political social work.

Article

Leslie Leighninger

This entry discusses some topics in social work and social welfare history. It covers different approaches to that history, such as an emphasis on social control functions of social welfare; a stress on the “ordinary people” involved in historical events; or particular attention to the stories of women, people of color, and other groups who have often been excluded from formal sources of power. It notes the importance of using original sources in writing history, and explains the various steps involved in researching and interpreting these sources.

Article

Halaevalu F. O. Vakalahi, Michael M. Sinclair, Bradford W. Sheafor, and Puafisi Tupola

Professions are developed and maintained through various professional organizations and associations. As social work has evolved in terms of context and content, the professional membership and professional education organizations have periodically unified, separated, and later reunified in the attempt to maintain an identity as a single profession, yet respond to the needs and interests of different practice specialties, educational levels, special interest groups within social work, and diverse cultures and communities. There are approximately 40 known social work organizations and associations across the country, which recognizes the continuous important contributions of emerging groups and entities that represent the diversity that exists in the profession and the diverse critical issues that warrant a timely response. Some of these organizations and associations experience sustained growth and national presence, while others remain on the local level or are no longer active. A few examples of these major social work organizations and associations are described herein.

Article

Poverty  

Mark R. Rank

Poverty has been a subject of concern since the beginnings of social work. This entry reviews three key research areas. First, the extent and dynamics of poverty are examined, including the measurement of poverty, patterns of cross-sectional and comparative poverty rates, the longitudinal dynamics of poverty, and poverty as a life-course risk. Second, reasons for poverty are discussed. These are divided into individual versus structural level explanations. The concept of structural vulnerability is offered as a way of bridging key individual and structural determinants in order to better understand the existence of poverty. Third, strategies and solutions to poverty are briefly reviewed.