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Article

June Gary Hopps and Tony B. Lowe

The social work profession addressed a panoply of social problems that grew larger in an ever-expanding geopolitical environment, where social equity or justice was often a remedial value. Social welfare institutions and programs, initially private and later both public and private, filled the societal void, bringing social care to the disadvantaged. Lay caregivers formed the foundation for a nascent, but now over 100-year-old, profession. Growth was sustained for over 50 years from the 1930s to 1980s, when progressive thought was challenged with conservative ideology. The challenge for contemporary social welfare and a maturing social work profession is how to navigate a changing milieu highlighted by complex human conditions in the face of real and contrived shortages, increasing class stratification, political polarization, and heightened judicial scrutiny.

Article

Sarah Gehlert, Rowena Fong, and Gail Steketee

The American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW) is a scholarly and professional society of distinguished of social work and social welfare scholars and practitioners that was conceived in 2009 to establish excellence in social work and social welfare research and practice. The first 10 Fellows were inducted in 2010 and a total of 172 Fellows have been inducted since that year. Nominations are solicited from current Fellows, processed through a Nominations and Elections Committee process, and voted on by the membership. Through committee structure and an expanding, and now independent, practical initiative called the Grand Challenges for Social Work that was the Academy’s first initiative, the Academy serves to advance social welfare through advocacy and policy and to encourage scholarship, along with expanding the reach of the Academy Fellows’ expertise into critical government and public forums. The AASWSW s in its second-year of administering a mentoring program to provide expertise and resources for early career faculty through Fellows who volunteer as mentors for specific projects like a grant application or research manuscript. Future Academy endeavors include awards for innovation and impact in research or practice, sponsoring policy briefs, often in conjunction with other academies, and serving as a relevant source of information for the social work profession.

Article

Paul A. Kurzman

Occupational (industrial) social work, one of the newest fields of policy and practice, has evolved since the mid-1960s to become a dynamic arena for social service and practice innovation. Focusing on work, workers, and work organizations, occupational social work provides unique opportunities for the profession to affect the decisions and provisions of management and labor. Despite the risks inherent in working in powerful and often proprietary settings, being positioned to help workers, their families, and job hunters enables professional social workers to have the leverage both to provide expert service and to become agents of progressive social change.

Article

North America is one of the world's richest regions, and both the United States and Canada are ranked in the top 10 of the United Nations Human Development Index. However, poverty and inequality, and in particular, child poverty continues to be a significant problem. Social workers in both countries provide a wide array of human services to a range of populations. Social work has developed into a mature profession but is currently struggling to meet the increasing demand for its services.

Article

Iris Carlton-LaNey

This entry traces American social welfare development from the 1890s to 1950. It also includes social work's participation and response to need during two critical times in American history: the Progressive Era and the New Deal. Social reformers were instrumental in the development of social legislation, including the establishment of the Children's Bureau as well as the development of a public welfare system at the state level. America's response to human suffering left many groups, such American Indians, African Americans, and Asians, marginalized. In response, African Americans established a parallel system of private relief through organizations such as the National Urban League, unlike the other racial groups.

Article

The educational imperative to study social welfare policy has remained a constant throughout the history of social work education. Although specific policies and social issues may change over time, the need to advocate for and create humane, justice-based social policy remains paramount. The study of welfare policy contributes to the effectiveness of practitioners who are knowledgeable and skilled in analysis, advocacy, and the crafting of justice-based social welfare policies. In addition to traditional policy content areas, students should develop knowledge and skills in critical thinking, understand a range of justice theories, and recognize the direct interaction between globalization and national and local policy matters.

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

Asia contains more than 60% of the world’s population and is the fastest growing economic region. However, it faces challenges, including poverty, HIV and AIDS, and human rights concerns. In the midst of rapid changes in the social–political context, social workers and welfare organizations are making a significant contribution in addressing these challenges and improving social well-being in the region by broadening indigenous social networks to incorporate private, public, and community interventions.

Article

Africa is one of the world's poorest regions and it faces numerous and complex challenges as it strives to achieve its development objectives. The main challenges relate to poverty and its alleviation, economic growth, democratization leading to political stability, improving social welfare, and generally creating a just and equitable society. The resolution of these issues is critical to social work if the profession is to make an impact.

Article

The social, political, and economic features of Central America are summarized and the impact of economic and political processes on the region is highlighted. Predominant global, historical, cultural, and political events are weaved together, in an attempt to understand the realities of the region. The challenges for social work profession and practice are presented, as well as their implications for new approaches to intervention and education.

Article

North African and Middle Eastern nations have an 80-year history with social work, based on colonial, imported models of practice. There is some success in localizing social work to immediate communities. Social welfare tends to be instrumental, selective, and not comprehensive. Colonialism has hurt political institutions; and geopolitical conflicts, socioeconomic inequality, poverty, and political repression also influence parameters of social work and social change.

Article

Europe includes not only some of the most economically and socially developed countries in the world but also some of the poorest. Social work as a profession has been well established for over 100 years within a variety of social welfare models; the countries in Central and Eastern Europe have re-established social work since the 1990s. The financial crisis of 2007/2008 and its aftermath, followed by the challenges of migration from war zones and Africa, have had a significant impact on the politics and social policy of the region and the resources available for social services and social work in most countries. These events are provoking a re-evaluation of the European Social Model. Some argue that they have also fueled the rise in electoral support for far right, nationalist, anti-immigration, and populist parties, seen also in other continents. The decision of the United Kingdom to break away from the EU, following a referendum in 2016, and the increase in support for anti-EU parties in other countries are having a profound social and political impact across the region.

Article

The Caribbean is a multiethnic, multilingual archipelago of islands and mainland territories, with similar experiences of European colonialism and modern-day globalization. The countries generally enjoy stable political systems but grapple with many of the problems experienced by countries elsewhere. These include vulnerability to natural disasters, migration, violence, and drug abuse. Lifestyle diseases such as cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease are on the increase, and the region is second only to sub-Saharan Africa in the prevalence of HIV and AIDS. In the English-speaking Caribbean, social work is well established, and social service provisioning is modeled on the traditional welfare state approach. A few countries have achieved universal levels of social service delivery.

Article

Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand are among the world's most liveable countries, despite the increase in relative poverty and the negative effect of past policies on indigenous populations. Social work is well established and is social-justice oriented. Social work is an emerging profession in the Pacific Islands, where economic and social potential is often hampered by political instability and a lack of sustainable economic management, rapid urbanization, and unemployment.

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

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

Tomi Gomory and Daniel Dunleavy

Social work is perhaps most distinctive for its clear and outspoken commitment toward improving the well-being of society’s vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, while still emphasizing the importance of respecting and defending personal rights and freedoms. Though there is a fundamental necessity for coercion, or its threat, for eliciting civil social behavior in a well-functioning society, it is professionally and ethically imperative that social workers make explicit our rationales for, justifications of, and the evidence used to support or reject coercive practices in our work. Social work’s engagement with coercion inevitably entails the ethical and social policy arguments for and against its use, as shown in a review of the empirical evidence regarding its impact on the professions’ clients, exemplified by three domains: (1) child welfare, (2) mental health, and (3) addictions. Recommendations for future improvements involve balancing the potential for harm against the benefits of coercive actions.

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.