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.
Rowena Fong, Ruth G. McRoy, and Alan Dettlaff
Wilma Mankiller (1945–2010) was the first female principle chief of the Cherokee Nation. She revitalized the Cherokee Nation and brought her tribe back to a traditional understanding of leadership and ways of being in the world.
Miriam L. Bearse
This entry provides an overview of historical and current demographics, diversity, and cultural expressions of American Indian and Alaskan native communities in the United States. It discusses challenges related to historical traumas, colonial impacts, and current health risks and suggests some ways in which current theories and practices developed by theorists and communities can be utilized to address those challenges and promote healing. It also summarizes cultural and ethical concerns that practitioners working in and with native communities need to be aware of in order to work effectively and responsibly.
Hilary N. Weaver
First Nations Peoples, the original inhabitants of what is now the United States, are diverse and growing populations. There are approximately 5.2 million First Nations Peoples within the boundaries of the United States, accounting for 1.7% of the general population (Norris, Vines, & Hoeffel, 2012). First Nations people 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 current federal policies that perpetuate dependency and undermine self-determination. Social workers must overcome the negative history of the 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 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.
Ira C. Colby
Oliver Otis Howard (1830–1904) served as the first commissioner for the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. He founded Howard University, was President Ulysses S. Grant's “Peace Commissioner” with Native Americans, and superintendent of West Point Military Academy.
King Davis and Hyejin Jung
This entry defines the term disparity as measurable differences between groups on a number of indices. The term disparity originated in France in the 16th century and has been used as a barometer of progress in social justice and equality in the United States. When disparity is examined across the U.S. population over a longitudinal period, it is clear that disparities continue to exist and that they distinguish groups by race, income, class, and gender. African American and Native American populations have historically ranked higher in prevalence and incidence than other populations on most indices of disparity. However, the level of adverse health and social conditions has declined for all population groups in the United States. The disparity indices include mortality rates, poor health, disease, absence of health insurance, accidents, and poverty. Max Weber’s theory of community formation is used in this entry to explain the continued presence and distribution of disparities. Other theoretical frameworks are utilized to buttress the major hypothesis by Weber that social ills tend to result from structural faults rather than individual choice. Social workers are seen as being in a position to challenge the structural origins of disparities as part of their professional commitment to social justice.