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Article

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

Social workers play a vital role in helping physically and sexually abused children. In order to play this role, they need knowledge about the nature of the problem: (1) legal definitions of physical and sexual abuse, (2) its incidence and prevalence, and (3) its signs and symptoms. Social workers have three major roles to play: (1) identifying and reporting child abuse to agencies mandated to intervene; (2) investigating and assessing children and families involved in child abuse; and (3) providing evidence-based interventions, both case management and treatment, to physically and sexually abused children.

Article

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

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

Historically, U.S. policy has been characterized by long-standing ambivalence evident in the changing emphasis placed on prohibition as the aim of drug policy, and in debate about the relative merits of various approaches to drug control. Often characterized as supply reduction versus demand reduction efforts, significant changes have occurred over time in these efforts, and in the emphasis placed on them. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, U.S. drug policy adopted a more prohibitionist stance, with increased reliance on a variety of law enforcement, and even military actions, to control the supply and use of drugs, even in the face of evidence for the effectiveness of prevention and treatment, and high costs associated with the burgeoning incarceration rates.

Article

Eloise Rathbone-McCuan

Elder abuse is now recognized internationally as a social problem among the aging population. Intentional abuse, neglect, and exploitation among caregivers to frail and isolated elderly create serious risks across diverse formal and informal care settings. This field has expanded continuously since the early 1970s. Accurate prevalence and incidence rates have not been determined. There is a national system of elder victim protection operating within each state. The social work profession is legally mandated to report situations where an elderly person is suspected to be at risk of abuse. Social workers are involved in all aspects of elder abuse prevention and intervention services.

Article

Trauma  

Nancy J. Smyth

This entry summarizes the current state of knowledge about the nature of trauma and intervention with trauma reactions. It includes the history of traumatology, demographics, theory, research and best practices, controversies, and current trends as well as diversity issues and international and interdisciplinary perspectives.

Article

Susan F. Allen and Elizabeth M. Tracy

Home visiting and home-based intervention are two strategies used by social workers when working with individuals or families in direct practice. The basic rationale for home-based work is the benefit to social workers’ assessments and understanding of clients, as well as the benefit of more relevant practice with families who are seen in the setting where difficulties are occurring. Home-based interventions have been shown to be effective in improving health and decreasing family discord. When visiting the home, the social worker has the added responsibility of respecting the privacy of families as a guest in their homes.

Article

Eric F. Wagner

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a collaborative, goal-oriented conversation style designed to strengthen intrinsic motivation for and commitment to change. The spirit of MI includes four elements: partnership, acceptance, compassion, and evocation. MI is often employed as a therapeutic intervention, and it clinical effectiveness is well documented across more than 200 randomized controlled trials. Research has also documented wide variation in MI effectiveness across counselors, studies, and sites within studies.

Article

Adele Weiner

Social workers often come in contact with women, men, and adolescents who use prostitution as a means of survival. Individuals may earn their entire income in this manner. They may use it to supplement low earnings or welfare benefits, or they may exchange sex for drugs, shelter, or the protection of pimps. Violence, drug use, arrest, and transmission of sexually transmitted disease (STD) or HIV are constant risks of prostitution. Those who engage in prostitution, whether as prostitutes or as clients, represent the entire spectrum of American society. This entry discusses a number of psychosocial issues relevant to understanding the lives of women who engage in prostitution and implications for providing social work supports and services.

Article

Judy L. Postmus

Sexual assault or rape affects millions of women and men in the United States; however, it is only in the last 30 years that it is being considered a social problem. During this period, many policies at the state and federal levels have attempted to address sexual assault and provide legal remedies for victims. However, sexual assaults are still the most underreported crime in the United States and are accompanied by bias and misinformation that plague our response. Social workers play a crucial role in offering services to survivors and advocating for more education and awareness in our communities and universities.

Article

Sanna J. Thompson

Runaway and homeless youth may be viewed as subcategories on a continuum of familial disengagement and residential instability. Runaway youth are typically identified as those who leave or are forced from their homes, often returning in a relatively short time. Homeless youth are those with no stable residence, have limited contact with family, and have become affiliated with the culture of homelessness. This entry provides background on specific policies associated with youth who run away or become homeless. Characteristics of these two groups (runaway and homeless youth) are described in terms of high-risk characteristics, such as educational difficulties, substance abuse, victimization, and trauma. Service options to meet the needs of these youth are described and implications for social work practice discussed.

Article

Larry W. Bennett and Oliver J. Williams

Perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV) use coercive actions toward intimate or formerly intimate partners, including emotional abuse, stalking, threats, physical violence, or rape. The lifetime prevalence of IPV is 35% for women and 28% for men, with at an estimated economic cost of over ten billion dollars. IPV occurs in all demographic sectors of society, but higher frequencies of IPV perpetration are found among people who are younger and who have lower income and less education. Similar proportions of men and women use IPV, but when the effects of partner abuse are considered, women bear the greatest physical and behavioral health burden. Single-explanation causes for IPV such as substance abuse, patriarchy, and personality disorders are sometimes preferred by practitioners, advocates, and policymakers, but an understanding of IPV perpetration is enhanced when we look through the multiple lenses of culture and society, relationship, and psychological characteristics of the perpetrators.

Article

Child welfare services in the United States evolved from voluntary “child saving” efforts in the 19th century into a system of largely government-funded interventions aimed at identifying and protecting children from maltreatment, preserving the integrity of families that come to the attention of child welfare authorities, and finding permanent homes for children who cannot safely remain with their families. Since the 1970s, the federal government has played an increasing role in funding and creating the policy framework for child welfare practice. That child welfare services are disproportionately directed toward members of ethnic and racial minorities has been an enduring concern.

Article

James I. Martin

This entry explains who gay men are, how gay identity constructions have evolved since their inception, and how they continue to evolve. It also describes the health and mental health problems that gay men may present to social work practitioners. In addition, it identifies several social policies that are relevant to gay men. The entry argues that a systemic perspective that takes into account the social, political, and cultural influences on gay men is necessary for understanding the problems that such men commonly experience.

Article

Virginia C. Strand

Between 1990 and 2003, the single-parent family continued to emerge as a major family form in the United States. Individuals come to single parenthood through different routes (divorce, separation, birth outside of marriage, widowhood, and adoption). And most of them are women. Intervention implications are framed in terms of primary, secondary, and tertiary strategies. Increasing family benefits and child care provisions are highlighted as well as strategies for preventing teen pregnancy, increasing access to educational and entry to the work force for low-income women, and identifying mothers early on in the process of marital disruption.

Article

Deborah Bass-Rubenstein

Runaways, throwaways, and homeless youths have always been present in the United States. In recent decades, however, society has become more aware of the problems they face as the problems have become more severe. The effectiveness of new approaches to helping these youths is yet to be determined.

Article

As individuals age, their physical community continues to be a primary entry point of intervention because of their attachment to place, social connections, and limited mobility to travel as far and as often as they would like or desire. The environment provides a context for understanding an older adult’s social interactions and the availability of and access to supportive services that reduce isolation and increased risk for reduced health status. When individuals age in place, social workers need to understand how community-based services can work with older adults in their community where they have lived for some time and have developed social networks. This knowledge will better assist social workers in their ability to effectively connect clients with appropriate resources. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for an older adult’s environment to not reflect or adapt to their changing health status and physical mobility. Healthy aging (also referred to as age-friendly) and NORC (naturally occurring retirement communities) initiatives have emerged as examples of how to provide supportive, community-based services that will enable older adults to remain engaged in their community as they experience changes in their health status, mobility, and financial security. These community-level interventions emphasize the adaptability to an older adult’s changing lifestyle factors that influence how they navigate their community. These initiatives engage older adults in planning and implementing strategies to connect older adults with services and activities that promote aging in place. Social workers play a very important role in the provision of community-based aging services because they can serve as a bridge between older adults and the local, state, and federal level programs that may be available to them.

Article

Sheila H. Akabas

Employee assistance programs (EAPs), or membership assistance programs when sponsored by unions, are designed to improve worker productivity and motivation by responding to problems that workers experience which interfere with job performance and satisfaction. Now a ubiquitous characteristic of American workplaces, the programs are largely staffed by social workers. This entry discusses their historic development, extent, scope, structure, how they are perceived and utilized by different racial and gender populations, and the dilemmas and challenges facing EAPs as they try to define their role, function, and best practices amid emerging trends in the world of work.

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.