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Article

John M. Herrick

Social policy is how a society responds to social problems. Any government enactment that affects the well-being of people, including laws, regulations, executive orders, and court decisions, is a social policy. In the United States, with its federal tradition of shared government, social policies are made by governments at many levels—local, state, and national. A broad view of social policy recognizes that corporations and both nonprofit and for-profit social-service agencies also develop policies that affect customers and those they serve and therefore have social implications. Social policies affect society and human behavior, and their importance for social-work practice has long been understood by the social-work profession. Modern social welfare policies, which respond to basic human needs such as health care, housing food, and employment, have evolved since their introduction during the New Deal of the 1930s as responses to the Great Depression. In the aftermath of the recent “Great Recession” that began in 2006, the nation has once again experienced the kinds of social problems that led to the creation of innovative social welfare policies in the 1930s. How policy makers respond to human needs depends on who has the power to make policy and how they conceptualize human needs and the most effective ways to respond to them. In the early 21st century, the idea that the state should guarantee the welfare and well-being of its citizens through progressive welfare state policies and services has few adherents among policy makers. The complex social problems resulting from the recession—the highest unemployment since the Great Depression of the 1930s, escalating budget deficits at all levels of government, an unprecedented housing crisis exemplified by massive foreclosures, increasing social and economic inequality, a nation polarized by corrosive political conflict and incivility—create a context in which social policies are debated vociferously. Social workers, long committed to the ideal of social justice for all, are obligated to understand how policies affect their practice as well as the lives of those they serve and to advocate for policies that will improve social well-being as the United States recovers.

Article

Michael Anthony Lewis

This article covers basic economic concepts, as well as their relevance to social welfare policy. It defines economics, and follows this with discussions of microeconomic concepts, such as market, demand, supply, equilibrium price, and market failure. Next, it takes up discussions of macroeconomic concepts, such as gross domestic product, aggregate demand, inflation, unemployment, fiscal policy, taxes, and free trade. As these economic concepts are discussed, they are related to social welfare policies, such as Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Article

Melissa Jonson-Reid

Educational policy in the United States has evolved over the last hundred years to address a vast range of issues, including creating a universal system of primary and secondary education, trying to ensure equity and access for students, preparing youth for the workforce, preparing youth for postsecondary education, improving academic outcomes, and school safety. This entry summarizes key historical trends, judicial rulings, and legislative milestones that have helped form educational policy in the United States. Special attention is given to current challenges.

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

Sunny Harris Rome and Sabrina Kiser

Lobbying is the process of influencing public policy. It involves developing and implementing strategies to persuade those in power. Consistent with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics, many social workers contribute to lobbying campaigns to advance the well-being of their clients or to promote social justice; some social workers become professional lobbyists, focusing their careers on government relations work. Successful lobbying involves forming and nurturing relationships with decision makers and generating and sharing information. Key elements of a lobbying campaign include agenda setting, face-to-face meetings with policymakers, coalition building, field organizing, testifying, preparing written materials, and the strategic use of media. Social work education provides opportunities to gain the knowledge and skills necessary for engaging in lobbying efforts. Lobbying activity is regulated by federal law; it is important that social workers and their employers understand and comply with these rules, but social workers are encouraged to remain as active as possible within these parameters. Future challenges include the demand for evidence to support policy recommendations and the inadequate numbers of social workers pursuing lobbying as a career.

Article

James S. Mickelson

Although most policy is created as a series of processes, these processes differ considerably depending on which political actors are engaged. Knowledge of formal political system processes (rules, rule-making, promulgation of rules) and the informal political system processes (relationships, influence, negotiations) are necessary if one is to understand both how political systems work and how to begin to make the necessary changes if a relevant social justice goal is not being met.

Article

Sadye L. M. Logan

Hobart A. Burch (1932–2012) was a productive scholar whose career was distinguished by his commitment to creating a just and equal world. His career spanned several interrelated areas with the emphasis on policy and program development.

Article

David Stoesz

Welfare as a right has long been an objective of advocates for social and economic justice. During the 1960s, the right to welfare was championed by legal scholars as well as the activists who created the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO). With the demise of NWRO in 1975 and the subsequent ascendance of conservatism in social policy, notably the 1996 welfare reform act, momentum for welfare as a right flagged. Since the 1990s, a capability approach to well-being has been proposed, and various instruments have been constructed to evaluate the welfare of populations across nations as well as subnational jurisdictions. Variables such as income, health, education, employment, and satisfaction measures of well-being have effectively replaced the idea of welfare as a right. The transition from welfare as a right to well-being varying across populations provides more information social workers can use to advocate for marginalized populations.

Article

Maryah Stella Fram

This entry provides an overview of current knowledge and thinking about the nature, causes, and consequences of food insecurity as well as information about the major policies and programs aimed at alleviating food insecurity in the United States. Food insecurity is considered at the nexus of person and environment, with discussion focusing on the biological, psychological, social, and economic factors that are interwoven with people’s access to and utilization of food. The diversity of experiences of food insecurity is addressed, with attention to issues of age, gender, culture, and community context. Finally, implications for social work professionals are suggested.

Article

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

Micheal L. Shier and John R. Graham

The focus and aim of social policy in Canada have in part been determined by the unique sociohistorical and cultural context of the country. This entry provides a brief overview of the leading factors that have contributed to the development of social policy in Canada. Emphasis is placed on the economic, social, and cultural context of the development of the country, along with the system of governance and the ideological framework among the general populace. Following this contextualization, four dominant periods of social policy are described. These include the residual period, the emerging institutional period, the institutional period, and the postinstitutional period. In each era the forces leading to specific social policy outcomes are described. These include aspects of the changing economic system and emerging cultural and social needs among the population. Key social policies in each era are introduced and described. Fundamental to each period of social policy development are the efforts of the voluntary sector. In conclusion, future trends in social policy and social welfare in Canada are discussed.

Article

Lori Messinger and Jennifer Wheeler Brooks

This entry provides an overview of research on lesbians in the United States using an overarching framework of oppression and empowerment. Historical and current demographic and cultural information about lesbians will be reported, along with an analysis of personal and environmental factors critical to social work practitioners' ability to enhance the well-being of lesbian individuals, couples, and families.

Article

Shrivridhi Shukla, Sneha Jacob, and Karun Singh

India has witnessed a substantial decline in the rate of new HIV infections in the past decade. Despite the reduction in incidence, the social determinants of health, such as poverty, gender inequality, and stigma, have made tackling the disease challenging for medical practitioners, health educators, and social workers, among other stakeholders. This article describes social determinants of HIV/AIDS and provides a brief history of shifts in the HIV/AIDS policies in India, with an overview of the current policy that is complicated by regional variations in HIV prevalence and transmission. In addition, it discusses the nature and impact of HIV in different communities vulnerable to the infection, major interventions supported by the Indian government, and the diverse roles played by social workers in combating the epidemic and providing services to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Article

Nancy A. Humphreys and Shannon Lane

Hate crimes and their traumatic repercussions are an important area for social worker intervention. This entry will examine how hate crimes are defined and handled, and the difficulties inherent in categorizing and responding to them. Collection of hate crime statistics and hate crime–related legislation are reviewed. The entry will also examine how social workers can help victims and perpetrators and influence how society conceptualizes and prevents hate crimes and their consequences.

Article

The International Federation of Social Workers is an international organization representing the interests of social workers around the world. This organization works in cooperation with global regional social work bodies, national organizations, and other associations to organize international events, publish policy statements, encourage cooperative initiatives, and link to other international bodies. It is active in human rights and social development and in the promotion of best practices and high professional social work standards.

Article

Gail Woods-Waller

Significant advances in media variety and public access to information have blurred the lines between journalism, advertising, public relations, marketing, and all other communication industries. As a result of unprecedented media proliferation, social sector professionals have more opportunities—and greater competition—to gain public attention and support for their issues and services. In addition, the expansion of the Internet through social media and mobile devices has revolutionized the way we communicate. This entry explores different types of promotional campaigns, converging media channels, and the implications of 24/7 interactivity on social work advocacy.

Article

Suzanne Pritzker and Shannon Lane

Political social work is social work practice, research, and theory involving explicit attention to power dynamics in policymaking and political mechanisms for eliciting social change. It is an ethical responsibility for social workers. Political social work takes place in a variety of fields and settings and includes influencing candidates and their agendas, working on campaigns, expanding political participation, working in full-time political positions, and holding elected office. Political participation among social workers is higher than in the general public, although much variety exists within groups of social workers, and the activities that social workers engage in tend to be more passive than active. This article discusses the role of social work education in preparing generalist and specialist political social workers, and the presence of both challenges and opportunities for political social work in the context of current practice.

Article

Andrew Dobelstein

Privatizing social services has taken a new turn as America enters the 21st century. Although it was once possible to separate private and public social services, the growing trend toward public–private partnerships has made such earlier distinctions meaningless since more and more private social services are supported with public money. There are advantages and disadvantages inherent in the mixing of public and private social services, but perhaps the greatest problem may be the support of a growing trend for all levels of government to dissociate themselves from their longstanding public social service responsibilities.

Article

This entry focuses on the transition to independent living process required of youth and young adults who are “aging out” of the foster care system. It addresses the multiple risks and challenges faced by young people who are aging out of care and those of young adults who have “aged out.” This entry addresses existing policies and programs intended to assist youth who are transitioning from care. Current research findings about the experience of these youth over time both prior to and after exiting foster care are presented. Finally, the unique risks and challenges faced by as well as existing resources for LGBTQ youth who are in the process of or who have aged out are presented as an exemplar of unique needs and experiences of youth from vulnerable populations. Attention is also given to the strengths and resiliency of many former foster care youth who successfully make the transition from foster care to independent living.

Article

Larraine M. Edwards

Sophie Moses Robison (1888–1969) was a social worker, educator, and researcher who helped create social policy changes for juvenile delinquents. She held a PhD in sociology from Columbia University. Her research efforts and recommendations resulted in urban educational reform.