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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

Carole Zugazaga

Catherine “Kate” Courtney (née Potter), Baroness Courtney of Penwirth (1847–1929), was a British social worker, political activist, and suffragist who actively campaigned for world peace.

Article

Megan Meyer

Since the Progressive Era, social workers have played important roles in political struggles for social justice. They have criticized, designed, and implemented an array of social policies and have increasingly campaigned for and held political office. Even so, there has been considerable ambivalence within the profession about the extent to which social workers should engage in political action. A major challenge facing the profession during this century will be to ensure that social work students and practitioners understand the impact of political processes on their own and their clients' lives and develop the skills to identify which forms of political intervention are effective for different goals and contexts.

Article

Frances Fox-Piven and Lorraine C. Minnite

Scholars often refer to “American exceptionalism,” meaning that unlike other rich, capitalist democracies, the United States has never had a strong working-class political movement. One form of exceptionalism often overlooked in the academic literature offers two strong explanations for this. Some scholars argue that the voting process has been encumbered by procedures that make actual voting difficult. Other scholars offer an alternative explanation that legal rights or not, the voters must be mobilized by political parties and other activist groups. This entry examines the dynamic interplay of electoral rules and political action to mobilize and demobilize the American electorate since the 1970s.

Article

Donna Hardina

Citizen participation is a process through which people served by government and nonprofit organizations can provide input about how these services are offered. Citizen participation is particularly beneficial in low-income neighborhoods. Local control of neighborhood decision making helps low-income people and communities of color counter the effects of economic and social oppression. Social workers can work with communities to increase their power and influence in public decision-making. They can also facilitate the development of leadership and political skills among agency clientele by creating organizational structures that encourage their participation in agency decision-making.

Article

Australian research on intercountry adoption in Australia is reported with particular reference to social work, divergent and competing interests of various stakeholders, and the highly political and contested nature of its practice in Australia. The practice of intercountry adoption in Australia is examined from its diffusion into Australia in the 1970s to contemporary times. Government approved Australian intercountry adoption programs began operation in the 1970s and although always small in number, the recent decline is consistent with global trends. Intercountry adoption in Australia is regulated by state and federal governments and social workers are integral to its practice. Controversies surrounding intercountry adoption in Australia have historically been linked to pressure from lobbyists and the support of some politicians. In 2014, Australia was at a crucial juncture with changes to how intercountry adoption is structured under review by the federal government.

Article

African Americans number about 35 million or 12% of the U.S. population. Their life expectancy is lower than that of White Americans, and despite the educational gains made since mid-1980s, the unemployment gap between African Americans and Whites has increased. Similarly, although the number of African Americans working in white-collar occupations has increased, the disparity in wage earnings between African American and White workers continues. Regardless of social class African Americans are made to be cognizant of their race at all times. Today they are still at risk for social issues such as substance abuse, teen pregnancy, incarceration, poverty, high rates of female headed households, infant mortality that is twice as high as Whites, residential segregation, racism, and discrimination. As daunting as these problems are, the strengths of the African American community have allowed it to thrive even amid arduous circumstances.

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

M. J. Gilbert

In this entry, transgender is defined in the context of ethnomethodology and social construction of gender. A history of the role of transgender people in the gay, lesbian, and bisexual rights movement is presented, including tensions concerning the role of transgender people in this movement. Issues regarding social work practice related to transgender issues on the micro, mezzo, macro, and meta levels are discussed.

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

Amanda Moore McBride

Civic engagement is the backbone of the social work profession. Through our civic mission, we have long organized and empowered citizens in common pursuits to address social, economic, and political conditions. In the United States, the status of social and political engagement is of heightened concern, particularly as emerging research demonstrates a range of effects. The challenge for social work is to increase the capacity of the nonprofit sector to promote and maximize engagement, especially among low-income and low-wealth individuals, through theory-driven, evidence-based interventions.

Article

Alex Gitterman

Richard Cloward (1926–2005) was an internationally renowned scholar, social activist, and educator at Columbia University. His scholarship on contemporary issues in the US was informed by his social activism on the frontlines, organizing for welfare rights and voter registration.

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

Katie Richards-Schuster, Suzanne Pritzker, and Amanda Rodriguez-Newhall

Youth empowerment examines young people’s agency, action, and engagement in change efforts to improve their situations. Its scholarship builds on empowerment constructs and frameworks to focus on the strengths that young people possess as they interact with other individuals and systems in their lives. In particular, youth empowerment rests on a core belief that young people are experts on their lives, with unique perspectives to bring to their communities. Empowerment functions on three core levels, focusing on strengthening individuals’ personal, interpersonal, and political power. This article explores key concepts that underlie personal, interpersonal, and political empowerment, while most deeply examining the core principles, practices, and strategies specific to young people’s political empowerment. Challenges commonly faced when seeking to empower young people are identified as well.

Article

Sadye L. M. Logan

David M. Austin (1923–2008), who served as Bert Kruger Smith Centennial Professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work (now University of Texas at Austin Steve Hicks School of Social Work), has left an outstanding legacy in the students and colleagues whom he has mentored and inspired. He was a tireless leader, practical researcher, and brilliant scholar in the field of social work.

Article

Michael Reisch

Harold Lewis (1920–2003), social worker and activist, was Dean of Hunter College School of Social Work for twenty years. He published widely on social work values and ethics, epistemology of practice, child welfare, social welfare administration, and social work education.

Article

Sadye L. M. Logan

Ella Josephine Baker (1903–1986) was a consummate organizer and activist who played an active role in shaping the civil and human rights movements in the United States of America from 1930 through the 1980s.

Article

Sadye L. M. Logan

William Leonard Stern (1926–2019) had a long and distinguished career as a social worker and member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Over more than five decades, he developed policies, built and managed programs, and provided consultation and evaluation services to a variety of human service organizations, professional associations, and governmental agencies.