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This entry describes the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) and explores challenges facing the organization. Founded in 1928, the IASSW is the worldwide organization representing social work education. Comprising member schools and individuals across six continents, it works, in spite of funding and voluntary leadership challenges, to create a globally inclusive organization, promote international exchange, and extend the influence of social work education at the United Nations and with other regional and international bodies.

Article

Social work is a profession that began its life as a call to help the poor, the destitute and the disenfranchised of a rapidly changing social order. It continues today still pursuing that quest, perhaps with some occasional deviations of direction from the original spirit. Social work practice is the primary means of achieving the profession's ends. It is impossible to overstate the centrality or the importance of social work practice to the profession of social work. Much of what is important about the history of the profession is the history of social work practice. We must consider both social work practice per se (the knowledge base, practice theories and techniques) and the context for social work practice. The context of practice includes the agency setting, the policy framework and the large social system in which practice takes place. Social work practice is created within a political, social, cultural and economic matrix that shapes the assumptions of practice, the problems that practice must deal with and the preferred outcomes of practice. Over time, the base forces that create practice and create the context for practice, change. Midgley (1981) correctly notes that practice created in one social order is often inappropriate for work in another social order. Since the social order changes over time, practice created at one point in time may no longer be appropriate in the future.

Article

The social work profession originated in volunteer efforts to address the social question, the paradox of increasing poverty in an increasingly productive and prosperous economy, in Europe and North America during the late 19th century. By 1900, working for social betterment had become an occupation, and social work achieved professional status by 1930. By 1920, social workers could be found in hospitals and public schools, as well as in child welfare agencies, family agencies, and settlement hoses. During the next decade, social workers focused on the problems of children and families. As a result of efforts to conceptualize social work method, expand social work education programs, and develop a stable funding base for voluntary social service programs, social work achieved professional status by the 1930s. The Great Depression and World War II refocused professional concerns, as the crises of depression and war demanded the attention of social workers. After the war, mental health concerns became important as programs for veterans and the general public emphasized the provision of inpatient and outpatient mental health services. In the 1960s, social workers again confronted the problem of poverty. Since then, the number of social workers has grown even as the profession's influence on social welfare policy has waned.

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

Miriam Dinerman, Kim Lorber, and Adele Weiner

Margaret Gibelman (1947–2005) was a scholar of the social work profession, the social service delivery system, and social work education. She was a faculty member at Rutgers University, Catholic University, and Yeshiva University.

Article

Jessica Toft

Neoliberalism is an international, transdisciplinary, and interdisciplinary concept with political, economic, and social dimensions. Neoliberalism is a governing rationality based on market logic that protects free markets by reducing business regulations, restricting citizen and resident welfare state protections, and increasing welfare state discipline. This entails three dimensions: First, neoliberalism consists of economic governing principles to benefit free markets both globally and domestically to the advantage of corporations and economic elites. Second, this includes concurrent state governing principles to limit welfare state protections and impose disciplinary governance so service users will be individually responsible and take up precarious work. A third component is neoliberal governmentality—the ways neoliberalism shapes society’s members through the state to govern themselves as compliant market actors. Neoliberalism is at its core a political reasoning, organizing society around principles of market rationality, from governance structure to social institutions to individual behavior in which individuals should behave as responsible and accountable market actors. Among its central tenets are that individuals should behave as independent responsible market actors; the social welfare state should be downsized and delegated to lower levels of government; and public welfare should be privatized, marketized, and commodified. While neoliberal policy design sets public provision parameters, its signature tool is to govern through state public administration. New public managerialism is a common example, as is managerialism more generally; they both borrow business management principles and apply them to the management of all aspects of social services. Because of its prescriptive nature, there is concern that neoliberalism dictates practice, threatening professional authority of social workers and challenging the implicit trust the public puts in professions. Writ large, there are concerns about democracy itself as neoliberalism works against the will of the people and collective responses to social problems. Resistance to neoliberalism is growing and early examples are provided.

Article

Edward Pecukonis

The concept of health profession centrism and its effects on interprofessional education is important to Social Work practice. Profession centrism is concerned with a student’s professional socialization and their ability to work effectively with other health professionals and clients. This cultural frame determines the salience of curriculum content, core values, practice rituals and customs. It determines the meaning and etiology of symptoms and what constitutes health and treatment success. The interprofessional education (IPE) agenda is often seen as “soft curriculum” content and put to the side for the rigors of health sciences. Paradoxically, it is these issues of communication, ethics, role definition, and working as a team that creates problems among health professionals which compromise safety and efficiency in patient/client care. Learning to minimize profession centrism is a critical education and training objective for health social workers.