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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.


Jennifer C. Greenfield, Heather Arnold-Renicker, and 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, although this mission may conflict with social workers’ roles in maintaining and implementing systems of oppression and social control. In the United States, social and political engagement are receiving increased attention, particularly as emerging research demonstrates a range of effects for participants, their communities, and the broader society. The challenge for social work is to increase the capacity of communities and the nonprofit sector to promote and maximize engagement, especially among historically oppressed and disenfranchised individuals, through theory-driven, evidence-based interventions, while also ensuring that these efforts center the goals, expertise, and voices of those who are marginalized and minoritized.


Eleanor L. Brilliant

Social work in the United States emerged out of the work of organized volunteers in the late 19th century. However, the search for professionalization, together with an emphasis on publicly funded social welfare after the 1930s, led social workers to devaluate volunteer activity. Since the 1970s volunteer activity has greatly increased in the United States, and now plays a significant part in American cultural life as well as in the delivery of human services. In recent years volunteerism has been recognized for its demonstrable contribution to the American economy in addition to its fundamental role in a democratic society. Social workers are involved in many ways with volunteers in a multitude of roles and diverse settings and need to understand how to manage and work with a wide range of volunteers.