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Article

Eric R. Kingson, Dana Bell, and Sarah Shive

This entry examines why our nation’s Social Security system was built, what it does, and what must be done to maintain and improve this foundational system for current and future generations. After a discussion of the social insurance approach to economic security and its underlying principles and values, the evolution of America’s Social Security system is reviewed—beginning with the enactment of the Social Security Act of 1935, through its incremental development, to the changed politics of Social Security since the mid-1990s. Next, program benefits and financing are described and contemporary challenges and related policy options are identified, in terms of both the program’s projected shortfall and the public’s need for expanded retirement, disability, and survivorship protections. The entry concludes by noting that social workers have an important role to play in shaping Social Security’s future.

Article

Philip R. Popple

Formal or institutional social services began in the United States in the late 19th century as a response to problems that were rapidly increasing as a result of modernization. These services were almost entirely private until the Great Depression in the 1930s when the government became involved via provisions of the Social Security Act. Services expanded greatly, beginning in the 1960s when the federal government developed a system wherein services were supported by public funds but provided through contracts with private agencies. This trend has continued and expanded, resulting in a uniquely American system wherein private agencies serve as vehicles for government social service policy.