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.
John G. McNutt
Professional associations have been present since the birth of the visiting teacher/school social work movement in 1906. The five major associations—National Association of School Social Workers, National Association of Social Workers, the Midwest School Social Work Council, State School Social Work Associations (both individually and as a group), and the School Social Work Association of America—collectively provide vital services such as conferences and publications that form the foundation of the profession. Their decisions have shaped the history of school social work as well as maintain the current level of services to the school social work community. The practice of school social work today is based in large part on the decisions made by the professional associations in the past and now.
James Woolever and James Kelly
The study of leadership has a long history in disciplines outside of social work. Theorists have struggled with a myriad of definitions of leadership, as well as trait, behavioral, and situational leadership models. They have identified leadership types from transformational and charismatic to motivational. There has been much speculation and some study of the traits and characteristics of effective leaders, as well as effective leadership styles, abilities, and practices. Social work theorists have contributed to this field by identifying the critical and unique characteristics of social work leadership, such as adherence to social work norms and orientation to the needs of disadvantaged groups. In the 21st century, social workers have begun to elaborate technologies for creating tomorrow’s leaders through practices such as formal training, mentoring, and peer networking. There has always been, and will be, a critical need for leadership in social work endeavors. Leadership development can be viewed from two perspectives: the individual and the organizational. From the individual perspective, the system begins with a critical assessment of the individual’s strengths and limitations, along with the opportunities and threats for professional growth. Ultimately, the organization is responsible for providing resources to enable individual development. The long-term goal is to implement a developmental mind-set throughout the organization. Leadership development must be intended for all employees, not just a select few. Both individual and organizational job performance are ultimately dependent on the leadership developmental structures embedded within each organizational unit. The issue at hand is designing and delivering leadership development programs that meet the leadership requirements for today’s complex yet changing organizations.
Founded in May 1968, in San Francisco, California, the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) is the premiere organization of Black social service and social welfare workers devoted exclusively to the development of professional social workers in the Black community. Committed to a philosophy of self-help and self-determination, the mission of the NABSW is to prepare workers to assume responsibility as advocates of social change and social justice, and to actively engage in the fight for racial equality and social liberation for the African ascendant community. The organization is open to all members of the African diasporic community, regardless of educational achievement, occupational status or political, religious, institutional or social affiliations.
Halaevalu F. O. Vakalahi, Michael M. Sinclair, and Bradford W. Sheafor
Professions are developed and maintained through various professional organizations and associations. As social work has evolved in terms of context and content, the professional membership and professional education organizations have periodically unified, separated, and later reunified in the attempt to maintain an identity as a single profession, yet responding to the needs and interests of different practice specialties, educational levels, special interest groups within social work, and diverse cultures and communities. Further discussion of the major organizations and associations in the profession of social work recognizes the continuous important contributions of emerging groups and entities that represent the diversity that exists in the profession.
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.
The International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW) is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) focused on advocacy, knowledge-building, and technical assistance projects in various areas of social development carried out at the country level and internationally. Created in 1928 in Paris to address the complexities and challenges of social work, the ICSW has evolved through the years to embrace the major issues of social development, becoming a global organization committed to improving human well-being. Establishing common ground on issues of international significance and acting with partners through its nine regional networks, ICSW represents national and local organizations in more than 70 countries throughout the world. Membership also includes major international organizations. By virtue of its constitution, it operates as a democratic and accountable organization.