Social Work

views updated May 11 2018

Social Work

Emergence of the social work profession

Demography of the social work profession

Professional training

Professional practice

Professional associations

Future directions


The objectives of social work are to help individuals, families, communities, and groups of persons who are socially disadvantaged and to contribute to the creation of conditions that will enhance social functioning and prevent breakdown. These objectives commit the social work profession both to helping persons adapt socially in keeping with their capacities and the norms and values of the society, and to modifying or reforming features of the social system. The term “social worker” refers to a special group among those employed in rendering social welfare services or conducting programs of agencies and institutions that make up the social welfare system. The professional social worker is expected, because of his specialized training and experience, to bring a high degree of skill to the process of helping, and modifying the social conditions of, individuals, groups of persons, and communities. The special competence of the professional social worker is exercised in such tasks as providing material assistance for the needy and dependent; assisting those of whatever means who have difficulties in adjusting to their economic and social environment because of poverty, illness, deprivation, conflict, or personal, family, or social disorganization; and participating in the formulation of social welfare policies and preventive programs.

Emergence of the social work profession

As a deliberate concern for helping the indigent and less privileged members of society, the roots of social work go back to religious and humanitarian impulses evident in the histories of most civilizations. As a formal organization of efforts by specialized personnel to help such persons, social work is an accompaniment of nineteenthand twentieth- century industrialization, with its associated problems of social dislocation from a more stabilized family and community system. The aspirations of positivist social science and the counterview points to social Darwinism in the late nineteenth century contributed to the conviction that rational and scientific solutions to social problems could be found through social reform and individual guidance. The trend has been from personal and religious charity, to organized philanthropy, to public acceptance of responsibility for programs of professional services. [SeeSocial Darwinism.]

As a profession, social work emerged during the twentieth century, when it became an acknowledged, full-time occupation, with established training schools, professional associations, and a high degree of self-consciousness about its status. Professionalization developed first in the United States and western Europe. Before 1910 independent schools for training social workers were founded first in the Netherlands and then in the United States, Great Britain, and Germany. Between World War I and World War II social work schools were widely established in Latin America and countries of the British Commonwealth. Since World War II, professional schools have opened in Asia, the Middle East, eastern Europe, and more recently in Africa. By 1950 a United Nations survey enumerated 373 schools of social work in 46 countries representing three-fifths of the 77 member nations. Since 1950 new schools have been founded in all regions, but especially in the new nations of Africa (United Nations 1950; 1965). Both national and international associations of social workers have been formed, professional journals and other publications issued, codes of ethical conduct promulgated, and official or legal recognition achieved to distinguish the professional social worker from other social welfare personnel.

Programs of social services under private and public auspices have expanded, and the number of social welfare workers has increased. The number of professionally trained social workers has also grown, but they still constitute a minority of all those engaged in social welfare work. In the United States in 1960, approximately one-fifth of the 105,000 social welfare workers had sufficient education to qualify as professional by the profession’s own standards (Salaries … 1961). The proportion of professional to nonprofessional social welfare workers appears to be smaller in other countries. The profession thus faces a persistent problem of trying to establish and maintain an independent identity.

With the growth of educational facilities, the term “social worker” has increasingly come to refer to those specifically trained for social work, but the designation does not uniformly connote professional status in various countries. It sometimes refers to any sustained individual charitable efforts, and it usually includes employees, whether specifically trained or not, of public and private organizations serving the indigent or persons with problems of health, handicap, or deficiencies that may affect their social adequacy (“The Term …”1961). There is evidence that professionalization of social work is proceeding in similar form and with similar problems in various parts of the world. This is, in part, a result of the pressing demand for trained personnel and the diffusion of patterns from the more developed countries. Leaders in social work in developing nations often have had some of their training in western Europe, Canada, or the United States (Interprofessional … 1963), or have participated in international conferences in which professionalization has been prominently discussed.

Because most social workers are salaried employees who are characteristically dependent on bureaucratic organizations (generically called agencies), the development of a professional identity apart from the organization where they are employed has presented another persistent problem. The balance of influence over training schools has shifted gradually from agency to professional control. Moreover, there is a gradual tendency for professional associations to represent collective interests transcending those of social workers in particular agencies or fields of practice. Professional identification is also encouraged by frequent meetings and conferences of social workers on local, regional, national, and international levels.

Demography of the social work profession

A number of characteristics of the personnel of social work bear on the nature of the profession. Women predominate, although the proportion of men has been increasing. In the United States in 1960, 60 per cent of all social welfare workers, but 68 per cent of the members of the professional association, were women. The proportion of female welfare workers in the United States decreased by nearly 10 per cent between 1950 and 1960, and the more balanced sex ratio of students in professional schools probably reflects the trend toward equality of the sexes in American society as a whole. In other countries, the preponderance of women is probably even greater, despite the efforts of professional and governmental bodies to recruit men into welfare work. Men tend to gravitate to supervisory and executive positions, but women nevertheless hold a considerable proportion of these jobs. This introduces sex-role conflicts within social work and between social work and other professions. As a “female profession,” social work shares the generally lower prestige of women in the occupational world; and this, in turn, contributes to the difficulty of raising salaries in comparison with professions dominated by men. Career patterns and job mobility also tend to be differendated by sex. Thus, a changing sex ratio may be expected to have a significant effect on the profession.

Although information on the social class of origin of social workers is limited, the profession appears to serve as a channel of upward mobility for both men and women (Pins 1963, chapter 3). Compared with other professions, social work has been relatively accessible to persons from minority groups and lower-class backgrounds. Social workers with professional schooling probably come from class positions that are higher than those of persons entering social work without special training but not as high as the level of persons entering professions such as medicine or law. Unlike these professions, social work clearly does not have the advantage of gaining prestige from the class background of its members. Rather, entrance into the profession often raises the class position of its members, and this probably affects both internal and interprofessional relations.

Patterns of distribution and training

The character of the profession is affected by the location of professionals within the social welfare system. Programs of income maintenance, such as support for dependent children and the aged and ancillary services to social insurance beneficiaries, employ the largest share of all welfare workers but the smallest proportion of those professionally trained. In the United States approximately one-third of all social welfare workers, but only 5 per cent of professionally educated social workers, were employed in public assistance programs in 1960 (Salaries … 1961). On the other hand, medical and psychiatric social work programs together employed 9 per cent of all social welfare workers but 29 per cent of those professionally trained. Professional social workers are also disproportionately to be found in noninstitutional child welfare programs. The consequence of such a differential distribution is to focus professional attention on a narrower range than that embraced by the social welfare system and to provide an unbalanced degree of professionalization among the various welfare programs. Only 3 per cent of public assistance workers in the United States in 1960 were professionally trained, whereas over half of the workers in medical and psychiatric programs were trained. This imbalance tends to promote viewpoints in the profession that define certain places of employment as more “professional” and others as less so. Such viewpoints underlie attitudes about suitable locations for professional practice. Similar tendencies have been noted in other countries.

The relative concentration of professionally trained social workers in private, as distinguished from governmental, agencies has also affected the conception of attractive locations for professional employment. Approximately two-thirds of all social welfare workers in the United States in 1960 were employed by federal, state, or local governments, whereas only about half of the professional social workers were so employed. In other countries, where the private sector tends to be smaller—and usually church-supported—the attraction of private agencies does not appear to have been so great, although the absence of a large private sector is sometimes cited as a limitation on professionalization.

The disproportionate location of professional social workers in private agencies and in psychiatric, medical, and child welfare fields in the United States has historical explanations. The social workers most concerned about professional identity in the early decades of the century were those associated with fields in which clinical professions having greater prestige practiced, especially medicine and psychiatry. During the 1920s these social workers found psychoanalytic theories congenial as a basis for developing a distinctive mode of practice and supporting a claim to higher status among helping professions (Lubove 1965); the schools of social work largely accepted this viewpoint. When large-scale public assistance programs were developed as part of the social security system during the depression of the 1930s, they were primarily conceived as income maintenance programs to be administered by government employees rather than as programs requiring professional services. The charitably sponsored private agencies, now relieved of their traditional responsibility for economic aid, became especially receptive to the clinical orientation of trained workers who were also attracted to the clinical services associated with public programs in health, mental hygiene, and child welfare. The location of professional workers within the social welfare system has, in turn, affected recruitment and training, encouraging further emphasis on the clinical practices within social work. Nevertheless, professional social workers have often occupied supervisory and administrative positions in public welfare, and the profession has sought to influence public welfare policies through its associations and spokesmen.

The training and distribution of professional social workers in the United States are being further shaped by new demands on social work in the 1960s. The 1962 amendments to the Social Security Act explicitly emphasized social services to recipients as an objective of public welfare, giving impetus to the upgrading of educational requirements for welfare workers. New programs involving broadly conceived community approaches to delinquency, poverty, mental health, and other social problems have encouraged recognition of functions for social workers other than direct services to clients; and the increasing integration of private agencies into such government-supported programs has reduced the distinction between private and public auspices. A greater proportion of students at social work schools has been attracted to group work and community organization. The literature on professional practice has reflected greater interest in the social sciences. Moreover, the problem of professional manpower has received increasing attention from the profession’s leaders and government officials. In other countries, where the undersupply is even more acute and trained social workers have gravitated toward clinical locations, some comparable trends are evident. Especially in less developed countries, the practice of community development—proposing a comprehensive attempt to affect the complex of institutions of a total rural or urban community—has attracted professional social workers and has been emphasized in their training. [SeeCommunity, article onCommunity Development.]

The shortage of trained social workers is the manpower condition that underlies the patterns of distribution in developed as well as underdeveloped countries (Conference … 1965). It has given rise to active recruitment programs in most countries; and it has stimulated attempts to distinguish levels among professional responsibilities requiring varying amounts of training, as in Great Britain (Great Britain … 1959). In the United States the shortage has generated interest in the education of subprofessionals and in various patterns for their use in social agencies along with more highly trained workers, thus requiring new conceptions of the practice roles of professional social workers. There has been wide recognition that social workers cannot be trained in large enough numbers under present conceptions of professional education to fill all social welfare positions, even when many positions are excluded as not requiring professional training. The manpower shortage also complicates the efforts of the profession to maintain or raise its entrance standards. Such standards are under pressure to broaden the definition of professional membership, acknowledge the alternatives to professional training for entrance to the profession, and adapt to such demands or face submergence within the large mass of non-professional workers. The response of the profession to these pressures will determine the character of recruitment, training, and utilization of professional social workers (National … 1966).

Professional training

Who is a professional social worker and how one enters the profession are variously, and sometimes ambiguously, defined by different countries. Personal commitment and activity in professional affairs may serve to distinguish “professional” from other social welfare employees in some countries. Elsewhere (France, for instance), a state license designates the professional social worker. In general, however, formal professional education is increasingly the primary channel of entrance.

Schools of social work

Schools of social work throughout the world may be roughly compared on the basis of their number and distribution, their sponsorship and location within the educational system, and the diversity of their financial support. Western Europe and North America have a great number of both private and public schools of social work; private schools typically receive subsidies from public funds through various governmental budgets. The location of social work training varies: in Great Britain it is usually part of the curriculum of social studies departments in universities and colleges; on the Continent there are separate technical institutes; and in the United States and Canada there are postgraduate divisions for social work education. In Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa schools of social work, though still few in number, have increased markedly since 1950; and private or church-sponsored schools are becoming integrated with those established within public educational systems. The Soviet Union is reported not to have specialized schools or an established profession of social work (Madison 1962), although correctional workers are specially trained educators.

The relationships between professional schools and their sources of support may affect the type and character of training. Standards are set by law or government in a few countries, such as France and Brazil. In the United States, the agencies of government that furnish subsidies for many students and some faculty salaries are usually interested in obtaining personnel for the established programs they administer and, hence, tend to favor training for direct, clinical services. In countries where there are associations of schools of social work, these generally seek a large voice in the determination of their own standards. Schools may find it feasible to expand their capacities in those fields of practice already most professionalized, thus giving less emphasis to newer fields and broader social approaches. The problem of achieving balance has been recognized by both educators and governmental officials (Blackey 1964; Wittman 1965).

Completion of secondary schooling is generally the minimum requirement for admission to social work schools. In the United States and Canada, and in some schools of several other countries, the student must hold a baccalaureate degree in order to be admitted. Age limits, both lower and upper, are sometimes specified. Restriction to female students was at one time common, particularly in Latin American schools, but sex limitations are disappearing. Professed humanitarian values and commitment to service are personal qualities usually sought in applicants, and previous academic performance is always taken into account.

Throughout the world, most schools have relatively small enrollments, usually under one hundred. However, schools are expanding. In the United States in 1964 the largest school reported 409 full-time students, and 38 of the 59 schools reported full-time enrollments of one hundred or more, constituting approximately three-fifths of the 7,366 full-time students in all schools (Statistics … 1964, table 4). Social work schools also provide instruction, sometimes in separate courses, for many part-time students, only some of whom are enrolled for the professional degree; precise data are available only for the United States and Canada, where part-time students constituted approximately one-quarter of all students enrolled in the professional curriculum in 1964 (Statistics … 1964, table 2).

Students at most schools fall into two groups: those entering as an immediate continuation of their schooling and those entering after some period of employment in social welfare. In the United States the latter are a decreasing proportion, but increased public funds for training employed personnel may retard this decrease. Such students are generally older; thus their proportion in American schools may be estimated from the fact that in 1964 students 31 years of age or older constituted 30 per cent of all full-time students working for the professional degree (Statistics … 1964, table 9). Prior work experience is accorded decreasing importance relative to recency of academic study, but the accommodation of students with different backgrounds presents a characteristic problem in curriculum planning. The content of academic prerequisites tends to be general—usually specifying only that courses in a number of social sciences be presented—and the academic backgrounds of students vary widely.

Characteristics of training

Social work education includes both theoretical and practical training. Practical training may be provided (as in Great Britain and countries it has influenced) by full-time field placements of students intermittent with classroom lectures or after completion of theoretical courses; or it may be provided concurrently with classroom work (as in the United States and countries influenced by it). Laboratory agencies for practical training under control of the professional schools are provided for a small proportion of students, but most are trained in selected, available agencies in the community. Practical field work generally requires “supervision”—that is, instructional direction by a trained social worker in an agency setting. A continuing difficulty in accommodating larger enrollments is the finding of suitable “field placements” for additional students. This system sometimes limits the range of agencies within which training may be given, particularly in new fields of practice, where few professionally trained social workers are employed.

The content of social work training tends to be organized around methods of social work practice, and field instruction is usually identified with one (but sometimes several) of the methods. The more theoretical portions of the curriculum provide knowledge of human behavior and social life deemed useful for competent practice. Courses on social welfare policies and the structure of welfare services of the country are usually required, and often some courses in social work research. Most students are trained in the casework method; in the United States in 1964 three-fourths of the full-time students were so identified. Casework method stresses interpersonal skills (usually the casework interview) to help individual clients or families solve problems of personal or social stress. The development of casework method has drawn heavily on psychoanalytic theory and dynamic psychology; and their perspectives pervade this training, although there is a marked trend toward the inclusion of a wider range of knowledge from the behavioral sciences. Training in a second method, called social group work, seeks to develop skills in using interaction processes of specially constituted or selected groups to help clients. A third method, called community organization, involves training to work with groups and organizations within the community in the solution of social problems. Finally, a few students are given special training in social welfare administration or in social work research. Schools in developing countries have emphasized training in community development to a greater extent than have those in Europe and North America. However, community organization is currently being conceived more broadly in the United States, and it represents the most rapidly expanding part of the curriculum.

Along with more academic and technical training, social work schools usually give deliberate attention to the socialization of the student into the profession. The professional practitioner is presented as a model in most classes, but especially in field placements. Faculty advice and supervision by field work instructors tend to be close and fairly continuous through the years of study, and frequent evaluations of progress in acquiring professional norms, values, and orientations are often shared with the student. Strong professional identifications seem to lead students to prefer subsequent employment in positions where other professional social workers are practicing. Some observers of social work education in the United States have expressed concern with the academic level of graduate study and the focus of training on therapeutic rather than preventive content (Kadushin 1965). However, there is evidence that the social work curriculum is changing in terms of greater emphasis on social science materials and broader conceptions of the roles for which social workers are to be trained.

The number of years required for completion of social work training is related in part to the educational level attained by the students prior to enrollment in professional schools. If students are admitted directly from secondary schools, the length of study is usually three or four years. This generally corresponds in duration to the training given other technical professionals, such as teachers and nurses. The most significant exception to this widespread pattern is found in the United States and Canada, where the length of training is two years, but completion of four years of college is a prerequisite for admission.

Faculty members for social work schools are recruited primarily from practitioners in social agencies. Academic work beyond the professional degree has not generally been considered necessary. In recent years, as social work schools have become more integrated with universities, faculty members with advanced degrees have been sought; in the United States, professionals with doctorates in social work or in a social science are increasingly employed. Fifteen schools of social work offered doctorates for advanced study of social work in 1964. Faculty members with graduate degrees in other academic disciplines—especially sociology and psychology—are often used, as are part-time instructors from other professional schools, especially from psychiatry, medicine, and law. While staffing patterns differ among countries, and a pattern of collaboration between practitioners and social scientists is fairly general, the point of view of the professional is usually dominant. There is widespread recognition of an acute shortage of personnel suitable for faculty membership.

Professional practice

As previously noted, the profession of social work is almost exclusively practiced within agencies. Private practice, particularly of casework, has grown in the United States (Levenstein 1964), but it is not common. Social agencies range from those in which social workers constitute the exclusive or predominant professional personnel—such as family and children’s service agencies, some community centers, and some social welfare planning councils—to institutions in which social workers occupy positions complementary or secondary to other professionals—such as hospitals, clinics, and public schools. Interaction between organizational and professional interests constitutes the continuing context for social work practice (Vinter 1959; 1963; Billingsley 1964).

The type of client and the kind of service offered are initially fixed by the purpose of the agency. A characteristic part of social work practice is “intake”—that is, determination of whether the client and the problem he presents can be properly accepted or should be referred to a different agency and, then, whether the client can be helped by the available professional treatment. In those instances in which clients are residents of correctional or medical institutions, pupils of schools, or cases before the courts, selection is further limited. The agency may also, by organizational decision as well as by the selective employment of social workers, determine the method of practice to be utilized. The introduction of different methods may be as much a decision of agency boards and executives as of professional practitioners. Although the executives are often social workers, practitioners are subject to evaluation in terms of agency criteria, such as productivity and conformity to routines, and these may not always be consonant with professional criteria of optimum service to clients.

There is always at least latent strain between the requirements of professional autonomy and the constraints of the organization. Such strain is less evident where professional social workers occupy all levels in an agency. Where they are in a minority or subject to authority of other professions, the differentiation of a distinctive function for the professional social worker may become blurred, and its determination may become a matter of concern. Where untrained workers constitute a large proportion—as in most public welfare agencies—professional social workers often occupy supervisory or administrative positions. In agencies that provide mental health services—such as child guidance clinics, clinical and outpatient services of mental hospitals, and some community health agencies—social caseworkers (and sometimes social group workers) are often parts of clinical teams consisting of psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, and social worker. Problems of establishing appropriate roles and working out interprofessional relations have been observed, particularly those centering on the higher status often accorded to, or assumed by, the psychiatrist (Michigan … 1957).

The institution of “supervision” is characteristic of the organization of much social work practice. More experienced or more highly trained practitioners serve as “supervisors,” not only in the administrative sense but as colleagues with whom practitioners are expected to discuss specific cases and problems of practice. This is viewed as a continuation of professional education for the social worker (usually on an individual, tutorial basis) and as a safeguard for standards of practice. Even trained social workers are supervised. This has been said to retard the achievement of professional independence, and it has recently come in for criticism and experimental modification (Burns 1965). No detailed empirical study of supervision in its organizational and professional context has yet been published, although it appears to be a common pattern for the organization of practice in most countries, it is often associated with the use of consultation about particular cases with other professionals, such as psychiatrists or other physicians, psychologists, and lawyers.

Social workers tend to identify themselves along lines of practice methods as caseworkers, group workers, or community organization workers, and their agencies are often similarly identified. There is experimentation, in both training and practice, with multiple uses of these methods and with their modification in order to find the most appropriate patterns of service. Particularly noteworthy are efforts to devise new approaches to interpersonal helping processes, to the structuring of service and treatment organizations, and to the utilization of social action and other methods of community work. In the more clinical practices, such professional developments are strongest in the United States and western Europe, but new techniques in community organization are appearing most rapidly in other countries, where community development work in rural and urban areas is prominent.

Professional-client relationships

The major part of social work practice takes the form of face-to-face interviews with individuals, families, or groups of clients at the agency. Compared with other helping professions, however, social work conceives its practice as involving more contact with clients in their homes and elsewhere in the community. For example, work “in the streets” with gangs of delinquents is carried on by a number of agencies, and extensive work with neighborhood groups, settlement houses, and voluntary associations in the community is characteristic of some community organization practice. In addition, community organization practiced in welfare planning or fund-raising agencies calls for other relationships. The clientele of social workers thus consists of a wide range of persons, groups, and community organizations. Clients of public agencies are usually from lower socioeconomic levels as compared with the clients of private agencies (Cloward 1963). The latter may charge fees to clients who can afford them, but the services of social workers are usually provided without cost to the clients. Among the helping professions, social work also tends to adopt a more comprehensive conception of the social context of the client’s problem. Hence, professional service often entails contacts with family members, employers, associates, and agencies that affect the client. Even so, critics both outside and within the profession frequently urge a wider social perspective, and such criticism is partly responsible for recent programs dealing with problems of delinquency, dependency, and illness in terms of the social environment.

The relationship between the professional social worker and his client is governed by strong norms of confidentiality and responsibility; it is seen as a privileged relationship delimited in function and content, calling for objective, emotionally neutral interest and impartiality in the rendering of service (Wilensky & Lebeaux 1958, pp. 298-303). Such norms are more explicitly recognized where professionalization is most advanced, but they are widely asserted in international literature as proper for the professional social worker. Recognition of the professional nature of social workers by their clients is not always equally evident. This appears to encourage self-consciousness as well as conscientiousness on the part of trained social workers, who seem seriously concerned about their professional image. The social worker views his practice as the use of his professional self to establish and maintain a helping relationship with his client, whether individual, family, or community group. The continuance of the relationship is often taken as an indication that help is being given, and clients who continue often express satisfaction with the help they receive. However, in the United States less than half of the clients of private family service agencies continue to a second interview or beyond; moreover, clients often discontinue contact on their own initiative, with the extent of benefit uncertain (Beck 1962).

Evaluation of social work

Evaluation of social work practice has long been recognized by the profession as a counterpart of its claim to professional competence. However, objective evaluation of the effectiveness of social work has faced problems similar to those of other helping and therapeutic professions (Hyman et al. 1962). Some of the special difficulties of evaluating social work have been noted with respect to its clinical approaches by Blenkner (1950; 1962) and with respect to large-scale intervention programs by Freeman and Sherwood (1965).

Systematic research utilizing judgments of practitioners to assess client changes during casework has been cumulative (Hunt & Kogan 1950; Ripple 1964), but there is growing recognition of the limitations of evaluation in this manner (National … 1959). Evaluation research with control-group designs is not yet common but is becoming more acceptable to the profession (Shyne 1963). Examples of such research are found in studies of agency services to convalescent mental patients (Meyer & Borgatta 1959), of alternative services provided for aged clients (Blenkner et al. 1964), of casework and group counseling for potentially deviant high school girls (Meyer et al. 1965), of a group work approach to malperforming high school boys (Vinter & Sarri 1965), and of several modes of casework service to clients with marital problems (Shyne 1965). Experimental studies have also been conducted to assess the effects of social work training on the selection of adoptive parents (Brieland 1959) and on the performance of public welfare workers (Thomas & McLeod 1960). In general, these studies have been able to demon-strate only modest effectiveness of the therapeutically oriented approaches utilized. Such findings encourage social workers to examine the theoretical bases for their methods and have contributed to a growing emphasis on manipulation of the social and community context in which the problems of clients arise.

Evaluation of the impact of community action programs presents complex problems that have only recently received systematic attention (see Freeman & Sherwood 1965). An attempt to affect delinquency rates by the use of street-gang workers has been evaluated by Miller (1962), who found that such workers had little effect. Comprehensive theories of delinquency control (e.g., Cloward & Ohlin 1960) or of community organization to enhance the position of the poor (e.g., Hagstrom 1964) generate programs of such complexity that their rigorous evaluation is unlikely to be achieved until the modes of intervention are made more explicit and the concepts and methods of evaluation are adapted to their scope. Some of the issues involved and some of the promising lines of approach to evaluating social action and social policy have been discussed by Wilkins (1964). [See alsoEvaluation Research.]

Career patterns

Although precise data are lacking, it can be observed that professional social workers engage in considerable mobility between agencies. In the tight labor market for trained social workers, this appears to be more a part of career choice than of necessity. Although there is a normal process of rising to higher positions of supervision and administration, horizontal mobility seems to be more characteristic. This is also encouraged by the fact that some female social workers return to the profession after having interrupted their careers for marriage and family life, and some find jobs when they accompany their husbands to new locations. Movement to new jobs normally results in higher salaries, but within a relatively narrow range, for practitioners. There are salary differentials between men and women professional social workers, which are partly a function of the disproportionate number of men in higher positions and in fields of practice, such as community organization, where salaries are higher (see Baker 1965, p. 537).

There is no clear prestige hierarchy of positions or agencies through which an individual moves in his professional career. However, observers have noted that casework in psychiatric and medical agencies carries relatively high prestige, and private agencies are sometimes preferred to public ones. Employment in public assistance agencies, except in administrative positions, appears to carry the lowest prestige.

Professional associations

Many organizations to which social workers belong are formed by those in particular fields or with special areas of interest, such as public welfare, corrections, race relations, or mental health. Two types of strictly professional associations have emerged. One type organizes individual social workers in a membership association concerned with qualifications for admission to the profession, standards of professional practice, conditions of employment, professional ethics, and the status of social work among the professions. The other type is the association of schools of social work concerned with setting and enforcing educational requirements and standards, support for professional training, and expansion of educational facilities. The interests and activities of these two types of associations intersect, and they often share the same leadership cadre. Nevertheless, issues arise between them with respect to relative emphases in professional development on such matters as specialization, innovations in practice, and criteria of acceptable training. It appears that in countries where social work has developed more recently, associations of schools may give the chief stimulus to professionalization (United Nations 1965). In countries where professional membership associations are older and well established, the associations of schools play smaller but still significant roles. In the United States, both types of organizations emerged in their present forms at approximately the same time and maintain both formal and informal collaborative relations.

National associations with inclusive professional membership were formed early in the history of social work in a number of countries. However, organizations along professional specializations, such as the medical or psychiatric social workers, appear to have emerged with more vigor. These special associations have subsequently sought to consolidate into single national organizations. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), which was organized in 1955, presently constitutes the only national professional association for all social workers in the United States, with specializations recognized in nine councils. NASW requires graduation from a school of social work accredited by the Council on Social Work Education as a condition for membership. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), established in 1952, accepts for accreditation only those schools which grant the master’s degree after two years of graduate study; it also maintains a division for undergraduate departments that give social work instruction regarded as “preprofessional.”

The International Federation of Social Workers, founded in 1932 and reactivated in 1950 after the interruption of World War II, is composed of national associations of social workers. The International Association of Schools of Social Work has also been established. These organizations carry on informational and educational activities, meeting biennially along with the International Conference of Social Work, an organization with broad social welfare interests.

Membership in NASW accords recognition of professional status in the United States and Canada. A degree from an accredited graduate school is an eligibility requirement for certain civil service positions of state and federal governments. NASW has sponsored legal certification restricting the use of the title “social worker” to those having specified qualifications, and in 1965 four states had laws protecting the title. In France and Puerto Rico, social workers are licensed, and several countries have established legal requirements for schools of social work. In 1960, NASW founded the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW) to designate social workers who are members of NASW and have two years of successful social work experience under the supervision of a member of the academy. The effect of ACWS will be, after a transitional period, to establish a differential within the profession that is based on practice experience rather than education. Proposals to broaden the base of the profession by admitting social workers with college degrees and a certain number of years of experience to some form of membership in NASW were unsuccessful up to 1965. In the continuing debate over the issue, some members argue that present membership restrictions may generate competitive professional organizations with other qualifications for membership; a majority support the principle of a “professional” rather than an “occupational” association. The issue may be expected to persist, especially in the face of the shortage of trained social workers and the entrance of persons with qualifications other than social work schooling into occupations in social welfare under large public programs in such areas as mental health, poverty, delinquency, and community action.

Associations of professional social workers in a number of countries have adopted or proposed codes of ethics, and in the United States NASW promulgated such a code in 1960. It pledges members to a series of obligations, including primary responsibility to the client, confidentiality, recognition of the limits of professional knowledge and competence, appropriate respect for colleagues, priority of professional over personal interests, and other standards of professional conduct. There has also been discussion of an international code of ethics by the International Federation of Social Workers.

Future directions

The character of the profession is being affected by several lines of development within social work. One of these is the increased emphasis on institutional and community change, in which the client is encouraged to participate. A number of governmental programs have adopted this approach, making the environment rather than the individual the major target of intervention. Social workers involved in these programs are turning to broader theories of social science in their training and practice and are enlarging the scope of community organization.

Social workers who help the client to function better in his individual situation are also experimenting with additional techniques. There is renewed consideration of the whole family, and treatment methods more commonly include the use of group approaches. Moreover, social workers are increasingly turning to behavioral psychology as a guide for practice rather than to the psychoanalytic doctrines upon which the therapeutic methods of social work have largely depended.

Manpower pressures are stimulating experimentation with new forms of practice and with the differentiation of tasks for which varied training is required. The increasing responsibility of social workers in the implementation of large public programs and greater security about their competence are encouraging both basic and evaluative research. Finally, achievement of more secure status and recognition is increasing the social work profession’s ability to define the role it will play in the changing society.

Henry J. Meyer

[Directly related are the entriesPlanning, social, article onWelfare planning; Welfare state. Other relevant material may be found inPhilanthropy; Poverty.]


The absence of extensive empirical studies limits analysis of the social work profession. Useful descriptive materials on social work education and other aspects of the profession can be found in the four United Nations surveys published under the title Training for Social Work in 1950, 1955, 1958, and 1965. Current developments in various countries are reported in International Social Work, published bimonthly by the International Conference of Social Work. See Great Britain … 1959 for an extensive study of social work in Great Britain, focusing on manpower and training; Timras 1964 provides a history of British social work in mental health; and Rodgers & Dixon 1960 presents an intensive study of social workers in a British community. For the United States, the Encyclopedia of Social Work contains a wide range of information; it was published in 1965 by the National Association of Social Workers, replacing an earlier series, the Social Work Year-book. Salaries and Working Conditions … 1961 includes some data on trends in the United States since 1950. The emergence of the profession in the United States is analyzed historically in Lubove 1965. The most complete sociological analysis of the profession is a perceptive study of social welfare, Wilensky & Lebeaux 1958; other general analyses of the profession include Pollack 1952; Greenwood 1957; Cohen 1958; Meyer 1959. For studies of the characteristics of social work students, see Pins 1963 and Berengarten 1964. Manpower issues are reviewed in National … 1966. The Council on Social Work Education’s publications include the Journal of Education for Social Work, regular informational bulletins, and an annual series entitled Statistics on Social Work Education. The National Association of Social Workers also has a publications program that includes two quarterly journals, Social Work and Abstracts for Social Workers, as well as regular bulletins on personnel information and professional developments. Professional journals, especially Social Service Review, Social Casework, and Child Welfare, frequently include discussions of problems of professionalization. Developments in public welfare bearing on the profession may be found in the journal Public Welfare and in other publications of the American Public Welfare Association, as well as in occasional publications of the Welfare Administration, U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. In addition, more technical papers about social work knowledge and practice often supply insights into trends in the profession.

Abstracts for Social Workers. → Published since 1965.

Baker, Mary R. 1965 Personnel in Social Work. Pages 532-540 in Encyclopedia of Social Work. New York: National Association of Social Workers.

Beck, Dorothy F. 1962 Patterns in Use of Family Agency Service. New York: Family Service Association of America.

Berengarten, Sidney 1964 Admissions Prediction and Student Performance in Social Work Education. New York: Council on Social Work Education.

Billingsley, Andrew 1964 Bureaucratic and Professional Orientation Patterns in Social Casework. Social Service Review 38, no. 4:400-407.

Blackey, Eileen 1964 Issues in Social Work Education: New and Changing Demands Made of the Profession. Pages 75-89 in Council on Social Work Education, Twelfth Annual Program Meeting, Proceedings. New York: The Council.

Blenkner, Margaret 1950 Obstacles to Evaluative Research in Casework. Social Casework 31:54-60, 97-105.

Blenkner, Margaret 1962 Control Groups and the “Placebo Effect” in Evaluative Research. Social Work 7, no. 1:52-58.

Blenkner, Margaret; jahn, Julius; and wasser, EDNA 1964 Serving the Aging: An Experiment in Social Work and Public Health Nursing. New York: Community Service Society.

Brieland, Donald 1959 An Experimental Study of the Selection of Adoptive Parents at Intake. New York: Child Welfare League of America.

Burns, Mary E. 1965 Supervision in Social Work. Pages 785-791 in Encyclopedia of Social Work. New York: National Association of Social Workers.

Child Welfare. → Published since 1922.

Cloward, Richard A. 1963 Social Class and Private Social Agencies. Pages 123-137 in Council on Social Work Education, Eleventh Annual Program Meeting, Proceedings. New York: The Council.

Cloward, Richard A.; and Ohlin, Lloyd E. (1960) 1961 Delinquency and Opportunity: A Theory of Delinquent Gangs. New York: Free Press.

Cohen, Nathan E. 1958 Social Work in the American Tradition: Field, Body of Knowledge, Process, Method and Point of View. New York: Dryden.

Conference on International Social Welfare Manpower, Washington, D.C., DEC. 13-14, 1964 1965 Proceedings. Washington: U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Welfare Administration.

Encyclopedia of Social Work. Edited by Harry L. Lurie. 1965 New York: National Association of Social Workers.

Freeman, Howard E.; and Sherwood, Clarence C. 1965 Research in Large-scale Intervention Programs. Journal of Social Issues 21, no. 1:11-28.

Great britain, WorkinG Party ON Social Workers in the Local Authority Health and Welfare Services 1959 Report. London: H.M. Stationery Office.

Greenwood, Ernest 1957 Attributes of a Profession. Social Work 2, no. 3:45-55.

Hagstrom, Warren O. 1964 The Power of the Poor. Pages 205-223 in Frank Riessman et al. (editors), The Mental Health of the Poor. New York: Free Press.

Hunt, Joseph Mcv.; and Kogan, Leonard S. 1950 Measuring Results in Social Casework: A Manual on Judging Movement. New York: Family Service Association of America.

Hyman, Herbert H.; Wright, Charles R.; and Hopkins, Terence K. 1962 Applications of Methods of Evaluation: Four Studies of the Encampment for Citizenship. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

International Social Work. → Published quarterly by the International Conference of Social Work.

Interprofessional Conference on Professional Training in North America for Students From other Countries, Osgood Hill Conference Center, 1961 1963 The Professional Education of Students From Other Lands. Prepared by Irwin T. Sanders. New York: Council on Social Work Education.

Journal of Education for Social Work. → Published since 1965.

Kadushin, Alfred 1965 Two Problems of the Graduate Program: Level and Content. Journal of Education for Social Work 1, no. 1:33-46.

Levenstein, Sidney 1964 Private Practice in Social Casework: A Profession’s Changing Pattern. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Lubove, Roy 1965 The Professional Altruist: The Emergence of Social Work as a Career, 1880-1930. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Madison, Berenice 1962 Welfare Personnel in the Soviet Union. Social Work 7, no. 3:57-68.

Meyer, Henry J. 1959 Professionalization and Social Work. Pages 319-340 in Alfred J. Kahn (editor), Issues in American Social Work. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Meyer, Henry J.; and Borgatta, Edgar F. 1959 An Experiment in Mental Patient Rehabilitation: Evaluating a Social Agency Program. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Meyer, Henry J.; Borgatta, Edgar F.; and Jones, Wyatt C. 1965 Girls at Vocational High: An Experiment in Social Work Intervention. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Michigan, University of, Research Center for Group Dynamics 1957 Role Relations in the Mental Health Professions, by Alvin Zander, Arthur R. Cohen, and Ezra Stotland. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan, Institute of Social Research.

Miller, Walter B. 1962 The Impact of a “Total-community” Delinquency Control Project. Social Problems 10:168-191.

National Association of Social Workers, Research Section 1959 Use of Judgments as Data in Social Work Research. Edited by Ann W. Shyne. New York: The Association.

National Association of Social Workers, Research Section 1966 Manpower in Social Welfare: Research Perspectives. Edited by Edward E. Schwartz. New York: The Association.

Pins, Arnulf M. 1963 Who Chooses Social Work, When and Why? An Exploratory Study of Factors Influencing Career Choices in Social Work. New York: Council on Social Work Education.

Pollack, Otto 1952 The Culture of Psychiatric Social Work. Journal of Psychiatric Social Work 21:160-165.

Public Welfare. → Published since 1943.

Ripple, Lillian1964 Motivation, Capacity and Opportunity: Studies in Casework Theory and Practice. Univ. of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration.

Rodgers, Barbara N.; and Dixon, Julia 1960 Portrait of Social Work: A Study of Social Services in a Northern Town. Oxford Univ. Press.

Salaries and Working Conditions of Social Welfare Manpower in 1960. 1961 New York: National Social Welfare Assembly.

Shyne, Ann W. 1963 Evaluation of Results in Social Work. Social Work 8, no. 4:26-33.

Shyne, Ann W. 1965 An Experimental Study of Casework Methods. Social Casework 46:535-541.

Social Casework. → Published since 1920.

Social Service Review. → Published since 1927.

Social Work. → Published since 1956.

Social Work Yearbook. → Published from 1929 to 1960.

Statistics on Social Work Education. → Published since 1952.

The Term “Social Work” as Used Throughout the World. 1961 International Social Work 4, no. 1:5-9; no. 3:29-32; no. 4:9-11.

Thomas, Edwin J.; and Mcleod, Donna L. 1960 In-service Training and Reduced Workloads: Experiments in a State Department of Welfare. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Timms, NOEL 1964 Psychiatric Social Work in Great Britain: 1939-1962. London: Routledge; New York: Humanities.

United NationsTraining for Social Work. → Four international surveys published in 1950, 1955, 1958, and 1965.

Vinter, Robert D. 1959 The Social Structure of Service. Pages 242-269 in Alfred J. Kahn (editor), Issuesin American Social Work. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Vinter, Robert D. 1963 Analysis of Treatment Organizations. Social Work 8, no. 3:3-15.

Vinter, Robert D.; and Sarri, Rosemary C. 1965 Malperformance in the Public School: A Group Work Approach. Social Work 10, no. 1:3-13.

Wilensky, Harold L.; and Lebeaux, Charles N. 1958 Industrial Society and Social Welfare: The Impact of Industrialization on the Supply and Organization of Social Welfare Services in the United States. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. → A paperback edition was published in 1965 by the Free Press.

Wilkins, Leslie T. (1964) 1965 Social Deviance: Social Policy, Action, and Research. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Wittman, Milton 1965 Information on Personnel Needs and Social Work Students: Implications for Manpower Planning and Research and for Programs of Recruitment and Education. Pages 15-25 in Ellen Winston et al., Social Work Education and Social Welfare Manpower: Present Realities and Future Imperatives. New York: Council on Social Work Education.

Social Work

views updated Jun 08 2018

Social Work


Attn: AlaskAdvantage Programs
3030 Vintage Boulevard
Juneau, AK 99801-7109
Tel: (907)465-6779; (866)427-5683
Fax: (907)465-5316
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site:
To provide financial assistance to Alaska residents who attend college in the state to prepare for a career in designated fields with a workforce shortage.
Title of Award: AlaskAdvantage Educational Grants Area, Field, or Subject: Education; Health care services; Social work Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Undergraduate Number Awarded: Varies each year; students with the greatest financial need are awarded support until funds are exhausted. Funds Available: Grants range from $500 to $2,000 per year, depending on the need of the recipient. Duration: 1 year; may be renewed as long as the recipient remains enrolled at least half time, makes satisfactory academic progress, and continues to meet residency and financial need requirements.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to residents of Alaska who have been admitted to an undergraduate degree or vocational certificate program at a qualifying institution in the state. Applicants must be planning to work on a degree or certificate in a field that the state has designated as a workforce shortage area; currently, those are allied health sciences, community or social service, and teaching. They must be able to demonstrate financial need and SAT or ACT scores in the top quartile. U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status is required. Deadline for Receipt: April of each year.


Attn: WELS Lutherans for Life
Scholarship Review Committee
2949 North Mayfair Road, Suite 309
Milwaukee, WI 53222-4304
Tel: (414)774-1331
Fax: (414)774-1360
Web Site:
To provide financial assistance to Lutheran high school seniors in Wisconsin who are interested in studying life-related issues in college.
Title of Award: WELS Lutherans for Life Scholarship Program Area, Field, or Subject: Biological and clinical sciences; Education, Special; Engineering, Biomedical; Journalism; Law; Medicine; Physical therapy; Political science; Psychology; Social work Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Four Year College Number Awarded: Varies each year; recently, 9 of these scholarships were awarded. Funds Available: Stipends up to $1,000 are available. Duration: 1 year.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to high school seniors who are active members of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) or an affiliated church. Applicants must be planning to go to a 4-year school to prepare for a secular career in which pro-life values will be demonstrated. Acceptable fields include medicine, biotechnology/biological engineering, medical research/genetics, law/politics, journalism/media, psychology, physical therapy, social services, or special education. They must have a GPA of 3.25 or higher. Along with their application, they must submit essays on 1) the field of study they plan to enter and how it relates to pro-life issues; 2) why the scholarship should be awarded to them, including their future goals; and 3) how they have demonstrated a Christian, pro-life attitude in their life. Deadline for Receipt: February of each year. Additional Information: WELS Lutherans for Life was formerly a ministry of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.


50 Hurt Plaza, Suite 449
Atlanta, GA 30303
Tel: (404)688-5525
Fax: (404)688-3060
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site:
To provide financial assistance to Georgia residents who are working on an undergraduate or graduate degree, especially in medicine or social work.
Title of Award: Steve Dearduff Scholarship Area, Field, or Subject: General studies/Field of study not specified; Medicine; Social work Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Graduate, Undergraduate Number Awarded: Varies each year; recently, 7 of these scholarships were awarded. Funds Available: Stipends range up to $2,500 per year. Duration: 1 year; recipients may reapply.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to legal residents of Georgia who are enrolled in or accepted at an accredited institution of higher learning on the undergraduate or graduate school level. Applicants must be able to demonstrate a history of outstanding community service and potential for success in their chosen field. They must have a GPA of 2.0 or higher. Preference is given to candidates entering the fields of medicine (research or clinical practice) or social work. Deadline for Receipt: March of each year.


50 Hurt Plaza, Suite 449
Atlanta, GA 30303
Tel: (404)688-5525
Fax: (404)688-3060
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site:
To provide financial assistance for college to high school seniors, especially those from designated states.
Title of Award: James M. and Virginia M. Smyth Scholarship Fund Area, Field, or Subject: General studies/Field of study not specified; Music; Religion; Social work Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Undergraduate Number Awarded: Varies each year. Funds Available: Stipends range up to $2,500. Duration: 1 year; recipients may reapply.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to graduating high school seniors, with special consideration given to residents of Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and be interested in attending a college, university, or community college to work on a degree in the arts and sciences, human services, music, or ministry. They must be able to demonstrate financial need and a commitment to community service through school, community, or religious organizations. Adults returning to school to increase employability are also eligible. Deadline for Receipt: March of each year.


c/o Mrs. Donald C. Trolinger, Scholarship Chair
61300 East 110 Road
Miami, OK 74354-4726
E-mail: [email protected]
To provide financial assistance to Native American college students who are interested in preparing for a career in education.
Title of Award: Continental Society, Daughters of Indian Wars Scholarship Area, Field, or Subject: Education; Social work Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Four Year College Number Awarded: 1 each year. Funds Available: The stipend is $1,000. Duration: 1 year; may be renewed.
Eligibility Requirements: Applicants must be certified tribal members of a federally-recognized tribe, plan to prepare for a career in education or social service, plan to work on a reservation, be a junior at an accredited college, have earned at least a 3.0 GPA, and carry at least 10 quarter hours or 8 semester hours. Selection is based primarily on academic achievement and commitment to the field of study; financial need is not necessary but is considered. Deadline for Receipt: June of each year.


1707 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20009
Tel: (202)986-2400
Fax: (202)986-2513
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site:
To provide financial assistance to members of Delta Sigma Theta who are interested in preparing for a career in social work.
Title of Award: Juliette Derricotte Scholarship Area, Field, or Subject: Social work Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Four Year College, Graduate Funds Available: The stipends range from $1,000 to $2,000 per year. The funds may be used to cover tuition, school, and living expenses. Duration: 1 year; may be renewed for up to 2 additional years.
Eligibility Requirements: Applicants must be college seniors or graduate students who are interested in preparing for a career in social work and who are active, dues-paying members of Delta Sigma Theta. Deadline for Receipt: March of each year. Additional Information: Winners may also receive financial assistance from other sources. Confirmation of registration must be received before stipends are paid.


Attn: Research Department
4351 Garden City Drive
Landover, MD 20785-7223
Tel: (301)459-3700
Free: 800-EFA-1000
Fax: (301)577-2684
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site:
To provide funding to undergraduate and graduate students interested in working on a summer research training project in a field relevant to epilepsy.
Title of Award: Behavioral Sciences Student Fellowships in Epilepsy Area, Field, or Subject: Anthropology; Behavioral sciences; Counseling/Guidance; Economics; Epilepsy; Nursing; Political science; Psychology; Rehabilitation, Physical/Psychological; Social work; Sociology Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Graduate, Undergraduate Number Awarded: Varies each year; recently, 4 of these fellowships were awarded. Funds Available: The grant is $3,000. Duration: 3 months during the summer.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to undergraduate and graduate students in a behavioral science program relevant to epilepsy research or clinical care, including, but not limited to, sociology, social work, psychology, anthropology, nursing, economics, vocational rehabilitation, counseling, and political science. Applicants must be interested in working on an epilepsy research project under the supervision of a qualified mentor. Because the program is designed as a training opportunity, the quality of the training plans and environment are considered in the selection process. Other selection criteria include the quality of the proposed project, the relevance of the proposed work to epilepsy, the applicant's interest in the field of epilepsy, the applicant's qualifications, and the mentor's qualifications, including his or her commitment to the student and the project. U.S. citizenship is not required, but the project must be conducted in the United States. Applications from women, members of minority groups, and people with disabilities are especially encouraged. The program is not intended for students working on a dissertation research project. Deadline for Receipt: March of each year. Additional Information: This program is supported by the American Epilepsy Society, Abbott Laboratories, Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Corporation, and Pfizer Inc.


Attn: Scholarship Program
801 Thompson Avenue, Suite 120
Rockville, MD 20852
Tel: (301)443-6197
Fax: (301)443-6048
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site:
To provide financial assistance to Native American students who need compensatory or preprofessional education to qualify for enrollment in a health professions school.
Title of Award: Health Professions Preparatory Scholarship Program Area, Field, or Subject: Engineering; Health care services; Medical technology; Nursing; Nutrition; Pharmaceutical sciences; Physical therapy; Social work Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Undergraduate Number Awarded: Varies each year. Funds Available: Awards provide a payment directly to the school for tuition and required fees; a stipend for living expenses of approximately $1,160 per month for 10 months; a lump sum to cover the costs of books, travel, and other necessary educational expenses; and up to $400 for approved tutorial costs. Duration: Up to 2 years of full-time study or up to 4 years of part-time study.
Eligibility Requirements: Applicants must be American Indians or Alaska Natives; be high school graduates or the equivalent; have the capacity to complete a health professions course of study; and be enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a compensatory or preprofessional general education course or curriculum. The qualifying fields of study include premedical technology, pre-dietetics, pre-nursing, pre-pharmacy, pre-physical therapy, pre-social work, and pre-engineering. Recipients must intend to serve Indian people upon completion of professional health care education as a health care provider in the discipline for which they are enrolled at the pregraduate level. Deadline for Receipt: February of each year.


Attn: Scholarship Program
801 Thompson Avenue, Suite 120
Rockville, MD 20852
Tel: (301)443-6197
Fax: (301)443-6048
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site:
To provide loans-for-service to American Indian and Alaska Native students enrolled in health professions and allied health professions programs.
Title of Award: Health Professions Scholarship Program Area, Field, or Subject: Counseling/Guidance; Dental hygiene; Dentistry; Health care services; Medical assisting; Medical technology; Medicine; Medicine, Osteopathic; Nursing; Nutrition; Optometry; Pharmaceutical sciences; Physical therapy; Podiatry; Psychology; Public health; Radiology; Respiratory therapy; Social work; Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Graduate, Undergraduate Number Awarded: Varies each year. Funds Available: Awards provide a payment directly to the school for tuition and required fees; a stipend for living expenses of approximately $1,160 per month for 12 months; a lump sum to cover the costs of books, travel, and other necessary educational expenses; and up to $400 for approved tutorial costs. Upon completion of their program of study, recipients are required to provide payback service of 1 year for each year of scholarship support at the Indian Health Service, a tribal health programs, an urban Indian health program, or in private practice in a designated health professional shortage area serving a substantial number of Indians. Recipients who fail to complete their service obligation must repay all funds received (although no interest is charged). Duration: 1 year; may be renewed for up to 3 additional years.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to American Indians and Alaska Natives who are at least high school graduates and enrolled in a full-time study program leading to a degree in a health-related professions school within the United States. Priority is given to upper-division and graduate students. Qualifying fields of study include chemical dependency counseling (bachelor's or master's degree), clinical psychology (Ph.D. only), coding specialist (certificate), counseling psychology (Ph.D. only), dental hygiene (B.S.), dentistry (D.D.S.), diagnostic radiology technology (certificate, associate, or B.S.), dietitian (B.S.), civil or environmental engineering (B.S.), environmental health (B.S.), health care administration (B.S. or M.S.), health education (B.S. or M.S.), health records (R.H.I.T. or R.H.I.A.), injury prevention specialist (certificate), medical technology (B. S.), allopathic and osteopathic medicine, nursing (A.D.N., B.S.N., or C.R. N.A), optometry, pharmacy (B.S. or Pharm.D.), physician assistant (B.S.), physical therapy (M.S. or D.P.T.), podiatry (D.P.M.), public health (M.P.H. only), public health nutrition (master's only), social work (master's only), respiratory therapy (associate), and ultrasonography. Deadline for Receipt: February of each year.


Attn: Transgender Scholarship and Education Legacy Fund
P.O. Box 540229
Waltham, MA 02454-0229
Tel: (781)899-2212
Fax: (781)899-5703
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site:
To provide financial assistance to transgender students who are working on an undergraduate or graduate degree in the caring professions.
Title of Award: Transgender Scholarship and Education Legacy Fund Awards Area, Field, or Subject: Education; Health care services; Law; Religion; Social work Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Graduate, Undergraduate Number Awarded: Varies each year; recently, 4 of these scholarships were awarded. Funds Available: Stipends average $2,000. Funds are paid directly to the student. Duration: 1 year; nonrenewable.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to undergraduate and graduate students who are living full time in a gender or sex role that differs from that assigned to them at birth and who are "out and proud" about their transgender identity. Applicants must be working on a degree in the helping and caring professions, including, but not limited to, social services, health care, religious instruction, education, and the law. They may be of any age or nationality, but they must be attending or planning to attend a college, university, trade school, or technical college in the United States or Canada. Selection is based on affirmation of transgender identity; demonstration of integrity and honesty; participation and leadership in community activities; service as role model, mentor, colleague, or advisor for the transgender communities; and service as transgender role model, mentor, colleague, or advisor to non-transpeople in the helping and caring professions. Deadline for Receipt: January of each year. Additional Information: This program includes the TSELF Youth Award (for applicants under 22 years of age entering their first or second year of postsecondary education); the TSELF Schools Education Award (for applicants working on a degree in education and teaching); the Lee Frances Heller Memorial Award (for Christian students or applicants who are or will be attending a college, university, or other institution for religious studies); the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment Award (for applicants who have been involved in HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment activities); and the Chicago Gender Society Leadership Award (for applicants who have been involved in community building activities).


Attn: Scholarship
500 Victory Road
Quincy, MA 02171
Tel: (617)770-9889
Free: 800-457-5599
Fax: (617)479-0860
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site:
To provide financial assistance to undergraduate students working on a degree in a health-related field.
Title of Award: Koster Insurance Health Careers Scholarship Program Area, Field, or Subject: Biological and clinical sciences; Chemistry; Dentistry; Health care services; Nursing; Occupational therapy; Optometry; Pharmaceutical sciences; Physical therapy; Physiology; Public health; Social work Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Undergraduate Number Awarded: 5 each year. Funds Available: The stipend is $3,000 per year. Duration: 1 year; may be renewed 1 additional year.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to full-time undergraduates entering their second-to-last or final year of study in a health-related field, including (but not limited to) pre-medicine, nursing, public and community health, physical therapy, occupational therapy, pharmacy, biology, chemistry, physiology, social work, dentistry, and optometry. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and be able to demonstrate financial need. Along with their application, they must submit a 1-page essay describing their personal goals, including their reasons for preparing for a career in health care. Selection is based on motivation to pursue a career in health care, academic excellence, dedication to community service, and financial need. Deadline for Receipt: April of each year. Additional Information: This program began in 2001.


c/o University of Southern Maine, Muskie School
400 Congress Street P.O. Box 15010
Portland, ME 04112
Fax: (207)780-5817
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site:
To provide financial assistance to child care providers in Maine who are working on an undergraduate or graduate degree at an institution in the state.
Title of Award: Maine Roads Degree Scholarship Area, Field, or Subject: Child development; Education, Early childhood; Parks and recreation; Social work Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Graduate, Professional, Undergraduate Number Awarded: Varies each year. Funds Available: Stipends range up to $1,800 for undergraduate students or up to $2,400 for graduate students. Duration: 1 year.Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to child care providers who are residents of Maine working on a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree at an institution of higher education in the state. Applicants must have a family income that does not exceed 300% of the federal poverty level (currently, that means an income of $26,940 for a family of 1, rising to $92,880 for a family of 8). They must have experience within the past 2 years working in the child care and early education field in licensed or certified child care facilities or resource development centers. Courses of study may include early childhood education, child development, recreation and leisure services with a special needs focus, social work with an emphasis on early childhood, or child care administration. Along with their application, they must submit brief statements on their plans to work directly with children after completing their degree and how earning their degree will impact their work in child care. Deadline for Receipt: June or October of each year.


Attn: Office of Student Financial Assistance
839 Bestgate Road, Suite 400
Annapolis, MD 21401-3013
Tel: (410)260-4594
Free: 800-974-1024
Fax: (410)974-5376
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site:
To provide scholarship/loans to students in Maryland who are interested in working on a degree in a designated human services program.
Title of Award: Maryland Developmental Disabilities, Mental Health, Child Welfare, and Juvenile Justice Workforce Tuition Assistance Program Area, Field, or Subject: Counseling/Guidance; Criminal justice; Criminology; Disabilities; Education, Special; Gerontology; Law enforcement; Mental health; Nursing; Occupational therapy; Physical therapy; Psychology; Rehabilitation, Physical/Psychological; Social work Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Graduate, Undergraduate Number Awarded: Varies each year. Funds Available: The maximum stipend is $2,000 per year for students attending a 2-year institution or $3,000 per year for students at a 4-year institution. The total amount of all state awards may not exceed the cost of attendance as determined by the school's financial aid office or $17,800, whichever is less. Recipients must agree to work in a Maryland community-based program that is licensed by the Developmental Disabilities Administration or approved by the Mental Hygiene Administration, or in a residential program that is licensed by the Department of Human Resources or the Department of Juvenile Justice. The service obligation must begin within 6 months of graduation. The total service requirement is 2,000 hours if the award amount is $1,999 or less, 3,000 hours if the award amount is $2,000 to $3,999, or 4,000 hours if the award amount is $4,000 or more. If the service requirement is not completed, the award must be repaid with interest. Duration: 1 year; may be renewed if the recipient maintains satisfactory academic progress and remains enrolled in a human services degree program.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to high school seniors and full-time and part-time undergraduate and graduate students. Applicants and their parents must be Maryland residents attending a college or university in the state in 1 of the following human services degree programs: aging services, counseling, disability services, mental health, nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychology, rehabilitation, social work, special education, supported employment, vocational rehabilitation, or any other concentration in the healing arts or a program providing support services to individuals with special needs including child welfare and juvenile justice. Financial need is not considered in the selection process. Deadline for Receipt: June of each year.


50 Broadway, 34th Floor
New York, NY 10004
Tel: (212)425-6606
Fax: (212)425-6602
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site:
To assist well-qualified individuals to train for careers in a field related to Jewish community service.
Title of Award: International Scholarship Program for Community Service Area, Field, or Subject: Education; Jewish studies; Religion; Social work Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Graduate, Undergraduate Funds Available: The amount of the grant varies, depending on the country in which the student will be trained and other considerations. Duration: 1 year; may be renewed.
Eligibility Requirements: The scholarship is open to any individual, regardless of country of origin, who is presently receiving or plans to undertake training in his/her chosen field at a recognized yeshiva, teacher training seminary, school of social work, university, or other educational institution. Applicants must be interested in pursuing professional training for careers in Jewish education, Jewish social service, the rabbinate, or as religious functionaries (e.g., shohatim, mohalim) in Diaspora Jewish communities in need of such personnel. Students planning to serve in the United States, Canada, or Israel are not eligible. Deadline for Receipt: November of each year. Additional Information: Recipients must agree to serve for at least 2 to 3 years in a Jewish-deprived Diaspora community where their skills are needed after completing their training.


Attn: National Student Coordinator
1220 11th Street, N.W., Suite 2
Washington, DC 20001
Tel: (202)589-1850
Fax: (202)589-1853
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site:
To provide financial assistance for college or graduate school to members of the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW).
Title of Award: Cenie Jomo Williams Tuition Scholarship Area, Field, or Subject: Social work Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Graduate, Undergraduate Number Awarded: 1 or more each year. Funds Available: The stipend is $2,000. Funds are sent directly to the recipient's school. Duration: 1 year.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to African American members of NABSW enrolled full time at an accredited U.S. social work or social welfare program with a GPA of 2.5 or higher. Applicants must be able to demonstrate community service and a research interest in the Black community. Along with their application, they must submit an essay of 2 to 3 pages on their professional interests, future social work aspirations, previous social work experiences (volunteer and professional), honors and achievements (academic and community service), and research interests within the Black community (for master's and doctoral students). Recommendations are required. Financial need is considered in the selection process. Deadline for Receipt: December of each year.


Attn: Scholarship and Grant Services
10 T.W. Alexander Drive
P.O. Box 14223
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-4223
Tel: (919)549-8614
Free: 800-700-1775
Fax: (919)549-8481
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site:
To provide loans and loans-for-service to North Carolina residents who are interested in preparing for a career in health, science, or mathematics.
Title of Award: North Carolina Student Loan Program for Health, Science, and Mathematics Area, Field, or Subject: Allied health; Dentistry; Medicine; Nursing; Optometry; Public health; Social work Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Graduate, Undergraduate Number Awarded: Varies each year; recently, a total of 497 students were receiving $3,238,569 in support through this program. Funds Available: Maximum loans are $3,000 per year for associate degree and certificate programs, $5,000 per year for baccalaureate degree/certificate programs, $6,500 per year for master's degree programs, or $8,500 per year for health/professional doctoral programs. The maximum amount that any student can borrow through this program is $58,000. The interest rate is 4% while the borrowers are attending school and from 10 to 15% after they leave school. Cash repayments must begin 90 days or less after completion of course work and training. Under specified conditions, certain loan recipients in qualifying disciplines may have their loans canceled through service in North Carolina. Duration: 1 year; renewable for 1 additional year for diploma, associate, certificate, and master's degree programs, for 2 additional years for baccalaureate degree programs, or for 3 additional years for doctoral programs.
Eligibility Requirements: North Carolina residents are eligible to apply for this program if they have been accepted as full-time students in an accredited associate, baccalaureate, master's, or doctoral program leading to a degree in 1 of the following areas: allied health (including audiology/communications assistant, cytotechnology, dental hygiene, diagnostic medical sonographer, imaging technologist, medical technology, nuclear medicine technologist, occupational therapy/assistant, physician assistant, physical therapy/assistant, radiation therapist, radiography, respiratory therapy, and speech language pathology); clinical psychology (Ph.D. level only); dentistry; dietetics and nutrition (graduate level only); mathematics education; medicine (including chiropractic medicine, emergency medicine, family medicine, geriatrics, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, osteopathic medicine, pediatrics, podiatry, primary care medicine, and psychiatry); nursing (including anesthetist, family nurse practitioner, nursing administration, general nursing, and midwifery); optometry; pharmacy; public health (graduate level only); science education (including biology, chemistry, communications and technologies, computer and information sciences, engineering, and physical science); social work (graduate level only); and veterinary medicine. U.S. citizenship is required. Selection is based on academic progress, financial ability of sureties to repay all loans and accrued interest in case of applicant's default, applicant's willingness to work in underserved areas of the state or in disciplines for which there is a shortage of professionals, applicant's willingness to comply with all program regulations, and financial need. Deadline for Receipt: May of each year. Additional Information: Recipients may attend a North Carolina postsecondary institution or an eligible out-of-state institution. This program was formerly known as the North Carolina Medical Student Loan Program.


6245 Bristol Parkway, Suite 224
Culver City, CA 90230
Tel: (323)671-0394
Fax: (323)778-2613
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site:
To provide financial assistance to upper-division college students majoring in child development, teaching, or social services.
Title of Award: Joyce Washington Scholarship Area, Field, or Subject: Child development; Education; Social work Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Four Year College Number Awarded: 1 each year. Funds Available: A stipend is awarded (amount not specified). Duration: 1 year.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to U.S. citizens of African American descent who are enrolled full time as a college or university junior. Applicants must be majoring in child development, teaching, or the study of social services. They must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, be between 17 and 24 years of age, and be able to demonstrate that they intend to continue their education for at least 2 years. Along with their application, they must submit 1) a 1-paragraph statement on why they should be awarded a Watts Foundation scholarship, and 2) a 1- to 2-page essay on a specific type of cancer, based either on how it has impacted their life or on researched information. Deadline for Receipt: May of each year. Additional Information: Royce R. Watts, Sr. established the Watts Charity Association after he learned he had cancer in 2001.


Attn: College-to-Work Program
735 North Water Street, Suite 600
Milwaukee, WI 53202-4100
Tel: (414)273-5980
Fax: (414)273-5995
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site:
To provide financial assistance and work experience to students majoring in fields related to social work at member institutions of the Wisconsin Foundation for Independent Colleges (WFIC).
Title of Award: Holiday House of Manitowoc County College-to-Work Program Area, Field, or Subject: Education; General studies/Field of study not specified; Occupational therapy; Social work Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Four Year College Number Awarded: 1 each year. Funds Available: The stipends are $3,500 for the scholarship and $1,500 for the internship. Duration: 1 year for the scholarship; 10 weeks for the internship.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to full-time sophomores, juniors, and seniors at private colleges and universities in Wisconsin. Applicants must be interested in an internship at Holiday House of Manitowoc County. Preference is given to 1) students attending Lakeland College or Silver Lake College; 2) residents of Manitowoc County attending another WFIC member institution; and 3) students majoring in education, occupational therapy, or social work. Along with their application, they must submit a 1-page essay that includes why they are applying for the internship, why they have selected their major and what interests them about it, why they are attending their chosen college or university, and their future career objectives. Deadline for Receipt: February of each year. Additional Information: The other WFIC schools are Alverno College, Beloit College, Cardinal Stritch University, Carroll College, Carthage College, Concordia University of Wisconsin, Edgewood College, Lawrence University, Marian College, Marquette University, Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Mount Mary College, Northland College, Ripon College, St. Norbert College, Viterbo University, and Wisconsin Lutheran College. This program is sponsored by Holiday House of Manitowoc County, Inc. The WFIC's College-to-Work Program includes a number of other financial assistance and work experience programs aimed at eligible students interested in majoring in fields related to social work, including the Lutheran Social Services College-to-Work Program, Manitowoc County Domestic Violence Center College-to-Work Program, and YWCA of Rock County College-to-Work Program.

Social Work

views updated May 23 2018


While many medical and social advances have resulted in longer lives, older adults often find themselves coping with multiple health problems that affect their quality of life. It is in this context that the role of the social worker becomes paramount. The main focus of a gerontological social worker is to maintain and enhance the quality of life of older adults and their families. Gerontological social workers often find themselves members of an interdisciplinary team composed of several health care professionals who must collaborate and communicate with each other in order to achieve the best possible outcome for the older adult (Linderman and Mellor).

Role of social work

Though the role of the social worker can vary from one team to another, several key tasks are essential for the gerontological social worker who is a member of an interdisciplinary team. The first is that of diagnosis and assessment. Here the social worker determines how the older adult and his or her family are functioning in physical, psychological, social, cultural, environmental, and spiritual areas. This will provide a holistic view of the persons involved. The second task is individual and group counseling, a very broad and diverse domain, the main focus of which is to help the older adult and his or her family adjust to major stressors and changes in their lives as a result of illness or various losses. The third task is advocacy. Older adults often find themselves having to deal with a variety of overwhelming systems. The social worker can help by acting on their behalf or teaching them ways to navigate these systems. The fourth task is acting as a liaison. This is vital when there is an interdisciplinary team involved. It can become confusing for the older adult and his or her family when several professionals are trying to obtain information. Having the social worker as a liaison with the various professionals is vital.

The fifth task is to serve as a community resource expert. The knowledge of community resources and how to access them is one of the most valuable skills of any social worker, but even more so for those who work with older adults. When there are multiple problems, there generally are multiple systems to deal with. Therefore having an individual who is familiar with these systems is indeed an asset. The final task is the coordination of care, which is both particularly important and very time-consuming. Many aspects of care are being communicated by various team members, and many agencies have actual or potential roles in the provision of care. Thus things can become very confusing unless someone takes on the role of coordinator.

The caregiver

Families often play an essential role in providing care to older adults. It is estimated that between 70 and 80 percent of the help received by older adults in the community is provided by family members (Cox et al.). This figure undermines the myth of family abandonment that arises from stories of families who leave an elderly member at the emergency department and then refuse to take that person home. With the financial restraints that the U.S. health care system is facing at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the number of older adults requiring families to provide their care is expected to grow. Social workers are concerned not only with the older adult but also with the family or caregiver, because it is essential that the family be included in all aspects of care planning.

Support for the caregiver

As with most roles in life, there are both positive and negative aspects to being a caregiver to an older adult. Caregivers struggle to balance the personal, physical, and emotional aspects of caregiving, as well as their other roles and responsibilities. It is not surprising that many feel overwhelmed and stressed. This phenomenon is generally referred to as caregiver burden. Social workers play a key role in monitoring for signs of caregiver burden and helping families learn to cope with and prevent increased stress levels. It is important for social workers to maintain regular contact with the caregiver in order to assess for increased stress levels. Administrating surveys or questionnaires that are designed to measure caregiver burden can be helpful in this regard. Though assessment skills are clearly important, another necessary skill is being a good listener. Being able to discuss concerns with someone who is genuinely concerned and willing to listen can be therapeutic in and of itself. Caregivers report that talking to others who are going through similar experiences can also be helpful. Therefore, social workers often connect caregivers with support groups. Work with caregivers and review of the literature on caregiving, make it evident that one of the most important ways to support caregivers is to ensure that they have adequate time away from their caregiving roles. This supplemental care is often referred to as respite care. Social workers work with the caregivers to ensure that adequate respite care is in place through either formal or informal systems.

Dorothy Wambolt

See also Assessment; Caregiving, Informal; Case Management; Frailty; Functional Ability; Home Care and Home Services; Multidisciplinary Team; Social Services.


Cox, E.; Parsons, R.; and Kimboko, P. Social Services and Intergenerational Caregivers: Issues for Social Work. Social Work (SeptemberOctober 1988).

Linderman, D., and Mellor, J. The Distinctive Role of Gerontological Social Work. Continuum 19, no. 1 (1999): 13.

McCallion, P.; Toseland, R.; and Diehi, M. Social Work Practice with Caregivers of Frail Older Adults. Research on Social Work Practice 4, no. 1 (1994): 6488.

Walker, A.; Martin, S.; and Jones, L. The Benefits and Costs of Caregiving and Care Receiving for Daughters and Mothers. Journal of Gerontology 47, no. 3 (1992): S130S139.

Work Interest Group of the Hartford Geriatric Interdisciplinary Team Training Program. The Role of the Social Worker in Interdisciplinary Geriatric Teams. Continuum 19, no. 1 (1999): 46

Social Work

views updated Jun 11 2018


Social work has been defined as being "concerned with the interactions between people and their social environment which affect the ability of people to accomplish life tasks, alleviate distress, and realize their aspirations and values. The purpose of social work therefore is to (1) enhance the problem-solving and coping capacities of people, (2) link people with systems that provide them with resources, services, and opportunities, (3) promote the effective and humane operation of these systems, and (4) contribute to the development and improvement of social policy" (Pincus and Minahan 1973, p. 9). A key difference between social work and sociology lies in the emphasis placed on intervention in social work. A social worker expects to be actively involved in the amelioration of social problems, while a sociologist typically focuses on understanding the nature and extent of social issues. Social workers establish a helping relationship with a client system (individual, family, small group, community), using their assessment skills and knowledge of helping resources to identify alternatives that may improve a situation.


Professional social work is historically tied to the emergence of social welfare as a social institution. Social welfare as it has come to be known, can be traced to society's numerous attempts to accommodate changes in economic and social relationships over time. The beginning of institutionalized social welfare is frequently ascribed to the English Poor Law of 1601. As the most critical part of modern social welfare's foundation, the Elizabethan poor laws were characterized by the articulation and promulgation of the principle of public responsibility and obligation for the economic well-being of the people. However, "the Poor Laws in England and in American communities were not primarily concerned with poverty and how to eliminate it. Instead, they were concerned with pauperism and the potential claims on community funds, the danger that paupers might get by without working" (Dolgoff and Feldstein 1984, p. 80). This continuing tension between public obligation and social control is one of several dualities that characterize the context of professional social work practice. Institutionalized social welfare is the environment in which the profession of social work has developed. The history of social welfare is paralleled by and enmeshed with the increasing professionalism of those who administer social welfare programs.

Early social work was characterized by two streams of activity: social reform and direct assistance to individuals and families. The practice of friendly visiting and the development of both the Charity Organizations Societies and settlement houses illustrate both types of effort. Representatives of Charity Organization Socities, the so-called friendly visitors, engaged in social investigation and moral susasion improve the lives of the poor. The thrust of those encounters was to place responsibility on the persons or families for their economic and social status, what is known now as "blaming the victim." The work of the Charity Organization Societies formed the origins of the social work method later known as social casework.

Residents of settlement houses, Jane Adams included, were friendly visitors who came to stay. A group of middle-class or upper-class individuals moved into residence in a poor area in an effort to study neighborhood conditions firsthand and work with neighborhood residents on solving neighborhood problems. While some settlement house efforts focused on assimilation, later programs focused on improving conditions in immigrant communities. In cities across the nation, settlement houses helped acculturate vast numbers of immigrants in the early part of the twentieth century. Settlement house activities emphasized teaching English, health practices, occupational skills, and environmental changes through cooperative efforts. Settlement house staff developed social group work, community organization, social action, and environmental change efforts. Furthermore, settlement house workers were active in the legislative arena, gathering and promulgating facts in order to influence social policy and legislation.

An early and continuing cleavage in the profession has its origins in differing explanations of social dysfunction. Some early social workers espoused the theory of the social causation of social problems and sought governmental actions to meet needs as well as developing coalitions for reform and institutional change. The educational foundation came from sociology, economics, and political science. Others emphasized individual causation of social problems, promoting an individually focused therapeutic approach to helping. These social workers identified the need to draw on psychological theory but emphasized the individual interacting with a social environment. These two primary orientations would feed the development of professional social work and provide the basis for conflict within the practice community and in professional social work education


An issue throughout the development of professional social work has been the nature of its professional status. In 1915 Abraham Flexner critiqued the professional status of social work at the National Conference of Charities and Corrections. Although Flexner criticized social work as lacking a specific skill for a specific function, he also recognized its professional spirit. The ideal-type model of a profession has been the conception against which social work has measured itself through much of its history. Greenwood's (1957) analysis examined the extent to which social work possessed five classic traits of a profession: systematic theory, authority, community sanction, an ethical code, and a professional culture. Characterizing social work as a less-developed profession, Greenwood concluded that it possessed these attributes to a moderate extent. The predominant direction of the field, however, has been to continue its professional development along all five dimensions. The recent emphasis on building the empirical base of practice coupled with more stringent licensure requirements by states are indicators of the continued progression of social work toward greater professional status. It would be incorrect to assume, however, that this direction is embraced by the profession as a whole. For those whose dominant professional identification is with the field's social action tradition, increasing professionalization means being co-opted. Achieving the public acceptance accorded to a profession can distance social workers from their constituencies and limit confrontational strategies that are central to advocacy for the oppressed.

In the 1920s the practice of social work emerged in so-called fields of practice or settings: family and child welfare and medical, psychiatric, and school social work. Social workers defined their central problems and responsibilities as being characteristic of their particular fields. The concept of method also emerged during this period. Method developed first around casework and later in relation to both group work and community organization. Methods were based on selected theories of human behavior drawn from psychology and sociology. Setting referred to the organizational context within which services were delivered.

This combination of method and field of practice or setting fragmented professional social work, slowing the development of an integrated theoretical base for practice across methods and settings. Social casework theory and method developed to a large extent in isolation from group work and community organization. The curricula for professional social work education followed the same pattern, with separate tracks for each method. It took until the 1970s for the development of a conceptual approach based on the essential components of professional practice regardless of where a social worker was employed. Pincus and Minahan (1970) articulated a conceptual framework for generalist practice, that is, for social work service delivery across practice settings. This approach encompassed three major components: the social systems in relation to which a social worker carries out his or her role, the stages of planned change or problem-solving processes, and interactional and analytic skills for data collection, analysis, and intervention.


Since social work as a profession is concerned with social change and the improvement of the conditions in which people live, its orientation cannot be value-free or purely theoretical. A defining characteristic of social work practice is a fundamental commitment to knowledge, skills, and a core set of professional values to enhance the well-being of people and ameliorate environmental conditions that affect people adversely. Among the values and principles that guide professional practice are respect for individual worth, dignity, the right to self-determination, and active participation in the helping process; helping clients obtain needed resources; demonstrating respect for and acceptance of the characteristics of diverse populations; a commitment to the promotion of social change to achieve social and economic justice; an understanding of the dynamics of oppression and discrimination, along with attention to populations at risk; and a holistic view of the interactions between people and the complex environment in which they live. These values are embedded in the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers (1994). The code focuses on the conduct and comportment of a social worker as well as ethical responsibilities to clients, colleagues, employers, the profession, and society.

A distinguishing characteristic of social work is that the majority of its practitioners are employed by a variety of public and private social welfare agencies. Some social workers are employed by agencies that are sanctioned to function as agents of social control, while others have the authority to determine eligibility for benefits and services. The bureaucratic environment, however manifested, dramatically shapes the practice of social workers. The process of professional socialization is designed to instill a culture, a set of values and expectations, that may conflict with the work environment.

Professionals' autonomy can be circumscribed by organizational commitments, policies, and procedures. In these circumstances, just whose agent is the professional social worker: the agency's, the client's, the community's, or his or her own as an autonomous professional? In an organizational context, what form can a social worker's social action efforts take? How far can an employed social worker go in challenging an agency's priorities, policies, and procedures before his or her services are no longer desired? How long does it take before a professional social worker starts to identify more as an agency employee than as an autonomous professional? Given the range of practice settings and the variety of roles of social workers, there are no easy answers to these questions. These realities can produce a conservatizing effect on social work, limiting many workers' willingness or ability to take risks as autonomous professionals in the name of social justice and reform. In these circumstances, one can see how theories of individual causation can prevail over explanations that invoke the influence of larger social forces in the creation and amelioration of social problems. This tension, with its roots in the origins of the profession, continues, as demonstrated by the overwhelming preference of students and professionals for work with individuals and families, mostly in the psychotherapeutic model.


The creation of a systematic body of theory has been under development from the early days of the profession. Richmond's Social Diagnosis (1917) organized the contemporary theory and method of social work and formulated a data collection approach designed to serve as the foundation for diagnosis. Richmond organized and analyzed the naturalistic observations she made while working with individuals and families. Her work is the origin of psychosocial history taking and treatment plan development and perhaps the core of social casework practice methods. Richmond's contribution to the organization of what eventually would become social casework practice is legendary, forming the bedrock of clinical social work. Her approach, later to be known as empirically based practice, represents one of the two major streams of knowledge and theory development in social work. The other major focus has relied heavily on the application of social science (primarily sociological and psychological) theory to the explanation of social problems and the development of interventions to ameliorate those problems.

The breadth of social work practice (encompassing work with individuals, families, groups, and communities and including social work program administration, public policy development, and social planning) provides a rich and continually changing field for exploratory, descriptive, and explanatory empirical efforts. The early 1970s was a benchmark in the development of the profession's knowledge base. Along with the massive investment in social programs of the 1960s came the realization that good intentions and humane values are not enough. Funders focused increasingly on outcomes. Attention was shifted to the development of empirically based justifications for programs, services, and budgets. Program evaluation became the dominant focus of much of social work research during this period, including methodology, design, outcomes, and professional accountability. This direction came to be known as the practice effectiveness movement. As articulated by Fischer, the question became, "Is Casework Effective?" (Fischer 1973; Fischer and Hudson 1976).

During this period, a study of the effects of adult protective services by Blenkner et al. (1971) at the Benjamin Rose Institute in Cleveland created a furor. An early social experiment, this demonstration program, which employed skilled caseworkers, was reported to be associated with more negative effects than was the control program, which employed less highly trained workers. After one year, the findings were alarming. The experimental group manifested higher death rates, higher utilization of protective services, higher rates of institutionalization, a nonsignificant increase in contentment, and a nonsignificant decrease in symptoms of emotional disturbance. The authors concluded that the "effect of more skilled social workers on the clients was to 'overdose' them with help. This led to more concrete assistance, including institutionalization, which in turn was responsible for the higher death rate. . . . More highly trained social workers were apparently more lethal" (Tobin 1978). These findings could not demonstrate the effectiveness of professional social work intervention, illustrate accountability, or be used to justify program expenditures.

This study and the controversy it generated shifted attention from program description to research design, sampling, and data analysis. Investigators (Berger and Piliavin 1976; Fischer and Hudson 1976) reanalyzed the data in an attempt to discover alternative explanations for the findings. Berger and Piliavin argued that although randomization had been used to assign clients to groups, the experimental group was older and more mentally and physically impaired than were the controls. Fischer and Hudson (1976) challenged the sample size used in Berger and Piliavin's regression analysis and demonstrated that age, mental status, and physical status, although separate variables, produced an additive effect. The nature of the debate had shifted: Methodological issues had become the basis of discussion. Values and good intentions alone would no longer be sufficient grounds for justifying programs or demonstrating professional accountability.


Concern with the outcomes of social work interventions led to the concept of the social worker as both practitioner and researcher. From this perspective, social workers are seen as having the opportunity and responsibility to develop methods and skills from an empirical base, from the experience provided in their own practice to develop, test, and refine practice innovations. Embedded in this movement toward practitioner-based empirical practice was the notion that evaluation and research were too critical to leave in the hands of a group of research "specialists." Perhaps more fundamental is the belief that social work research is too important to leave in the hands of those who are not social workers: "It is the practicing professional who encounters and struggles with current issues and who is most sensitive to the critical knowledge gaps in the field. Thus social workers are in the best position to formulate and conduct the needed research and evaluation and they must be committed to acquiring the understanding required to direct the helping effort" (Grinnell 1996, p. 5)

These developments coincided with the expansion of doctoral education in social work. While past doctoral preparation often focused on the development of advanced clinical skills, contemporary training at the doctoral level is almost exclusively research-based, designed to provide students with the skills needed to contribute to the empirically anchored knowledge base of the profession. As a result, a cohort of social work researchers has been trained over the last twenty years, and this group has developed a body of theory and knowledge that has been generated directly as social work research. Social work no longer defers to sociology for the methodological sophistication to evaluate its programs and practice outcomes.


Over time the link between social work and sociology has been strong, although the two fields have grown increasingly distant. There can be little doubt, however, regarding the importance of sociological theory and research for the development of the knowledge and theoretical base of social work practice. For example, social stratification, conflict theory, deviance, organizational theory, community development and dynamics, family studies, occupational sociology, criminology, and life-span theories are only a few areas of sociological theory development and research that have informed and directly influenced both the theory and the practice of social work. Landmark social program evaluation studies were undertaken by sociologists, some of whom were members of faculties of social work, in the late 1950s and 1960s (Meyer and Borgatta 1959; Meyer et al. 1965).

Clearly, social work and sociology are related, although there are fundamental differences. Sociologists study and analyze social organizations and institutions. The emphasis has been on theory development, primarily through positivistic approaches, focusing on measurement and design issues. Although the development of grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss 1967) has been a major conceptual contribution in sociology, it has not been the dominant influence. Although there are reform-minded, "radical" sociologists, they are a minority. Sociologists are interested in understanding the "why" of human interaction. Sociology observes; it maintains a detached posture.

In contrast, social workers attempt to apply theories of social organization and interaction to improve social functioning. Social workers go beyond understanding social problems in their efforts to improve social functioning; social work intervenes. The goal is engendering progressive social change, improving social conditions, creating more humane delivery systems, and problem solving with individuals, families, groups, communities, and organizations and in public policy. Social workers develop and implement interventions in the form of programs, policies, and services in the context of public funding and demands for professional accountability. The orientation is toward outcomes, cost-effectiveness, and cost-benefit analyses.

There has been and continues to be tension in the relationship. Heraud notes that "the social worker may be able to participate actively in policy making through social science research; there is considerable need for research related to both intended and unintended consequences of social policy . . . there is considerable need in the initial stages of such research for intuition and speculation. Instead of only using the sociologist at this stage, who may be a distant figure, the social worker may have an important role to play" (1970, p. 287). Several years earlier, Halmos noted that social workers could function "as an intelligence agent of the sociologist and of the policy maker, and a trusty pilot of the sociological researcher" (1961, p. 9). Although these attitudes may be antiquated, elements of such elitism remain, particularly in sociology's limited interest in applied social research.

Some attention has been paid to the development of so-called applied sociology. While the main body of sociological thought focuses on exploratory, descriptive, and explanatory theory; modeling; and empirical testing, "applied sociology" briefly emerged in response to the increasing interest in social program evaluation and the limited supply of trained methodologists who could design and execute well-formulated evaluative studies. Thus, applied sociology could provide an alternative, public-policy-oriented career path for sociologists, since the preferred, higher-status university-based employment opportunities were limited.

Over the last twenty five years, however, social work researchers have become key players in the design, implementation, and analysis of applied social research, particularly through their involvement in federally funded demonstration projects. During this period, there has been a proliferation of journals of social work, including research journals (Social Work Research and Abstracts, Research on Social Work Practice), as well as a range of specialty journals (Gerontological Social Work, Health and Social Work, Child Welfare, School Social Work), which provide publication outlets for researchers and practitioners.

At one time, social work education occurred within the social sciences, frequently attached to sociology. More recently, social work has emerged as an independent professional discipline, forming alliances with a variety of other professions, such as law, education, business, and nursing. Increasing numbers of pragmatic students have been attracted to social work because of the ability of graduates to find employment.

The undergraduate degree (BSW) offers a generalist foundation that is built on a set of social science prerequisites. The graduate degree (MSW), the terminal educational degree for the profession, is based on specialized courses that offer advanced theoretical content in fields of practice and methodological approaches. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) has exercised a substantial influence in setting standards for social work education. Periodic accreditation reviews by the council assure uniformity and consistency in the required content. Particular attention has been paid to including content on minorities and oppressed populations. Accreditation by the CSWE is essential for the credibility of any social work education program in the United States.

Social work is an evolving profession, with its form and emphasis changing in response to the societal context within which social workers practice:

"Most social workers feel that although there are critical problems and pressures, numerous opportunities are available for the social work profession to move ahead on a sound basis, strengthening current delivery of services and innovating services that have been practically untouched to date. . . . Once thought of as a basket-on-the arm assistance for the poor, it is now a discipline, scientific in method and artful in manner, that takes remedial action on problems in several areas of society" (Skidmore et al. 1997 pp. 376 to 3).


Berger, Raymond, and Irving Piliavin 1976 "The Effect of Casework: A Research Note." Social Work: 21:205–208.

Blenkner, Margaret, Martin Bloom, and Margaret Nielson 1971 "A Research and Demonstration Project of Protective Services." Social Casework 52:483–499.

Dolgoff, Ralph, and Donald Feldstein 1984 Undertanding Social Welfare, 2nd ed. New York: Longman.

Fischer, Joel 1973 "Is Casework Effective? A Review." Social Work 18:5–20.

——, and Walter Hudson 1976 "An Effect of Case-work? Back to the Drawing Board." Points and Viewpoints. Social Work 21:347–349.

Glaser, Barney, and Anselm Strauss 1967 The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

Greenwood, Ernest 1957 "Attributes of a Profession." Social Work 2:45–55.

Grinnell, Richard 1996 Social Work Research and Evaluation. Itasca, Ill.: Peacock.

Halmos, Peter 1961 "Problems Arising in the Teaching of Sociology to Social Workers." International Social Service Review 8:122–130.

Heraud, Brian 1970 Sociology and Social Work. New York: Pergamon.

Meyer, Henry, and Edgar Borgatta 1959 An Experiment in Mental Health Rehabilitation: Evaluating a Social Agency Program. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

——, ——, and Wyatt Jones 1965 Girls at Vocational High: An Experiment in Social Work Intervention. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. National Association of Social Workers 1994 Code of Ethics. Washington, D.C.: National Association of Social Workers.

Pincus, Allen, and Anne Minahan 1970 "Toward a Model for Teaching a Basic First Year Course in Methods for Social Work Practice." In Lillian Ripple, ed., Teaching Social Work Practice. New York: Council on Social Work Education.

—— 1973 Social Work Practice: Model and Method. Itasca, Ill.: Peacock.

Richmond, Mary 1917 Social Diagnosis. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Skidmore, Rex, Milton Thackeray, and William Farley 1997 Introduction to Social Work, 7th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Tobin, Sheldon 1978 "Old People." In Henry Maas, ed., Social Service Research: Reviews of Studies. Washington, D.C.: National Association of Social Workers.

Carol D. Austin
Robert W. McClelland

Social Work

views updated May 21 2018

Social Work

Social work and social welfare are intended to help people attain the basic necessities of lifefood, clothing, and shelteras well as to aid them in developing their human potential. Throughout the twentieth century such efforts were often, though not always, carried out in conjunction with programs for social reform. Although social welfare activity initially was the preserve of private services and organizations, over the years government has come to play an increasingly active role. The history of U.S. social work, its relationship to social activism, and its growing importance within government distribution of services have had important implications for the quality of life of African Americans as individuals and as a community.

Mutual Aid

Long before social work emerged as a professional field, African Americans carried out a wide range of cooperative self-help and mutual-aid programs in order to better their lives and their communities. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, free black women and men in the North organized benevolent societies; among the earliest was the Free African Society of Philadelphia, formed in 1787 to provide cradle-to-grave counseling and other assistance, including burial aid. Other groups raised money for educational programs or relief to widows and orphans. Northern blacks not only helped themselves, they extended aid to fugitive slaves and linked their work to a larger effort to improve the standing of African Americans in society.

Following the Civil War, the Freedmen's Bureau, a federal agency, initiated a series of social welfare policies designed to help newly freed black people in their struggle to survive; during Reconstruction many southern states promoted similar relief efforts. But in the context of Emancipation, such economic, educational, and other assistance not only improved the lives of individual African Americans, it posed a challenge to the system of racial inequality itself. After Reconstruction, therefore, most states of the former Confederacy resisted the adoption of programs that would alter the status quo; when local and state government did intervene on behalf of the aged, infirm, and others in need, it did so on a segregated basis.

Largely excluded from such services, African Americans in the North and the South continued to practice the kind of social work that had served them for centuries. Black women were often at the forefront of these efforts, pooling resources and playing a leadership role in establishing orphanages, homes for the poor and aged, educational and health-care services, and kindergartens. The abolitionist Harriet Tubman turned her residence in Auburn, New York, into the Home for Indigent and Aged Negroes, one of perhaps a hundred such facilities by 1915. In urban centers black women organized to aid newly arriving migrant women in finding lodging and employment; among the most prominent of these efforts was New York's White Rose Working Girls Home, founded by Victoria Earle Matthews in 1897.

Professional Social Work and the Black Community

Professional social work emerged around the turn of the twentieth century in response to conditions generated by the processes of industrialization, urbanization, European immigration, and southern migration to the North. Charitable organizations, such as the National Conference of Charities and Corrections, sought to coordinate and professionalize their work, but they continued to emphasize personal misfortune or moral failing instead of larger institutional explanations for the pervasive poverty in urban industrial centers. Before the massive exodus of black people from South to North, most charity workers paid scant attention to the problems of African Americans. With the Great Migration, some charitable reformers came to view black people as another immigrant group needing what they called Americanization, and they found ample support for their moralistic emphasis on thrift and industry from Booker T. Washington's philosophy of individual uplift. Other philanthropists insisted that black people were meant to occupy an inferior station in life and urged that they acquire industrial training suited to their "natural" limitations.

In contrast, settlement workers, who were mostly college-educated white women, sought to learn from immigrants and migrants instead of imposing their own values and assumptions. They proposed to live in impoverished communities, providing services that would help newcomers adjust to urban industrial life without giving up their own beliefs and cultural traditions. Although settlement workers could not always mask their middle-class backgrounds, they did establish job training and placement programs, healthcare services, kindergartens, and recreation facilities. Perhaps the best-known settlement was Chicago's Hull House, founded by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr in 1889.

White activists in the settlement movement were often quicker than charity workers to recognize that poor housing, educational, and job opportunities in the burgeoning black communities of the urban North were the direct result of segregation and racial discrimination. Using scientific methods to identify and analyze social problems, settlement workers pressed for government reforms in such areas as factory and tenement conditions, juvenile justice, child labor, and public sanitation. Their efforts to fuse social work with social reform also extended to race relations; one-third of the signatories of the 1909 call that led to the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) either were or had been settlement workers.

Advocating racial tolerance and an end to discrimination, however, was not the same as calling for social equality. Many social service agencies in Chicago, New York, and elsewhere either refused help to African Americans outright or offered poor quality assistance on a segregated basis; this was especially true for organizations providing lodging, board, and medical care. The settlement houses were no exception. Many were located in white immigrant communities, but a number of settlements that were easily accessible from black neighborhoods still did not serve the African-American population. Some white reformers pursued alliances with black community leaders in establishing interracial settlements; one notable example was the Frederick Douglass Center, founded in Chicago in 1904. But the center disdained what it called slum work among the black poor. Rather, its leaders, including white minister Celia Parker Wooley and black clubwoman Fannie Barrier Williams, sought to bring together the educated elite, black and white, for lectures, concerts, and other cultural activities.

Funding and Control

It was often African Americans themselves who, seeking to remedy the inequities in social service provision, seized the initiative in addressing individual and social problems in the black community. But such activists were faced with a stark dilemma. Without the assistance of white philanthropists, they could not hope to match white agencies in staffing and programming; indeed, their facilities rarely survived. Between 1900 and 1916 at least nine settlements were established in Chicago's black neighborhoods; by 1919 only one remained. In 1910 renowned antilynching agitator Ida B. Wells-Barnett formed the Negro Fellowship League, which offered recreational services for black men and boys, an employment agency, and later, lodging. But she was forced to disband it for lack of funds.

The alternativesupport from white peopleusually meant control by white people. Chicago's Wendell Phillips Center, for example, was initiated in 1907 by a group of twenty black activists, and its staff was mostly black; its board, however, was overwhelmingly dominated by whites. White reformers were thus able to limit the autonomy of black community leaders; in so doing, they often contributed to the preservation of the racial status quo and helped shape the kinds of programs that were available; services for black girls, for instance, were more likely to win financial support if they emphasized morality and offered training in domestic work. On the other hand, the very involvement of whites in the creation of services "for blacks" often reflected their desire to maintain segregation in social services.

Social Solutions vs. Personal Solutions

Even when forced to rely on the resources of white philanthropists whose agendas clashed with their own, African Americans often strove to translate their reform activities into a larger program of social action. In 1899 the distinguished Harvard University graduate W. E. B. Du Bois produced The Philadelphia Negro, a meticulously researched study of urban African-American life. The project had been commissioned by the College Settlement Association, whose conservative wing was driven by the conviction that black people were somehow ridden with criminality and vicean early version of the culture-of-poverty argument advanced in the 1960s to explain why economic misery persisted in much of the urban black community. But Du Bois consciously sought to set his findings within a historical and social context that acknowledged the importance of economic and political, not personal, solutions. Du Bois's sociological approach pioneered the use of scientific inquiry into the causes and effects of social problems.

Black Social Workers

The National Urban Leagueformed in 19101911 as a merger of the National League for the Protection of Colored Women, the Committee for Improving Industrial Conditions of Negroes in New York, and the National League on Urban Conditions among Negroesrepresented the application of professional social work to the kinds of social services that had long been practiced in the black community. It was founded by George Edmund Haynes, the first black graduate of the New York School of Philanthropy (later the Columbia University School of Social Work), and Ruth Standish Baldwin, a wealthy white reformer. The league offered counseling and other assistance to African Americans in housing, education, employment, health, recreation, and child care. It relied on scientific research techniques to document the exclusion of African Americans and press for greater opportunities.

The league also played an important role in the training and placement of black social workers. Formal social work education made its debut in 1903 with the University of Chicago's School of Civics and Philanthropy, later known as the School of Social Service Administration. In 1917 the National Conference of Charities and Corrections became the National Conference of Social Work. (In 1956 its name was changed to the National Conference on Social Welfare.) But because of racial segregation, blacks were largely barred from social work education and training outside the North until the 1950s, and they were denied full participation in professional bodies.

Through the able leadership of Urban League personnel, historically black educational institutions stepped in to fill the void. Under Haynes's direction, Fisk University developed an undergraduate social service curriculum, including field placement with league affiliates. The Atlanta School of Social Work was founded in 1920 to provide instruction to black students, and it later affiliated with Atlanta University. By 1926 the Urban League itself employed 150 black social workers. Over the years the league continued to preserve important ties to social work education; Whitney M. Young Jr., for example, served as dean of the Atlanta University School of Social Work before becoming the league's executive director in 1961.

Government Involvement

The devastating economic crisis generated by the Great Depression severely strained the capacity of private social service organizations to assist individuals in need. In an extension of the reform impulse of the Progressive period, the federal government under President Franklin D. Roosevelt was forced to intervene with massive programs that placed social work firmly within the public domain. The Social Security Act of 1935 provided old age and survivors' insurance, unemployment insurance (known as entitlement benefits), and public assistance to the aged, the blind, and dependent children.

But for African Americans the impact of government involvement was contradictory, since programs aimed at affected workers automatically excluded large numbers of black people. Nearly half of all African Americans worked in agricultural labor, casual labor, and domestic service, but these occupations were not counted as part of the covered workforce. The Urban League, the NAACP, and others opposed the exclusion, arguing that it would single out black people as a stigmatized, dependent population, but their efforts were unsuccessful. They also openly criticized the unequal distribution of relief and segregated assistance programs.

Impact of the Civil Rights Movement

The civil rights movement of the 1960s, fueled by legal and social gains achieved by African Americans during the previous decade, attacked racism and discrimination on all fronts, and social work was no exception. Concentrated in segregated enclaves, crowded into dilapidated housing, suffering from dramatically high rates of unemployment, black people in the inner cities had not reaped the benefits promised by the advent of civil rights. When Daniel Patrick Moynihan argued in 1965 that the black community was caught in a "tangle of pathology" resulting from "the deterioration of the Negro family," he was articulating a moralistic theme that had persisted in social welfare policy since at least the late nineteenth century. It was activistoriented African Americans who led the challenge to such interpretations, defending the integrity of the black family and calling for a deeper understanding of the structural causes of poverty.

The antipoverty programs initiated under the Johnson administration's Great Society, while in part a response to Moynihan's analysis, also created new opportunities for contesting it. African-American social workers condemned racism within the profession and demanded a greater commitment to social justice. In 1967, over opposition from the leadership of the National Association of Social Workers, a nondiscrimination amendment to the association's code of ethics was presented on the floor of the delegate assembly, where it passed. The following year, in San Francisco, African Americans founded the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW). Although some black individuals gained prominence within existing professional organizationsWhitney Young Jr., for example, became president of the NASW in 1969many African Americans turned to the NABSW as a vehicle for articulating the goals of effective, responsive service delivery in the black community and an end to racial exclusion and discrimination within the ranks of the profession.

Social work and social welfare programs, although widely believed to provide services on a nondiscriminatory basis, have always been influenced by larger historical trends and conditions. The historical exclusion of African Americans from social work schools and organizations virtually assured that concerned black people would continue to rely on their own methods for improving individual and community life. At the same time, the profession's dominant strategies and methodologies have reflected the racial, sexual, and class biases of the European-American middle class, often to the detriment of those most commonly under the scrutiny of social workers.

Challenging Assumptions

An African-American presence within the social work profession has helped to transform service delivery. Many black social workers have developed innovative models that acknowledge the importance of environmental factors, such as socioeconomic status and citizenship rights, in determining the well-being of African-American people. By asserting positive recognition of extended family formations, they have been able to respond with new flexibility to individual and family concerns. And they have sought to extend these efforts throughout the profession, working to ensure that social work education and training incorporate information about the experiences of people of color. At the same time, many African Americans in social work have rejected the notion of adjustment to the status quo, calling for change in social institutions, laws, and customs that continue to keep African Americans from achieving their full potential.

In the 1990s the assumptions that guided social work theory and practice demanded renewed attention. The problems facing the black community continued to reflect the racism that persisted in employment, health care, education, and other areas. The unemployment rate among African Americans remained twice the national average; the AIDS crisis reached disproportionately into the black community; and drug-addicted children entered an educational system whose capacities were severely constrained by diminishing resources. As in the past, however, the African-American community was left to tap its own potential in order to address these concerns. At the same time, mainstream social workers adopted code wordsdiversity, multiculturalism, biculturalismthat obscured root causes and so failed to confront deep-seated racism, sexism, and class bias. The challenge facing advocates of social work and social welfare was to respond effectively to these problems by reclaiming a legacy of progressive social reform that would acknowledge the need for structural, not personal, solutions.

See also Du Bois, W. E. B.; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); National Urban League; Wells-Barnett, Ida B.; Young, Whitney M., Jr.


Aptheker, Herbert, ed. A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States, vol. 1. New York: Citadel Press, 1971.

Axinn, June, and Herman Levin. Social Welfare: A History of the American Response to Need, 3rd ed. New York: Longman, 1992.

Bell, Howard R. "National Negro Conventions of the Middle 1840s: Moral Suasion vs. Political Action." In The Making of Black America: Essays in Negro Life and History, edited by August Meier and Elliott Rudwick, vol. 1. New York: Atheneum, 1969.

Bennett, Lerone, Jr. The Shaping of Black America. Chicago: Johnson, 1975.

Bennett, Lerone, Jr. Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, 6th ed. Chicago: Johnson, 1988.

Breul, Frank R., and Steven J. Diner, eds. Compassion and Responsibility: Readings in the History of Social Welfare Policy in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Clark, William E. "The Katy Ferguson Home." Southern Workman 52 (1923): 228230.

Cromwell, Cheryl D. "Black Women as Pioneers in Social Welfare, 18801935." Black Caucus Journal 7, no. 1 (1976): 712.

Franklin, John Hope, and Alfred A. Moss, Jr. From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans, 6th ed. New York: Knopf, 1988.

Hornsby, Alton, Jr. The Black Almanac, 4th rev. ed. Woodbury, N.Y.: Barron's, 1977.

Johnson, Audreye E. "Health Issues and African Americans: Surviving and Endangered." In Innovations in Health Care Practice, edited by John S. McNeil and Stanley E. Weinstein. Silver Spring, Md.: National Association of Social Workers, 1988, pp. 3449.

Johnson, Audreye E. The National Association of Black Social Workers, Inc.: A History for the Future. New York, 1988.

Johnson, Audreye E. "The Sin of Omission: African American Women in Social Work." Journal of Multicultural Social Work 1, no. 2 (1991): 715.

Johnson, Audreye E. "William StillBlack Social Worker: 18211902." Black Caucus Journal (Spring 1977): 1419.

Lewis, David Levering. W. E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 18681919. New York: Holt, 1993.

Lide, Pauline. "The National Conference on Social Welfare and the Black Historical Perspective." Social Service Review 47, no. 2 (June 1973): 171207.

Philpott, Thomas Lee. The Slum and the Ghetto: Immigrants, Blacks, and Reformers in Chicago, 18801930. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1991.

Ross, Edyth L. Black Heritage in Social Welfare, 18601930. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow, 1978.

Still, William. The Underground Railroad (1872). Chicago: Johnson, 1970.

Weaver, Hilary N. "African-Americans and Social Work: An Overview of the Antebellum through Progressive Eras." Journal of Multicultural Social Work 2, no. 4 (1992).

Williams, Leon F. "A Study of Discrimination in Social Work Education Programs." Black Caucus 14, no. 1 (Spring 1983): 913.

audreye e. johnson (1996)
Updated by publisher 2005

Social Work

views updated May 21 2018

Social Work





Social work is a both an academic discipline and a profession. The discipline of social work teaches theory, methods, and practice of the profession. Like many other disciplines within the social sciences, social work studies human behavior in a social environment. Social work is also a practice where individuals can work with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities in various settings, such as schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, domestic violence shelters, senior centers, elected offices, private practice, advocacy organizations, and a host of other public and private agencies. The ultimate goal of social work is to enhance the well-being and level of functioning for all people and to create positive social change by improving social conditions and creating more humane practices and policies for vulnerable populations.

Despite the overlap among social work, sociology, and psychology, there remain distinct differences between the disciplines. Social work seeks to intervene between people and their environments. Further, social work addresses social and economic conditions that affect individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities and highlights the importance of a multicultural understanding of both people and communities. Sociology is an academic disciplinenot a professional activitythat studies social groups, organizations, institutions, and societies. Psychology studies and treats individual behavior and mental processes.

Social work is driven by various ideological perspectives. The three most prevalent ideologies are conservative, liberal, and radical. The conservative ideology within social work focuses on a microlevel analysis of the individual, and the primary goal is to assist an individual and perhaps a family with their individual difficulties. This view holds the individual and family responsible and embraces private over public solutions. A liberal orientation in social work holds that social and institutional arrangements affect individual and societal well-being. A liberal view holds that government intervention is crucial and that a private response is insufficient: Government should provide a safety net, according to liberal ideology. This focus is typically considered a mezzo-level analysis. Lastly, the radical tradition of social work adopts a macro focus that confirms the need to restructure social, political, and economic institutions so they may provide a more equitable, universal, and democratic system. This radical view can be critical of the profession, most often targeting the conservative view as reproducing societal inequities and abandoning the historical roots of social work. Further, the radical tradition within the profession has been critical of social work practice as being tied to the state apparatus, which ultimately perpetuates poverty and inequality.

Ideological tension within the profession has historical roots, and there continues to be conflict today about the relevance and effectiveness of micro versus macro practice, although contemporary social workers have begun to recognize that what makes social work unique is the ability to locate social problems within the complex interconnectedness of individuals, families, communities, and societies. This multiple perspective of understanding social problems is one of the professions assets.

Another view of the social work profession offers poignant criticism. Many authors have addressed the unique quandary that social workers face given the complexities of the U.S. social welfare system and its relationship to capitalist ideology and institutions. In Frances Fox Piven and Richard Clowards seminal work Regulating the Poor (1971), they highlight that social welfare does not curb capitalist institutions; instead, it supports and enhances them. Moreover, the social worker is often the vehicle to ensure capitalisms survival. The profession must deal with this contradiction spelled out by Piven and Cloward, along with others, whereby social workers work in and are committed to the very institutions and agencies that perpetuate inequality, yet social workers rely on these same agencies for their livelihood.

As the various ideological perspectives of the profession reveal, there are numerous and varying accounts of the social work profession. In sum, many believe the profession to be driven by altruistic and humanistic motives, whereas others focus on the historys middle-class do-gooder who seeks professionalization. Still others describe social work as a profession that exerts social control over the poor, further legitimizing capitalism. In fact, social works historical development embodies each of these realities.


The profession of social work dates back to the mid-1800s, when state charities began and institutions were established to deal with dependent populations such as the mentally ill, poor children, and people with disabilities. Prior to state intervention, mostly local churches and philanthropic organizations attempted to tackle social problems. But by the end of the nineteenth century these state-run institutions were failing and no longer providing quality care. Simultaneously, two movements emerged offering new ways of dealing with the poor and vulnerable in society: Charity Organization Societies and the Settlement House Movement. Each of these movements, both of which had roots in England, had approaches of dealing with social problems that embraced an ideological stance. The former adopted a conservative view that held that eradicating poverty meant that individual behavior had to be changed. The latter embraced a radical ideology that confirmed the need for fundamental social change.

Abraham Flexner (18661959), an educator who was considered an expert in evaluating professional standards and advocated for radical change in the way that medical schools trained doctors in the United States and Canada, said in 1915 that social work had not yet achieved profession status due to its lack of professional standards. Flexner was the author of the famous Flexner Report (1910), which had argued for increased standards in medical schools. He concluded that in order to be considered a profession, social work, like medicine, must have its own set of skills and specialized education that is based on scientific knowledge. Social work used this conclusion as an impetus to create and expand the types of setting for social work practice and paid attention to developing a knowledge base that was unique to social work. As a result of new practices, partly driven by the expansion of social welfare provisions in the 1930s, social work became acknowledged as a legitimate profession.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s the field witnessed an expansion in both the number of social workers and the type of work they did. Social work played a crucial role in helping shape and develop the United Statess first institutional welfare program. In fact, a notable social worker, Harry Hopkins (18901946), headed Franklin Delano Roosevelts emergency relief program, and another social worker, Jane Hoey (18921968), was the head of the Federal Bureau of Public Assistance. Since the 1930s social workers have been central in organizing and running governmental programs that aid the poor and needy.

After the New Deal and Social Security Act were passed, public perception about the profession of social work became more positive, and social work practice expanded greatly. Professional standards increased as well as academic requirements. Given the proliferation of services available to the public, the numbers in the profession increased greatly during these years. Social workers had a renewed sense that social reform was fundamental to their mission. From the 1940s to the 1970s social work was a growing field, expanding into many new arenas and continuing its professionalization project. The 1980s and 1990s were difficult for the social work profession, with massive government cuts to social spending and social welfare services. New social problems emerged that posed new challenges to social workers, such as high rates of incarceration, HIV/AIDS, and the crack epidemic. Some social problems that had been around for centurieshomelessness and domestic violenceincreasingly became more politicized and addressed. The 1990s brought decentralization, whereby the federal government assumed less responsibility for the poor and needy, and states were required to do more to respond to vulnerable populations. This historical shift had implications for the social work profession, such as less federal funding and less support, and, as a result, social workers have had to continue developing creative alternatives to remedy social problems.


Social workers can be trained on a bachelors (BA or BSW), masters (MSW), or doctoral level (PhD or DSW) of education. Each level produces a specialty of knowledge and depth of skill. Bachelor-level social workers are typically referred to as frontline workers who adopt a generalist orientation to social problems and who work in fields ranging from child welfare to domestic violence to services for the aging. Masters-level social workers are also educationally trained as generalist practitioners, but they receive additional training in a particular field such as clinical practice; children, youth, and families; gerontology; substance abuse; public policy; and not-for-profit management. Doctoral-level education in social work provides students with all of these, as well as training to assume leadership positions in agency work or to become faculty members at colleges and universities. In 1952 the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) was established to oversee curricula within schools of social work. The council is the accrediting body of schools of social work on both the bachelors and masters levels.


Today there are approximately 600,000 people who hold social work degrees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social work is one of the fastest-growing careers in the United States. Given this rise, the profession has received increased public attention, both positive and negative. Public perception of the profession is often misinformed. According to the 2000 census, 845,000 individuals self-identified as social workers. Many individuals who work in the field of human services identify themselves as social workers, yet they do not have any formal social work education. This contributes to the misinformation about the profession, its scope of work, and the educational training required by schools of social work. Many states have passed legislation to protect the title social worker, restricting it to those who have completed a social work degree from an accredited institution of higher learning.

In 1955 the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) was formed. NASW is the largest membership organization representing professional social workers. It works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members, to create and maintain professional standards, and to advance sound social policies (National Association of Social Workers 2006).

Social work is a complicated profession. Like sociology and psychology, there are competing views and traditions, ranging from conservative to liberal to radical, each of which embraces a different ideology and set of practices. Social work has a long and rich history, becoming institutionalized in state programs and during the New Deal in federal programs. Today, there are nearly one million social work professionals in the United States practicing in nearly every setting. Social works growth is likely to continue, producing positive outcomes in the lives of individuals as well as institutions.

SEE ALSO Interventions, Social Skills


Axinn, June, and Mark J. Stern. 2001. Social Welfare: A History of the American Response to Need. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Bailey, Roy, and Mike Brake. 1976. Radical Social Work. London: Edward Arnold Publishers.

Cloward, Richard A., and Frances Fox Piven. 1977. The Acquiescence of Social Work. Society 14 (2): 5563.

Jansson, Bruce. 2001. The Reluctant Welfare State. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Katz, Michael. 1986. In the Shadow of the Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare America. New York: Basic Books.

Leiby, James. 1979. A History of Social Welfare and Social Work in the United States. New York: Columbia University Press.

Lubove, Roy. 1965. The Professional Altruist: The Emergence of Social Work as a Career, 18901930. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

National Association of Social Workers. 2006.

Piven, Frances Fox, and Richard A. Cloward. 1971. Regulating the Poor. New York: Pantheon Books.

Reisch, Michael, and Janice L. Andrews. 2001. The Road Not Taken: A History of Radical Social Work in the United States. Philadelphia: Brunner-Routledge.

Trattner, Walter. 1979. From Poor Law to Welfare State: A History of Social Welfare in America. New York: Free Press.

Susanna Jones

Social Work

views updated Jun 08 2018


SOCIAL WORK. The profession of social work emerged in the early twentieth century as charitable organizations began employing trained workers rather than relying on volunteers. Pioneers developed two competing approaches for addressing social problems. Mary Richmond, author of Social Diagnosis (1917), is celebrated as a leader of the charity organization movement, while the social settlement movement was epitomized by the work of Jane Addams at Hull-House in Chicago. The profession considers its founding date to be 1898, the year the first social work course was established at the New York School of Philanthropy (now the Columbia University School of Social Work). In 1915, at the National Conference of Charities and Corrections, Abraham Flexner, an educator and expert on professional standards, pronounced that social workers were not professionals, rather they served as mediators between clients and other professionals such as doctors and lawyers. Early social workers took that as a challenge and mobilized workers to produce professional literature, organizations, and a code of ethics.

As June Hopps and Pauline Collins (1995) have noted, the profession of social work responds to wider historical changes, shifting its focus from environmental reform to individual change, as the nation's social climate fluctuates. For example, social workers aimed to radically change institutions and rejected the traditional establishment during the Progressive Era of the 1900s, the depression of the 1930s, and the social unrest of the 1960s. However, in more conservative times, such as the 1920s, 1950s and 1980s, the profession attended to direct service and individual change.

While white Protestant women composed the majority of early social workers, Catholic, Jewish, and African American men and women often formed their own agencies. Segregation laws barred African Americans from white schools of social work, leading African Americans to create Atlanta University School of Social Work. Pioneers like Lawrence Oxley drew from nineteenth-century philosophies of mutual aid and race pride, and the journal Southern Workman provided a forum of discussion for African American social reformers of the early twentieth century.

In the 1920s, social workers debated whether the profession would include caseworkers across a broad range of fields or limit membership to a professional elite with high educational standards. The latter position won, and social workers were required to complete masters-level training. Depression-era social workers demanded a federal response to widespread unemployment and poverty. A new political activism was ignited within the profession and the social workers Harry Hopkins and Jane Hoey served in the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, influencing new emergency relief and social security programs.

In 1952, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) emerged to accredit graduate schools, and by the 1970s, baccalaureate programs were accredited to prepare entry-level professionals. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) was established in 1955, adopting a code of ethics, and merging seven previously scattered organizations for psychiatric, medical, and group workers. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, organizations such as the National Association of Black Social Workers (1968), Latino Social Workers Organization (1992), and North American Association of Christians in Social Work (1954) evolved to address concerns of various groups.

Entry-level social workers are trained as generalists and are expected to provide service to a broad range of clients, maintain a wide scope of knowledge, and practice a great diversity of skills. Advanced practitioners with graduate-level training may specialize in areas such as clinical, medical, or school social work, as well as planning and development, aging, mental health, or corrections. In the late 1960s and 1970s, states began establishing licensing requirements to legally regulate practice. While all states require some form of licensure, current trends are moving toward "declassification": downgrading requirements for social work in order to employ persons with neither a license nor a degree to do case management and other functions traditionally reserved for social workers.


Carlton-LaNey, Iris. "African American Social Work Pioneers' Response to Need." Social Work 44, no. 4 (July 1999): 311– 321.

Hopps, June, and Pauline Collins. "Social Work Profession Overview." In Encyclopedia of Social Work. 19th ed. Edited by Richard Edwards and June Hopps. Washington, D.C.: NASW Press, 1995.

Popple, Phillip, and Leslie Leighninger. Social Work, Social Welfare, and American Society. 5th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2002.

T. LaineScales

See alsoCharity Organization Movement ; Poverty ; Settlement House Movement ; Welfare System .

social work

views updated Jun 27 2018

social work The generic term applied to the various organized methods for promoting human welfare through the prevention and relief of suffering. In the late nineteenth century, social work was largely voluntary (notably as a charitable activity on the part of middle-class women), and aimed primarily at the alleviation of material poverty. In the period since the Second World War, social work practice has become increasingly professionalized, and now has a much wider remit embracing emotional and mental as well as economic well-being.

Contemporary social work tends to suffer from a lack of differentiation from the various other social services which comprise the modern welfare state. In Britain, for example, social workers have no legal obligation (and no practical resources) to deal with issues of unemployment, housing, and poverty–all of which are the responsibility of other social services. What they are expected to deal with are the wide range of problems which diminish the ‘quality of inner life’: for example, problems and crises associated with adoption, fostering of the young and old, marital reconciliation, sexual and physical abuse, and people's relationships with one another generally.

There are several models of social work practice. The ‘problem-solving’ approach involves the social worker in reinforcing the client's emotional and organizational resources to deal with his or her difficulties. The various ‘psycho-social therapies’ stress the need for prior psycho-social diagnosis as a prerequisite to psycho-social treatment. Partly as a reaction against the deterministic and mechanical view of action implied in these approaches, ‘functionalists’ have emphasized the role of the social worker in helping (rather than treating) the client, by sustaining an appropriate supporting relationship with him or her. Other models are oriented towards behaviour-modification, crisis-intervention, and short-term task-centredness. In reality, practice tends to be characterized by eclectic pragmatism, rather than adherence to a specific method. Strong recent influences include feminist theory and anti-oppressive practice. Good recent overviews are Malcolm Payne , Modern Social Work Theory (1991)
, for Britain, and J. Heffernan et al. , Social Work and Social Welfare (2nd edn., 1992)
, for the United States.

Not surprisingly, many outside observers have expressed concern at the periodic psychotherapeutic takeover of social work; similarly, given its inherently moral character, social work practice has been subject to repeated controversy involving those who view it as primarily a political tool–either for promoting or hindering social justice.

Social Work

views updated May 29 2018


In the public health arena, social workers are a valuable resource for the development of treatment plans for patients, for locating supportive resources, and in facilitating referrals. Under the auspices of government and non-government public health organizations and institutions, social workers often provide behavioral and social assessments along with mental health assessment, treatment, and short-term or ongoing case management. Social workers may also work in the community as planners or community organizers capable of engaging groups of people, neighborhoods, or entire communities to address social problems such as drug abuse or teen pregnancy. Social work is a distinct profession, requiring college training, and a masters degree is often a necessity. Many states license social workers, and in those states only those holding such licenses may legally provide social work services The possibilities of employment vary widely and include federal, state, and local government agencies; hospitals; and public health and not-for-profit organizations.

Robert P. Labbe

(see also: Assessment of Health Status; Community Health; Mental Health; Social Determinants; Social Health )

social work

views updated May 29 2018

so·cial work • n. work carried out by trained personnel with the aim of alleviating the conditions of those in need of help or welfare.DERIVATIVES: so·cial work·er n.