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              Introduction to Social Work & Social           © 2010, 2007 Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning
              Welfare: Critical Thinking Perspectives,
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              CHAPTER             1
              Introduction to Social Work
              and Social Welfare

                                                                                                             Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Getty Images

              Case A: The couple is ecstatic. In their early 30s, they have been struggling with
              infertility for almost a decade and have been languishing on a waiting list to
              adopt a baby for almost five years. The moment has finally almost come: They
              will soon meet their new baby, Juliette. Alani, their social worker in the adoptions
              unit at a family services agency, is assisting them in completing the paperwork
              and helping them launch their new family life.

              Case B: Cassius, a social worker at a community mental health center, is about to
              start the weekly support group session. His seven clients all are dealing with
              spouses who have Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is characterized by deterioration of
              neurons in the brainstem and spinal cord. It involves loss of muscle function, paraly-
              sis, and finally death. The purpose of the group is to provide mutual emotional sup-
              port and share information about coping with the disease. Cassius facilitates the

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       4   The Profession of Social Work

                                     group to keep things moving along and, when necessary, gives information about
                                     the disease. He notices that Erica, one of his clients, seems to be struggling to hold
                                     back a flood of tears. He knows that her husband, Tom, is deteriorating rapidly, so
                                     she must have had a rough week. This may be a difficult session.

                                     Case C: Lolita is exhilarated. Several hundred people have shown up for and are
                                     eagerly participating in this “Take Back the Night” march against sexual assault. Lol-
                                     ita, a social worker at a rape crisis center, was one of the primary organizers of the
                                     event. The march’s intent is to raise people’s consciousness about this serious issue,
                                     promote education about sexual assault, and increase funding for crisis centers.

                                     These vignettes portray brief moments in the actual lives of social workers. Some
                                     moments may be tremendously difficult, and others enormously satisfying.
                                        When you think of social work, what comes to mind? Helping people? Being
                                     on welfare? Facing bureaucratic red tape? Solving problems? Saving children?
                                     What do social workers actually do?
                                        I once visited a quaint little crafts shop in Bar Harbor, Maine. It had little shadow
                                     boxes, about five inches square, filled with tacks. On these tacks, someone had
                                     painted little symbols to reflect the tools, tasks, and people involved in various pro-
                                     fessions. For example, one shadow box reflecting dentistry had tacks painted with
                                     tiny teeth, big toothy smiles, and toothbrushes (which is probably no surprise). I man-
                                     aged to find a box for social work. What do you think was painted on those tacks?
                                        There were tiny images of the following: a Kleenex® box, a pencil, a compact
                                     car, a smiling face, a watch, and a heart. What do you think each of these are
                                     supposed to mean?
                                        Here are some ideas. The Kleenex box reflects how social workers help peo-
                                     ple deal with tough, and frequently very sad, issues. Sometimes clients are hurting
                                     badly, and sometimes they cry. The pencil signifies record keeping and paperwork,
                                     a mainstay of what social workers do. It probably should have been a computer, but
                                     the artist most likely couldn’t fit one on that little tack. The compact car symbolizes
                                     travel because social workers often must visit clients’ homes and other agencies. The
                                     smiling face signifies how social workers aim to help people solve their problems,
                                     to seek social justice on their behalf, and to make their lives a little bit better. (Social
                                     justice involves the concept that all citizens should be treated equally and have equal
                                     access to resources.) The watch reflects scheduling—there’s always a lot to do and
                                     limited time in which to do it. Finally, the heart symbolizes caring about the welfare
                                     of others: That’s the core of what the social work profession is all about.

                                     Learning Objectives
                                     A     Define social work and social welfare.
                                     B     Explain critical thinking and provide a framework for examining a
                                           wide range of concepts and issues.

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                                                                                         Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare   5

                                             C Discuss residual, institutional, and developmental perspectives on
                                               social welfare.
                                             D Explain the conservative–liberal continuum with respect to viewing
                                               the social welfare system.
                                             E Examine your personal attitudes about some social welfare issues.
                                             F Explain social work’s fields of practice.
                                             G Explore the process of choosing a career.
                                             H Address how social work builds on other disciplines.
                                             I Discuss the uniqueness of social work.
                                             J Identify some basic concepts in systems theories and the ecological
                                               perspective that are important for understanding social work.
                                             K Describe social work education’s goals, curriculum, and

              What Is Social Work?                                             social work practice is referred to as generalist prac-
                                                                               tice, described more thoroughly in Chapter 4.
              The National Association of Social Work (NASW)
                                                                                   Five themes permeate social work practice in vir-
              defines social work as follows:
                                                                               tually any setting (e.g., child welfare agencies, nurs-
                 Social work is the professional activity of help-             ing homes, schools, or corrections facilities). First,
                 ing individuals, groups, or communities enhance               social work concerns helping individuals, groups,
                 or restore their capacity for social functioning and          or communities. Social workers provide counseling
                 creating societal conditions favorable to this goal.          when necessary to help clients address problems. In
                 Social work practice consists of the professional             addition to counseling an individual or family, much
                 application of social work values, principles, and            social work involves collaborating with organizations
                 techniques to one or more of the following ends:              and communities to improve social and health ser-
                                                                               vices. Second, social work entails a solid foundation
                 ●   Helping people obtain tangible services (e.g.,
                                                                               of values and principles that guide what practitioners
                     those involving provision of food, housing, or
                                                                               should and should not do. Third, a firm basis of tech-
                                                                               niques and skills provides directions for how social
                 ●   Providing counseling and psychotherapy with
                                                                               workers should provide treatment and accomplish
                     individuals, families, and groups.
                                                                               goals. Fourth, social workers help people get the ser-
                 ●   Helping communities or groups provide or
                                                                               vices they need by linking them to available resources.
                     improve social and health services.
                                                                               If the right resources are not available, social work-
                 ●   Participating in relevant legislative processes.
                                                                               ers may advocate for service development on their
                     (NASW, 1973, pp. 4–5)
                                                                               clients’ behalf. Fifth, social workers participate in leg-
                 What does this really mean? Imagine the vast                  islative processes to promote positive social change.
              range of human problems and issues. Because social               Such participation might include urging lawmakers to
              workers can be in positions to help people deal with             pass laws that improve social services and conditions.
              almost anything, it is difficult to define the field ade-        Social workers can also serve as expert witnesses to
              quately in a few words. Highlighted here are some                educate legislators about social issues and client needs,
              of the important concepts inherent in the definition             write or phone legislators to share socially responsible
              just cited. Because of its breadth, the foundation of            opinions, and run for elected office themselves.

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       6   The Profession of Social Work

          NASW reports how Representative Bob Etheridge                 fields or settings discussed in this book, includ-
       (D–N.C.) paid homage to social workers during                    ing health, mental health, and financial assistance,
       Social Work Month (March 2001). He shared with                   among many others. Populations served include
       the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives the             older adults, children and families, people with dis-
       following remarks:                                               abilities, and people involved with the legal system.
                                                                           Note that social work is not the only field con-
           Social workers affect our lives in so many ways. . . .
                                                                        cerned with people’s social welfare. Others include
           Their work touches all of us as individuals and as
                                                                        those providing health, educational, recreational,
           whole communities. They are educated, highly
                                                                        and public safety services. Physicians, nurses, other
           trained, and committed professionals. They work in
                                                                        health care personnel, teachers, park recreational
           family service and community mental health agen-
                                                                        counselors, police, firefighters, and many others work
           cies, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and many
                                                                        to enhance people’s well-being and quality of life.
           other private and public agencies. They listen, they
                                                                           Social welfare can be quite controversial on two
           care. And most importantly, they help those in need.
                                                                        counts. One involves individuals’ responsibility to
           (Vallianatos, 2001, May, p. 1)
                                                                        take care of themselves independently of govern-
                                                                        ment, which reflects the old saying “You get what
       What Is Social Welfare?                                          you deserve.” The other concerns society’s responsi-
                                                                        bility to take care of all its members, especially those
       What does the term social welfare mean? And exactly
                                                                        belonging to oppressed groups. There is constant
       whose welfare are we talking about? Answers to
                                                                        political debate about what social services should
       these questions require critical thinking because, as
                                                                        and should not provide, and about who should
       a citizen and voter, your opinions are vital. You have
                                                                        receive them and who should not.
       the opportunity to help determine and shape how
                                                                           The following section explores various perspec-
       you and others are treated, how your own and their
                                                                        tives that structure how you might think about social
       welfare is respected and nurtured.
                                                                        welfare. Each addresses the following questions:
          A central theme of this book is encouraging you
                                                                        What should be the most important focus and goals
       to think critically about problems, issues, and poli-
                                                                        of social welfare? Who should assume responsibility
       cies affecting people’s lives and welfare. Highlight 1.1
                                                                        for people’s social welfare?
       defines critical thinking and provides a basic frame-
       work for analysis.
          Social welfare is “a nation’s system of programs,             Residual, Institutional, and Developmental
       benefits, and services that help people meet those               Perspectives on Social Welfare
       social, economic, educational, and health needs                  We can look at social welfare and the ways its programs
       that are fundamental to the maintenance of soci-                 are developed from three different perspectives—
       ety” (Barker, 2003, p. 408). Social welfare, then, is a          residual, institutional, and developmental (Dobel-
       broad concept related to the general well-being of all           stein, 2003; Gilbert & Terrell, 2005; Herrick, 2008;
       people in a society. Inherent in the definition are two          Segal, 2007; Wilensky & Lebeaux, 1965). The residual
       basic dimensions: (1) what people get from society               perspective conceives of social welfare as focusing on
       (in terms of programs, benefits, and services) and               problems and gaps. Social welfare benefits and ser-
       (2) how well their needs (including social, economic,            vices should be supplied only when people fail to pro-
       educational, and health) are being met.                          vide adequately for themselves and problems arise.
          Reid (1995) describes social welfare as “an idea,             The implication is that it’s people’s own fault if they
       that idea being one of a decent society that provides            require outside help. Society, then, must aid them until
       opportunities for work and human meaning, pro-                   they can once again assume responsibility for meet-
       vides reasonable security from want and assault,                 ing their own needs. Blaming women and children
       promotes fairness and evaluation based on individ-               for being “on welfare,” for example, reflects a residual
       ual merit, and is economically productive and stable”            view. The focus is on their supposed failures and faults;
       (p. 2206).                                                       they are viewed in a demeaning and critical manner.
          How are social welfare and social work related?                  The institutional perspective of social welfare, in
       Simply put, social work serves to improve people’s               contrast, views people’s needs as a normal part of life.
       social and economic welfare. It does so in the many              Society has a responsibility to support its members

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                                                                                             Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare      7

                           HIGHLIGHT 1.1

                           What Is Critical Thinking?
                 Critical thinking is (1) the careful scrutiny of what is         a third of the student population is receiving aid, you
                 stated as true or what appears to be true and the result-        might heartily conclude that your friend’s statement is
                 ing expression of an opinion or conclusion based on              false.
                 that scrutiny, and (2) the creative formulation of an                Critical thinking can be applied to virtually any
                 opinion or conclusion when presented with a question,            belief, statement, assumption, line of reasoning, action,
                 problem, or issue. Critical thinking concentrates on             or experience claimed as true. Consider the following
                 “the process of reasoning” (Gibbs & Gambrill, 1999,              statements of proposed “facts”:
                 p. 3). It stresses how individuals think about the truth
                                                                                  ●   Rich people are selfish.
                 inherent in a statement or how they analyze an issue to
                                                                                  ●   Taxes are unfair.
                 formulate their own conclusions. As Gibbs and Gam-
                                                                                  ●   A crocodile cannot stick its tongue out.
                 brill (1999) so aptly state, “Critical thinkers question
                                                                                  ●   Most lipstick contains fish scales.
                 what others take for granted” (p. 13).
                                                                                  ●   It is physically impossible for a person to lick his or
                     Two dimensions in the definition of critical thinking
                 are significant. First, critical thinking focuses on the ques-       her elbow.
                                                                                  ●   Over 75% of people who read this will try to lick
                 tioning of beliefs, statements, assumptions, lines of rea-
                 soning, actions, and experiences. Suppose you read a                 their elbow.
                 “fact” in a book or hear about it from a friend or an in-            These statements may seem silly (although some
                 structor. Critical thinking focuses on not taking this “fact”    may also be true), but the point is that critical thinking
                 at face value. Rather, it entails the following “Triple-A”       can be applied to an infinite array of thoughts and
                 approach to examining and evaluating its validity:               ideas. For each of the statements, (1) what questions
                                                                                  would you ask, (2) how would you assess the established
                    1. Ask questions.
                                                                                  facts and issues involved, and (3) what concluding opin-
                    2. Assess the established facts and issues involved.
                                                                                  ion would you finally assert?
                    3. Assert a concluding opinion.
                                                                                      The second facet of the definition of critical thinking
                     For example, a friend and fellow student might tell          is the creative formulation of an opinion or conclusion
                 you, “It’s impossible to get financial aid at our school.”       when presented with a question, problem, or issue.
                 To what extent is this statement really true? To find out,       Instead of being told a proposed “fact” to be scrutinized
                 you first ask questions about what the statement is              for its validity, you are asked your opinion about an issue,
                 really saying. What does “impossible” mean? Some                 assumption, or action. Examples include the following:
                 people must be eligible for financial aid. What are the          ●   Should prisoners who commit violent crimes be
                 criteria for receiving aid? What experiences has your
                                                                                      ineligible for parole? (In other words, should they be
                 friend had to come to such a conclusion?
                                                                                      required to serve their full sentences?)
                     Second, you assess the established facts and issues          ●   Should all interstate highways have toll booths to
                 involved by seeking relevant information. What does
                                                                                      finance them and their repairs, so that only the people
                 the financial aid policy state? To what extent does eligi-
                                                                                      who use them pay for them (instead of general tax rev-
                 bility depend on students’ and their parents’ earnings?
                                                                                      enues paying for highway construction and repair)?
                 To what extent is grade point average or full-time stu-          ●   What is the best way to eliminate poverty in this
                 dent status involved? How many students are actually
                 receiving aid at any time? What percentage of the stu-
                 dent population does this number reflect?                           Consider answering the last question, which could
                     Third, you assert a concluding opinion. To what              be posed as a term paper or exam topic in one of your
                 extent do you agree with your friend’s statement? If             courses. First, what questions about it would you ask?
                 you find out that only two people on your campus are             What are the reasons for poverty in a rich industrialized
                 receiving aid, you might agree that such aid is almost           country? What social welfare programs are currently
                 impossible to get. However, if you find out that about           available to address poverty? What innovative ideas for

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       8   The Profession of Social Work

           HIGHLIGHT 1.1 (continued)

           programs might be tried? Where might funding for such              would prompt you to assess upon what basis this
           programs be found? How much money would it take to                 law firm is making its claim of superiority.
           eliminate poverty, and who would pay for this?                  2. Distinguish intentionally deceptive claims. For
              Second, what facts and issues would you seek to                 instance, an advertiser might boast, “This
           address and assess? You probably would first try to                miracle drug has been scientifically proven to
           define poverty—what income level or lack of income                 make you lose a pound a day—without exercising
           makes a person or family “poor”? You then might                    or changing your eating habits!” when, in
           research statistics, costs, and studies concerning the             actuality, little or no meticulous research has
           effectiveness of various programs intending to reduce              been done. Critical thinking would lead you to
           poverty. You might also investigate innovative ideas. Per-         question how the drug has been scientifically
           haps there are proposals for programs that look promis-            proven to be effective.
           ing. You might explore what various programs cost and           3. Focus on and choose words carefully. Critical
           how they are funded. Note that these suggestions only              thinking helps you focus your attention on the
           scratch the surface of how you might examine the issue.            meaning of each word used to convey an idea or
              Third, what opinion or conclusion would you assert?             concept. For example, consider the statement
           To what extent do you think it is possible to eliminate            “Schools produce a bunch of real losers these
           poverty? What kinds of resources and programs do you               days.” What does each word really mean or
           think it would take? What do you feel citizens and their           imply? Which schools produce “losers”? What is
           government should do about poverty?                                a “loser”? What does “a bunch” mean? To what
              Gibbs and Gambrill (1999) stress that critical think-           are “these days” compared?
           ing enhances self-awareness and the ability to detect           4. Be wary of emotional ploys and appeals. They
           various modes of distorted thinking that can trick peo-            play on your emotions and urge you to concur
           ple into assuming truth. Critical thinking can help you            with their intent by using as little logical thinking
           do the following:                                                  as possible. For instance, a sales representative
                                                                              on a televised marketing program might urge you
              1. Identify propaganda (“ideas, facts, or allegations           to “buy this genuine fake leather jacket now and
                 spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to             we’ll send a pair of matching gloves—and a pair
                 damage an opposing cause” [Mish, 1995, p. 935]).             of matching boots. This is the only time you’ll
                 Propaganda may be true or untrue. It often                   get this additional value. Aren’t they lovely? But
                 sensationalizes a point of view by blowing it out            you have to act now—we have only two jackets
                 of proportion. For example, a law firm with the              left!” The intent here is to pressure you to make a
                 slogan “Our Way Is the Only and Best Way”                    decision quickly based on desire rather than on
                 emphasizes its own prowess while demeaning the               logical thinking about what the jacket costs and
                 effectiveness of other firms. Critical thinking              how you will make the payments.

       and provide needed benefits and services. It’s not peo-          is an example of a residually oriented program. Fami-
       ple’s fault that they require such services, but rather it is    lies in need receive temporary, limited financial assis-
       an expected part of the human condition. People have             tance until they can get back on their feet.
       a right to receive benefits and services on an ongoing               The newest view on social welfare is the develop-
       basis. In many ways, this is a more humane and sup-              mental perspective. This approach “seeks to identify
       portive approach to helping people. Public education             social interventions that have a positive impact on
       available to all is an example of an institutional form          economic development” (Midgley & Livermore, 1997,
       of social welfare; similarly, fire and police protection         p. 574). It originated after World War II in Third
       are available to all (McInnis-Dittrich, 1994).                   World countries seeking to design social welfare
          Prior to the Great Depression in the 1930s, the resid-        programs that would also enhance their economic
       ual approach to social welfare dominated. Since then,            development. This perspective gained impetus in the
       however, both approaches have been apparent, depend-             United States in the 1970s because “it justifies social
       ing on the program at issue. Temporary Assistance to             programs in terms of economic efficiency criteria”
       Needy Families (TANF), described in a later chapter,             (Lowe, 1995; Midgley & Livermore, 1997, p. 575).

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                                                                                         Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare    9

                  Midgley and Livermore (1997) cite three major                   The developmental perspective is relatively new
              ways that economic development can occur in a                    and requires a more extensive grasp of social welfare
              developmental context. First, “investments in [ser-              issues and policies than can be described in an intro-
              vices to people such as] education, nutrition, and               ductory book such as this. It involves both in-depth
              health care” can be evaluated so that people get the             analysis of current social programs and the ability to
              most for their money (p. 577). For example, invest-              creatively propose new ones. Therefore, it will not be
              ments in education may result in a more skilled labor            a primary focus in this book.
              force that, in turn, generates a stronger economy.                  What are your views about social welfare? Focus
              Second, investment in physical facilities involving              on Critical Thinking 1.1 poses some questions.
              “the creation of economic and social infrastruc-
              ture, such as roads, bridges, irrigation and drinking            The Conservative–Liberal Continuum
              water systems, clinics, [and] schools . . . provide[s] the       Political ideology is the “relatively coherent system of
              economic and social bases on which development                   ideas (beliefs, traditions, principles, and myths) about
              efforts depend” (pp. 577–578). Workers must have a               human nature, institutional arrangements, and social
              transportation system to get to work and a building              processes” that indicate how a government should be
              in which to work to get anything done. Therefore,                run and what principles that government should sup-
              resources expended on developing such things are                 port (Abramovitz, 2007, p. 126). A person’s politi-
              economically productive. Third, developing “pro-                 cal ideology will frame the way that person views the
              grams that help needy people engage in productive                world. It affects what that person feels in valuable and
              employment and self-employment” is more economi-                 what is not; it influences how an individual believes
              cally viable than giving people public assistance pay-           things should be and how they should not be.
              ments over years and even decades (p. 578). It is an                Another way of thinking about how people
              efficient economic investment to educate and train               should be served by social welfare programs involves
              people in need so that they can get jobs and eventu-             political ideology and the conservative–liberal
              ally support themselves.                                         continuum (Dolgoff & Feldstein, 2007; Jansson,

                           FOCUS ON CRITICAL THINKING 1.1

                           What Are Your Views About Social Welfare?
                 We have established that a consistent theme in social         ●   Should public housing be routinely provided to
                 work is the importance of thinking critically and for-            homeless people at public expense?
                 mulating opinions about what is right and wrong. A            ●   Should national health insurance automatically be
                 key question here concerns your own views about social            provided to all Americans, or should they be expected
                 welfare. What ensuing questions might you ask? What               to obtain health insurance through employment or
                 facts would you need to seek out and assess? What                 by purchasing it themselves?
                 opinions and conclusions would you finally assert?            ●   Should homeless people who have mental illnesses
                     A related question concerns the extent to which your          be institutionalized, or should they be allowed to
                 opinions reflect residual or institutional views about            roam at will in the community?
                 social welfare programs, benefits, and services. What         ●   Should children in families suspected of child abuse
                 are your opinions about the following concerns posed?             be placed elsewhere, or should treatment focus on
                 (The issues are more complicated than you might                   strengthening the family so that children remain in
                 think.) Does your thinking lean more toward a residual            their own homes?
                 or institutional perspective?
                 ●   Should single mothers of young children be required
                     to work, or should they be entitled to public assis-
                     tance while they care for their children at home?

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       10   The Profession of Social Work

       2008; McInnis-Dittrich, 1994). In some ways, this
       continuum reflects concepts similar to those of the
       residual and institutional perspectives of social wel-
       fare program development. However, the continuum
       focuses more on values related to social responsibil-
       ity for human welfare.

       Conservatism is the philosophy that individuals
       are responsible for themselves, government should
       provide minimal interference in people’s lives, and
       change is generally unnecessary.
          At least three concepts tend to characterize conser-
       vatives. First, conservatives usually oppose change and
       thrive on tradition (Chapin, 2007; Gilbert & Terrell,
       2005). They generally feel that change results in more
       trouble than it’s worth, so it’s best to leave things the way
       they are. In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
          Second, conservatives generally assume a negative

       view of human nature, stressing that it is sinful and
       prone to corruption (Abramovitz, 2008). If people
       can get “welfare,” they’ll take it, and society is fool-        Poverty is a social welfare issue. Depending on their political
       ish for giving it to them. Conservatives also feel that         orientation, people view the causes of poverty and the potential
                                                                       solutions very differently.
       society has the responsibility of regulating people’s
       behavior so that it’s in compliance with the laws of
       God and a patriarchal society (Abramovitz, 2008).               things done (Chapin, 2007; Gilbert & Terrell, 2005).
       Areas requiring strict regulation include maintain-             They are always looking for different approaches to
       ing bans on gay marriage and abortion, in addition              improve policies and provide services.
       to the provision of strict consequences for deviant                Second, liberals have a much more positive per-
       behavior such as illegal drug use and other crimes.             spective on human nature (Abramovitz, 2008). They
          Third, conservatives usually conceive of people as           view people as rational beings fully capable of mak-
       perfectly capable of taking care of themselves (Abra-           ing their own choices and decisions about what is
       movitz, 2008). This implies that if people would work           right and wrong. Each individual deserves the right
       hard and take responsibility for their actions, they            to compete and be provided with equal opportuni-
       wouldn’t need any help. People “on welfare” don’t               ties to blossom and prosper.
       deserve such resources, but rather should make their               Third, liberals view government as the best entity
       own way. People have only themselves to blame if                to provide a structure and an environment where
       they don’t succeed. Government should provide min-              adequate services and opportunities can be made
       imal interference in people’s lives and assistance only         available (Abramovitz, 2008). Therefore, it is gov-
       when it’s absolutely necessary to help the very needy.          ernment’s responsibility to make certain that citizens’
                                                                       needs are met, public participation is maximized, and
       Liberalism                                                      people’s equal rights are preserved. Liberals believe
       Liberalism is the philosophy that government should             that it’s the government’s job to protect people from
       be involved in the social, political, and economic              such impediments as racism, sexism, various other
       structure so that all people’s rights and privileges are        forms of discrimination, and poverty.
       protected in the name of social justice.
          At least three concepts tend to characterize lib-            Radicalism
       erals, more or less reflecting the opposite of a con-           A more extreme approach is radicalism, the philoso-
       servative perspective. First, liberals like change              phy that the social and political system as it stands
       and tend to think there’s always a better way to get            is not structurally capable of truly providing social

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                                                                                        Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare   11

              justice. Rather, drastic, fundamental changes are                govern them and services and resources provided
              necessary in the basic social and political structure            them is an integral part of the social work perspective.
              to achieve truly fair and equal treatment.                          Chapter 6 reviews the history of social welfare
                 According to a radical philosophy, for exam-                  beginning in European medieval times, continu-
              ple, poverty, defined as “the result of exploitation             ing throughout U.S. history, and culminating with
              by the ruling or dominant class,” exists for at least            today’s programs and services. It elaborates on the
              two reasons (Karger & Stoesz, 2002, pp. 115–116).                effects of history on the social work profession’s
              First, having a multitude of poor people as work-                development. The chapter is placed immediately
              ers enables higher classes to keep wages low because             before Chapter 7 (which addresses policy, policy
              of the numerous replacement workers. If low-paid                 analysis, and policy advocacy) because today’s pro-
              workers complain, they can simply be fired, with                 grams, all based on current social welfare policies,
              someone else eagerly waiting to take their place to              are products of historical events concerning social
              avoid poverty. The working class thus serves to labor            welfare. Chapter 8 then discusses the policies and
              for the wealthy and keep them rich. Second, keeping              programs developed to combat poverty.
              a class of people in poverty enhances the “prestige”
              and status of the middle and upper classes. To rem-
              edy this state of affairs, an entirely new social struc-         Fields of Practice in Social Work
              ture would have to be developed.                                 The remainder of the book focuses on fields of
                 A radical perspective requires the ability to pro-            practice in social work. These are the various prac-
              pose a new social structure. It is far beyond the scope          tice contexts that address certain types of popula-
              of this book to discuss how to plan new policies                 tions and needs and require a special knowledge
              and promote broad social change. Therefore, from                 and skill base for effective work. Each field of prac-
              here on, when the term radical is used, it will be in            tice involves a labyrinth of typical human problems
              the context of soliciting any very general ideas you             and the services attempting to address them. Cur-
              might have about changing social welfare service                 rent fields of practice include children and families,
              provision.                                                       aging, disabilities, health, mental health, substance
                                                                               abuse, schools, and corrections. Other contexts for
              How Do You Fare on the Conservative–Liberal                      practice are occupational social work (focusing on
              Continuum?                                                       work in employee assistance programs or directed
              Return to the preceding box and review the answers               toward organizational change), rural social work
              you gave to those questions. Do they lean toward a               (addressing the unique problems of people living in
              liberal or conservative point of view? Focus on Criti-           rural areas), police social work (emphasizing work
              cal Thinking 1.2 contains a series of statements geared          within police, courthouse, and jail settings to provide
              to assessing further your liberal or conservative views.         services to crime victims), and forensic social work
                 Note that this discussion of conservatism and lib-            (dealing with the law, educating lawyers, and serving
              eralism is overly simplified. Many people, and perhaps           as expert witnesses) (Barker, 2003).
              most, have a complex mixture of views depending on                  Social workers require information about people
              their perceptions and personal experiences. (That last           who need help in each of these areas. They also must
              sentence probably reflects a liberal perspective.)               be knowledgeable about the services available to
                                                                               meet needs and the major issues related to each area.
                                                                               A social worker may be called upon to work with a
              Social Work and Social                                           problem that clearly falls within one field of practice
                                                                               or a problem that involves several of these fields.
              Welfare History                                                     For example, the Wullbinkle family comes to a
              Social work has been a developing field since the late           social worker’s attention when a neighbor reports
              19th century. The profession is intimately intertwined           that Rocky, their 5-year-old son, is frequently seen
              with historical events and trends in social welfare.             with odd-looking bruises on his arms and legs. The
              Social work emphasizes the importance of the social              neighbor suspects child abuse. Upon investigation,
              environment as it affects the quality of people’s lives.         the social worker finds that the parents are indeed
              Therefore, the way people are treated by laws that               abusive. They often grab the child violently by a

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       12    The Profession of Social Work

                     FOCUS ON CRITICAL THINKING 1.2

                     Where Do You Stand on the Conservative–Liberal
            Rate how much you agree with statements 1–6 by assign-          11. With a little help and support, people who are
            ing a number for each. The scale is as follows:                     less privileged than the rest can usually pull
                                                                                themselves together and do pretty well.
                 Strongly    Somewhat        Somewhat Strongly
                                                                            12. It’s better to try to rehabilitate people who com-
                  agree        agree          disagree disagree
                                                                                mit crimes than to throw them in jail.
                    1             2              3           4
                                                                         Now add up your total score for all 12 items and divide
               1. I don’t like change very much.                         by 12. A score of 1 means that you probably are quite
               2. The old tried-and-true way of getting things           conservative, a 2 that you’re somewhat conservative, a 3
                  done is usually the best way.                          that you’re somewhat liberal, and a 4 that you’re quite
               3. People will do whatever they can to get things         liberal.
                  for themselves.                                            This little exercise in no way defines your political
               4. If they’re sure they can get away with it, stu-        orientation or labels you as a conservative or liberal for
                  dents will inevitably cheat on exams.                  life. Its intent is to give you some food for thought
               5. People should be independent, take care of             about your own values.
                  themselves, and not rely on the charity of                 Social work values tend to be more liberal than con-
                  others.                                                servative, as is demonstrated by the NASW Code of
               6. People who commit crimes should be punished            Ethics and NASW’s usual support of Democratic polit-
                  with severity to match the severity of their crimes.   ical candidates, who traditionally are more liberal than
            Now rate how much you agree with statements 7–12 by
                                                                             However, people’s values and belief systems often
            assigning a number for each. The scale is as follows:
                                                                         are much more complex than that. For example, you
                 Strongly    Somewhat        Somewhat Strongly           may be conservative in that you don’t want to pay a
                  agree        agree          disagree disagree          high percentage of taxes for social welfare programs.
                                                                         But you may also be liberal in that you believe in a
                    4             3              2           1
                                                                         woman’s right to choice when it comes to having an
               7. I like to see and do new things because it makes       abortion. Or you might feel just the opposite.
                  life more interesting.                                     Social workers must continuously examine their per-
               8. Trying some new way to get things done often           sonal values, on the one hand, and respect the values of
                  results in a better, more effective approach.          their clients, on the other. They must constantly strive
               9. People are generally good at heart.                    not to impose personal values on clients. It’s a difficult
              10. It’s often the bad things that happen to people        but interesting task.
                  that make them “go wrong.”

       limb and throw him against the wall. This problem                 helps employees deal with such problems. Thus occu-
       initially falls under the umbrella of family and chil-            pational social work may also be involved.
       dren’s services.                                                      In addition, the maternal grandmother, Emma,
          However, the social worker also finds a num-                   is living with the Wullbinkle family. Emma’s physi-
       ber of other problems operating within the family.                cal health is failing. Although her daughter dreads
       The mother, Natasia, is seriously depressed and fre-              the idea of nursing home placement, the issue must
       quently suicidal, so she needs mental health services.            be addressed. Emma, who is also overweight, finds
       And the father, Boris, is struggling with a drink-                it increasingly difficult to move around by herself.
       ing problem that is beginning to affect his perfor-               She is demanding more and more physical help and
       mance at work. A program is available at his place of             support from Natasia. Natasia, who has back prob-
       employment, where an occupational social worker                   lems, is finding it increasingly burdensome to help

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                                                                                        Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare   13

              her mother. Finally, Vernite, Boris and Natasia’s                experience or strong connections to the community,
              12-year-old daughter, is falling behind in school, and           who perform clerical and scheduling tasks. Aides
              truancy is becoming a problem. This last issue falls             may or may not have an associate’s degree.
              under the school’s umbrella.
                  Most of the problems that social workers face                Master’s Social Workers (MSWs)
              are complex. They may involve a variety of practice
                                                                               Master’s social workers (MSWs) receive more spe-
              fields all at one time. To understand clients’ needs,
                                                                               cialized training built on the same foundation as the
              social workers must know something about a wide
                                                                               BSW curriculum and integrated with field intern-
              range of problems and services.
                                                                               ships. Most master’s programs require two years
                                                                               of study. However, many give advanced standing to
              The Continuum of Social                                          BSWs (as opposed to people entering the program
                                                                               with non–social work undergraduate majors) where
              Work Careers                                                     up to one year of study is waived because they’ve
              There are various ways to look at advancement                    already completed the foundation curriculum.
              through a social work career. Some workers progress                  Both BSWs and MSWs can find employment in a
              through a series of levels, while others remain at an            wide range of settings. However, there are some dif-
              earlier point of entry. Degrees in social work include           ferences in the types of jobs for which each is quali-
              the baccalaureate, master’s, and doctorate.                      fied. MSWs are considered more specialized than
                                                                               BSWs. The implication is that MSWs are competent
              Baccalaureate Social Workers (BSWs)                              to address more difficult problems than BSWs and
                                                                               have the potential to assume greater responsibility. In
              Baccalaureate social workers (BSWs) complete an
                                                                               reality, this distinction is not always so clear-cut. Per-
              accredited course of study, with required content
                                                                               formance expectations and job availability vary signifi-
              described later in the chapter, to prepare for entry-
                                                                               cantly depending on the area of the country and state.
              level social work. They are also required to complete
                                                                                   The realm of psychotherapy is generally limited to
              at least 400 hours of field experience supervised by a
                                                                               MSWs instead of BSWs. Psychotherapy, sometimes
              social work practitioner. Job settings involve many
                                                                               referred to simply as therapy, is a skilled treatment
              fields of practice and include child welfare agen-
                                                                               process whereby a therapist works with an individual,
              cies (e.g., those involving protective services, foster
                                                                               couple, family, or group to address a mental disorder
              care, or adoption), residential treatment centers (e.g.,
                                                                               or alleviate other problems the client(s) may be having
              serving adolescents with behavioral or emotional
                                                                               in the social environment. Another difference between
              problems), services for people with various dis-
                                                                               MSWs and BSWs is that higher-level supervisory and
              abilities (including cognitive), settings serving older
                                                                               administrative positions in any field of practice often
              adults, correctional institutions, public welfare agen-
                                                                               require an MSW or other master’s-level degree. Such
              cies, schools, health centers and hospitals, substance
                                                                               positions usually offer higher salaries. MSWs gener-
              abuse treatment centers, shelters for the homeless,
                                                                               ally earn significantly more than BSWs, although
              shelters for domestic violence survivors, and family
                                                                               years of experience enhance salaries for both groups.
              planning organizations.
                                                                                   Licensure or certification of some level of social
                  At the preprofessional or paraprofessional level
                                                                               work practice exists in all 50 states. Chapter 5 dis-
              involving people who assist social workers in their
                                                                               cusses this more thoroughly.
              practice are social service technicians and social ser-
              vice aides (Hopps & Lowe, 2008). Social service tech-
              nicians typically hold an associate’s degree (e.g., in           Doctorates in Social Work
              human services) or a baccalaureate degree in a non–              A small percentage of social workers hold doctor-
              social work discipline and serve as a paraprofessional           ate degrees, either a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) or
              (a person trained to assist the social worker under the          DSW (Doctor of Social Work). Either degree quali-
              social worker’s supervision in designated tasks such             fies the holder to teach at the college level or conduct
              as conducting basic interviews, making referrals, and            research. (Note that some social workers without
              completing paperwork). Social service aides are peo-             a doctorate but with an MSW get jobs teaching
              ple with a high school degree, often with relevant life          at community colleges, in universities as part-time

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       14     The Profession of Social Work

       instructors, or, sometimes, in non-tenure-track faculty              This section has reviewed the continuum of social
       positions.) Some Ph.D.s or DSWs assume administra-                work careers according to the college and university
       tive positions or enter private practice in psychotherapy.        degrees attained. Focus on Critical Thinking 1.3 sug-
       These degrees involve advanced and specialized study,             gests how you might start thinking about the career
       a focus on research, and completion of a dissertation.            that’s right for you in whatever field you choose.

                     FOCUS ON CRITICAL THINKING 1.3

                     Thinking About Your Career
            As a student, you may have some career goals clearly in      process. You may know more about what jobs you don’t
            mind. Or you may still be wondering what the best            want (e.g., fast-food restaurant worker, waitress/waiter,
            career path is. The following is a discussion of how you     pizza delivery person, factory worker, or cashier)
            might think about determining a career course. You           because of prior experience in minimum-wage or close
            might be a student of traditional age or an older stu-       to minimum-wage jobs that you know you don’t want
            dent returning to school. Note that not all career ideas     to do for the rest of your working life.
            and possibilities are mentioned because they are count-          Why are you taking the course that requires this
            less. Although this career consideration process is ori-     book? Is it to fulfill some general education requirement?
            ented toward social work, the purpose here is to             Is it because you’re mildly interested in the topic? Or is it
            stimulate your thinking, not to tell you what to do.         because you think this might be the major for you?
            Each person must decide for herself or himself how to
            spend time and life.                                         2. People-oriented versus non-people-oriented
                                                                         careers (exploring your options)
            1. General orientation toward the future                     What types of things tend to interest you?
            (conducting a self-assessment)                                   Do you enjoy being with others? Or do you prefer
            What values are important to you? Achieving personal         being by yourself ?
            satisfaction? Becoming famous? Earning money? Being              Are you interested in human relationships, issues
            respected? Building a family life? Finding security?         such as mental health, health, and women’s concerns,
            Having adventures? Leading others? Finding excite-           and problems such as substance abuse, child maltreat-
            ment? Developing personal relationships? Having fun?         ment, and crime?
            Being loved? Helping others? Getting ahead? Being                Do people tend to come to you to talk about their
            successful? Being happy? Being popular? Fitting into a       problems? Do you enjoy “helping” people?
            work environment? Feeling important? Having free                 If you say yes to these questions, then you might
            time? Traveling? Having a good reputation?                   consider occupations that deal with people and con-
                What work have you done or thought about doing           tinue the career consideration process addressed here.
            in life?                                                     Non-people-oriented career courses might include
                What dimensions of work appeal to you most? Lik-         those such as engineering, accounting, biology, chemis-
            ing the people you work with? Communicating with             try, or computer science. Of course, it’s not that you
            others? Working alone? Working with others? Giving           don’t have to work with people in those jobs. Relating
            attention to detail? Solving problems creatively? Using      to and communicating with others in the work environ-
            specific skills? Being successful? Having flexibility?       ment is always important. However, in non-people-
            Having structured work expectations? Maintaining pre-        oriented careers, the focus and goal are accomplishing
            dictability? Helping others? Having opportunities to         specific tasks using specific skills, not interpersonal
            get ahead? Being productive? Making lots of money?           interaction and problem solving.
            Being a leader? Fitting in? Being challenged?
                What jobs or careers come to mind? Which, if any,        3. Ways of working with people
            have you given any thought to?                               In what capacities do you think you’d like to work with
                Your answers may be vague or specific at this point,     people? Are you more interested in physical, business,
            depending on where you are in your decision-making           legal, educational, spiritual, or psychosocial aspects?

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                                                                                        Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare       15

                  FOCUS ON CRITICAL THINKING 1.3 (continued)

                      Examples of hands-on work with people include             justice, or counseling? How can you determine which
                  being a medical doctor, nursing, occupational therapy         field is for you?
                  (treatment that uses creative activity to improve psy-            If you decide you want to work with people con-
                  chological or physical rehabilitation), and physical          cerning psychosocial issues, it’s best to talk with advis-
                  therapy (“the treatment or management of physical dis-        ers in the various majors available to you at your school.
                  ability, malfunction, or pain by physical techniques          Think about what aspects of a major appeal to you
                  such as exercise, massage, hydrotherapy, etc.” [Nichols,      most. Find out what kind of jobs its graduates tend to
                  1999, p. 996]). These fields also have varying require-       get. Explore what courses make up the curriculum, and
                  ments in science, so you probably should have some            determine the extent to which the major will give you
                  interest in this area.                                        the values, knowledge, and skills necessary for you to
                      Many business careers also focus on developing            “hit the ground running” when you get your first job
                  relationships, but, of course, with the ultimate goal of      after graduating. Does it prepare you with skills such as
                  making a monetary profit instead of helping people            interviewing, running groups and meetings, and work-
                  improve their life conditions. To what extent is your         ing within organizations? Does the major provide a sig-
                  ultimate goal to earn large amounts of money instead          nificant field internship to help prepare you for work
                  of having impacts on the human condition? This is a           with clients? To what extent does each major you’re
                  significant issue. One family comes to mind in which          considering match your values, interests, and goals?
                  almost all members have various types of business                 Understanding the primary focus of various majors
                  degrees. They can’t understand why I might be inter-          can be confusing. Just a few alternatives will be men-
                  ested in how to address human problems such as child          tioned here. Generally speaking, psychology emphasizes
                  maltreatment, sexual assault, or mental illness. They         the study of behavior and cognitive processing (Barker,
                  cringe when I talk about watching movies about such           2003). Work is often associated with treatment of men-
                  issues. They think of these issues as someone else’s          tal disorders or testing people for intelligence or apti-
                  problem and focus their energies on their own families,       tude. A master’s or Ph.D. degree is required to provide
                  finances, and lives. Social work would not be their pre-      psychotherapy. Sociology is the study of human society,
                  ferred field. Each of us must follow our own calling.         how various groups interact with each other, and how
                      Law or teaching provides other career options. Law,       social institutions structure the social environment in
                  of course, requires a serious interest in the legal process   which we live. Social work uses a significant amount of
                  and more years of study beyond the bachelor’s degree.         the knowledge produced both by sociology and psy-
                  In my school we see many students deciding between            chology, and applies it to helping situations. Figure 1.1
                  social work and teaching. They must determine whether         illustrates the broad range of foundation knowledge
                  they’re more interested in helping children learn infor-      contributing to social work practice. Psychiatry is the
                  mation and skills, or in working with clients and their       branch of medicine that specializes in the diagnosis and
                  families to help them deal with psychological, behav-         treatment of mental disorders. Psychiatrists must have
                  ioral, and economic issues. Students more interested in       advanced training beyond a medical degree and assume
                  pursuing a spiritual career such as rabbi, priest, or min-    responsibility for diagnosing mental illness and pre-
                  ister might seek education preparing them for such reli-      scribing psychotropic drugs. Criminal justice is the con-
                  gious callings. One person comes to mind who, after           figuration of programs, policies, and agencies dealing
                  receiving his master’s degree in meteorology, decided         with crime, incarceration, legal processes, and the reha-
                  that he really wanted to be a minister and attained a         bilitation of criminal offenders. Social workers can
                  degree in divinity four years later.                          assume a wide range of positions in the criminal justice
                      If you’re primarily interested in psychosocial aspects    system. Counseling is a field overlapping various other
                  of human functioning and improving the human con-             fields, including social work, which focuses on problem
                  dition, continue reading the next section.                    solving and providing help to individuals, families, or
                                                                                groups. Often it involves additional education and
                  4. Selection of a major                                       expertise such as that in marriage and family therapy.
                  To what extent do you understand the differences              Many social workers in clinical practice also are licensed
                  among fields addressing psychosocial issues such as           marriage and family therapists. Generally, counseling
                  social work, psychology, sociology, psychiatry, criminal      focuses on providing some kind of psychotherapy,

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       16     The Profession of Social Work

            FOCUS ON CRITICAL THINKING 1.3 (continued)

            whereas social work also emphasizes the importance of        without adequate information? Many students, even as
            the social environment concerning human behavior and         they complete their major, have difficulty deciding what
            advocacy to improve people’s quality of life.                they prefer even as they enter a supervised field practi-
               An issue related to choice of major involves the          cum within an agency setting. Usually, however, by that
            extent to which you’re interested in attending graduate      time students have narrowed their preferences consider-
            school. Some career paths require graduate education.        ably. It takes time to think things through as you
            Graduate school raises more questions. To what extent        acquire more information about the field and gain
            do you think you’ll be tired of school by the time you       broader experiences.
            graduate? So many seniors tell me they can’t wait “to           The following list should at least give you an idea of
            get out” and “work to make money” instead of doing           the social work career options available. At this point,
            schoolwork and spending money on tuition. To what            what interests you the most? What settings are most
            extent is graduate school financially feasible? Do you       attractive to you? What client populations, problems,
            have access to funding or loans? To what extent are you      and issues concern you most? What are your reactions
            already financially burdened? What, if any, is your          to considering work in the following settings, which are
            motivation to attend graduate school? Is your grade          just a sampling of those available?
            point average sufficient to be accepted?
               If you decide to consider social work as a major or       ●   Mental health settings such as inpatient hospitals,
            have already declared this major, the next section               where people experience and seek treatment for vari-
            addresses some choices within the realm of social work.          ous mental health problems.
                                                                         ●   Health settings such as hospitals, where people need
            5. Considering or choosing a social work major                   help understanding complex information and get-
            Because social workers practice in so many different             ting the appropriate resources.
            settings and work with so many kinds of people, it can       ●   Settings aimed at enhancing the welfare of children,
            be daunting trying to decide what field of practice is           including protective services, adoption, foster care,
            right for you. Such a struggle makes sense when you              school social work, and treatment for behavioral
            still know little about all the types of social work set-        and emotional difficulties in outpatient, group
            tings available. How can you make an informed choice             home, or residential facilities.

       Social Work Builds on                                             The Uniqueness of Social Work
                                                                         We have established that social work builds on the
       Many Disciplines                                                  knowledge base of other professions in addition to
       The foundation of professional social work is a body of           its own. Other fields perform some of the same func-
       knowledge, skills, and values. Knowledge originates not           tions as social work. For instance, mental health cli-
       only from social workers but also from a range of dis-            nicians in psychology, psychiatry, and counseling
       ciplines that focus on understanding people’s needs and           use interviewing skills, and some also use a planned-
       behavior. These include psychology, sociology, political          change approach. Figure 1.2, on page 19, illustrates
       science, economics, biology, psychiatry, counseling, and          how social work overlaps, to some extent, with other
       cultural anthropology (Zastrow, 2004). Figure 1.1, on             helping professions. All, for example, have a com-
       page 18, illustrates how social work knowledge builds             mon core of interviewing and counseling skills.
       on both other disciplines and its own firm and growing                However, social work involves much more than
       body of research. It summarizes the primary focus and             simply sitting down with an individual, group, or fam-
       core concepts involved in each discipline. Social workers         ily and solving some problem. (This is not to imply
       use knowledge drawn from each field, in conjunction               that this is all other helping professions do. Their own
       with social work skills and values, to help individuals,          unique thrusts and emphases are beyond the scope of
       families, groups, organizations, and communities solve            what can be included here.) Social work has at least
       problems and improve their quality of life.                       five major dimensions that make it unique.

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                                                                                          Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare        17

                  FOCUS ON CRITICAL THINKING 1.3 (continued)

                  ●   Settings for older adults, such as health care facilities       are addressed and referrals to appropriate services
                      where older adults who require physical and medical             made.
                      support live, or supportive services aimed at keeping       ●   Family planning agencies that help people make
                      people in their own homes as long as possible.                  choices about contraception.
                  ●   Agencies providing services to people with physical         ●   Homeless shelters that provide temporary shelter,
                      disabilities, including linking them to appropriate             counseling, and training for people on the street.
                      services and advocating for services when necessary.           Another facet of thinking about your career involves
                  ●   Correctional settings for adults or juvenile delin-         the types of responsibilities characterizing a work setting
                      quents, such as prisons where social workers help           and the skills needed to practice effectively in it. What
                      inmates by providing counseling and assisting in            are your thoughts about undertaking the following?
                      inmates’ adjustment to the correctional environment
                      or preparing for release, and probation or parole           ●   Counseling.
                      offices where they monitor the behavior of people           ●   Running groups.
                      released into the community.                                ●   Working with families.
                  ●   Domestic violence hotlines and programs address-            ●   Linking people with needed resources.
                      ing the needs of women who have been physically             ●   Coordinating service provision for people receiving
                      and emotionally abused.                                         multiple services through case management.
                  ●   Counseling programs for alcohol and other sub-              ●   Supervising staff or administering agencies.
                      stance abuse.                                               ●   Supervising volunteers.
                  ●   Services for people with cognitive disabilities, such       ●   Undertaking community organization.
                      as those aimed at linking them to needed services,          ●   Running meetings.
                      supervising noninstitutional living settings such as        ●   Writing grants.
                      group homes, helping them gain employment, and              ●   Developing policy.
                      advocating for resources that are unavailable.              ●   Promoting.
                  ●   Crisis hotlines, where a wide range of crises including     ●   Lobbying.
                      threats of suicide or violence toward others, mental        There are lots of things to consider. Choosing a career
                      health and substance abuse issues, or physical abuse        is not easy.

                 First, social workers may focus on any problems                  for change. Sometimes services are unavailable or
              or clusters of problems that are complex and diffi-                 difficult to obtain, policies are unfair, or people
              cult. Social workers don’t refuse to work with clients              are oppressed by other people. Administrators and
              or refer them elsewhere because those clients have                  people in power don’t always have the motivation
              unappealing characteristics. For instance, there may                or insight to initiate needed change. Social workers
              be a family in which sexual abuse is occurring, and                 must look at where change is essential outside the
              that abuse must be stopped. Likewise, there may be                  individual and work with the environment to effect
              a community in which the juvenile crime rate is sky-                that change. Highlight 1.2 on page 20 discusses some
              rocketing, and something must be done.                              of the theoretical concepts underlying social work
                 Not every problem can be solved, but some can                    practice.
              be—or at least alleviated. Social work practitioners                   Consider an example of targeting the environment
              are equipped with a repertoire of skills to help                    for change involving a Midwestern city of about half a
              them identify and examine problems. They then                       million people. Several dozen teenagers in the city had
              make choices about where their efforts can be best                  been expelled from various schools. They all had
              directed.                                                           lengthy delinquency records and serious emotional
                 The second dimension that makes social work                      problems. These young people had been attending a
              unique is that it often targets the environment                     private day treatment program that provided them with
              encompassing clients, and not the clients themselves,               special education and counseling at the individual,

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       18   The Profession of Social Work

                           Foundation of knowledge                        Input               Intervention applications

                    Psychology: The scientific study of mind
                    and behavior

                                                                                                    Micro practice
                    Sociology: The organized study of how
                    groups develop, interact, behave, and
                    function within the larger society

                    Political science: The study of political
                    and governmental structures and

                                                                                                Micro/mezzo practice
                    Economics: The study of the production,
                    distribution, and consumption of goods
                    and services

                    Biology: The study of living organisms
                    and their physical functions

                     Psychiatry: The branch of medicine
                     that deals with the diagnosis and
                     treatment of mental, emotional, and                                           Mezzo practice
                     behavioral disorders                                                            (groups)

                     Counseling: The use of interviewing
                     and problem-solving skills with clients to
                     provide insights concerning psychological
                     issues and change future behavior

                     Cultural anthropology: The branch of
                     anthropology that deals with human
                     culture, especially its history, social
                     structures, language, and technology
                                                                                                   Macro practice
                                                                                                 (organizations and
                     Social work: The practical application of
                     knowledge, skills, and values to enhance
                     the well-being of individuals, families,
                     groups, organizations, and communities

                   F I G U R E 1 . 1 The social work knowledge base.

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                                                                                            Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare   19

                                                                          Social work

                                                   Psychiatry                                   Psychology


                                               The shaded area in the center reflects a common core of interviewing and
                                               counseling skills used by the helping professions.

                                       F I G U R E 1 . 2 Social work and other helping professions.

              group, and family levels. The day treatment approach                 The media may need to be contacted as well. Second,
              allowed them to remain living at home in the commu-                  the public school system may need to develop its own
              nity but still receive special treatment. The program                program to meet these children’s and their families’
              had been paid for by public funds, with the county                   needs. Third, the parents of these children may need
              department of social services purchasing treatment                   to band together and lobby for attention and services.
              services from the private agency.1 The public schools                    In this case, social workers involved in the
              had no special resources to help these teens. Therefore,             agency whose funding had been cut off mobilized
              purchasing such services from a private agency was                   immediately. They contacted the parents of their cli-
              more cost-effective for the county than developing its               ents and told them about the situation. Outraged,
              own program from scratch. Suddenly, however, money                   the parents demanded that the community provide
              became scarce, and community leaders decided they                    education for their children as it did for all the other
              could no longer afford a day treatment program. Now                  children. Several parents became outspoken leaders
              these teenagers had nowhere to go.                                   of the group. Assisted by social workers, they filed a
                 This problem involved many children and their                     class action suit. The court determined that until the
              families, and the social environment was no longer                   situation had been evaluated, funding for services
              responding to their desperate needs. A social worker                 must continue. Eventually, the public school system
              addressing this problem might look at it from sev-                   (also with the help of social workers) developed its
              eral perspectives. First, the city’s various communities             own programs to meet the needs of such teenagers,
              might need to be made acutely aware both of the exis-                and the private program was phased out.
              tence of these teens and of the sudden cuts in funding.                  The third dimension that makes social work unique
                                                                                   is related to targeting the environment: namely, social
                                                                                   workers often find it necessary to advocate for their
              1Public agencies are those run by a designated unit of government
                                                                                   clients. Advocacy involves actively intervening to help
              and are usually regulated by laws that directly affect policy. The
                                                                                   clients get what they need. Most frequently, this inter-
              county department of social services is a public agency. Private
              agencies, of course, are privately owned and run by people not       vention focuses on “the relationship between the client
              employed by government. Chapter 5 describes social service agen-     and an unresponsive ‘system’ ” (Epstein, 1981, p. 8).
              cies in greater detail.                                              Clients have specified needs, and social agencies,

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       20     The Profession of Social Work

                      HIGHLIGHT 1.2

                      Theoretical Ways of Viewing Social Work: A Focus on
                      Systems in the Environment
            Theoretical approaches provide ways of organizing               system that social workers need “to change or influence in
            information and looking at the world. For example, the          order to accomplish (their) goals” (Pincus & Minahan,
            medical model is a theoretical approach characterized by        1973, p. 58). Targets of change may be individual clients,
            four major features (Barker, 2003). First, the focus of         families, formal groups, administrators, or policymakers.
            attention is the individual, who is seen as having some-        At the micro level, a 5-year-old child with behavioral
            thing wrong such as an illness. Therefore, treatment            problems might be the target of change, the goal being to
            focuses on curing or helping the individual. Second, little     improve behavior. At the mezzo level, a support group of
            attention is paid to factors outside the individual in his      people with eating disorders might be the target of change
            or her environment. The individual, not the environ-            in an attempt to control their eating behavior.2 Finally, at
            ment, is the target of change. Third, the problem or ill-       the macro level, an agency director might be the target of
            ness is identified or diagnosed and categorized by placing      change when the social worker’s aim is to improve some
            a label on it. Fourth, the individual is the target of treat-   agency policy and the director is the primary decision
            ment that usually involves a series of clinical treatments.     maker capable of implementing that change.
                In contrast, a common theoretical approach to                   Another system critical to the plannedchange process
            social work focuses on the interactions between indi-           is the client system—any individual, family, group, orga-
            viduals and various systems in the environment. The             nization, or community that will ultimately benefit from
            focus on the individual and the environment is impor-           social work intervention (Pincus & Minahan, 1973;
            tant because the latter is where social workers direct          Resnick, 1980a; Resnick, 1980b). For example, individ-
            their efforts at change.                                        ual clients are client systems when the social worker’s
                This system- and environment-oriented approach,             goal is to get them needed resources. Families are client
            called ecosystems theory, is particularly relevant to           systems when the practitioner is working on behalf of
            social work (Beckett & Johnson, 1995; McNutt, 2008).            the entire family. Similarly, a community is the client sys-
            It combines some of the major concepts from two dif-            tem when a social worker is trying to help residents open
            ferent theoretical perspectives: the ecological approach        a new community center to improve their quality of life.
            and systems theories.
                                                                            Important Ecological Concepts
            Important Concepts in Systems Theories                          Two important concepts taken from the ecological
            Systems theories focus on the dynamics among and                approach are the social environment and coping. The
            interactions of people in their environment. A system is        social environment includes the conditions, circumstances,
            a set of elements that are orderly and interrelated to          and interactions that encompass human beings. Individu-
            make a function whole. Social work refers primarily to          als must have effective interactions with their environment
            social systems composed of people (as opposed to, say,          to survive and thrive. The social environment involves the
            an industrial manufacturing system or an ant colony             type of home a person lives in, the type of work a person
            system). An individual, a family, a social services agency,     does, the amount of money that is available, and the laws
            and a neighborhood are all examples of systems.                 and social rules people live by. The social environment
               Social workers work with and on the behalf of vari-          also includes the individuals, groups, organizations, and
            ous sized systems. A micro system is an individual, and a       systems with which a person comes into contact, such as
            mezzo system a group. Families, because of their inti-          family, friends, work groups, and governments.
            mate nature, arbitrarily lie somewhere between micro                Coping is the struggle to adjust to environmental
            and mezzo systems. A macro system includes organiza-            conditions and overcome problems. This is significant
            tions and communities. This terminology is important            because social workers often help people cope with
            because it’s used throughout social work and this book.         problems in their environments.
                                                                            2Eating disorders, extremely serious disturbances in eating
            Target Systems and Client Systems                               patterns, are considered mental disorders by the American
            It’s helpful to conceptualize social workers and clients in     Psychiatric Association (APA) (APA, 2000). Examples include
            terms of systems. A target system or target of change is the    anorexia and bulimia.

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                                                                                        Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare    21

              organizations, or communities may not be meeting                 that accredits social work programs throughout the
              these needs. These unresponsive systems must be pres-            United States. Accreditation is the official designation
              sured to make changes so needs can be met.                       by an authorized body (in this case, CSWE) that an
                  The fourth dimension that makes social work                  educational program meets specified standards. This
              unique is its emphasis on and adherence to a core                is usually required in becoming licensed as a social
              of professional values. The NASW Code of Ethics                  worker (described more thoroughly in Chapter 5).
              focuses on the right of the individual to make free                 To begin with, CSWE’s Educational Policy and
              choices and have a quality life (NASW, 1999). Social             Accreditation Standards (EPAS) emphasize that
              workers do not force people into specific ways of                social work programs must reflect certain values
              thinking or acting. Rather, they help people make                throughout their curricula. EPAS states that “ser-
              their own decisions about how to think or act.                   vice, social justice, the dignity and worth of the
                  The fifth dimension making social work unique                person, the importance of human relationships,
              is related to the core of social work values and how             integrity, competence, human rights, and scientific
              important it is for clients to make their own deci-              inquiry are among the core values of social work”
              sions. Social workers do not track people into spe-              (CSWE, 2008b, p. 2). EPAS also specifies the 10
              cific ways of thinking or acting. Rather, they practice          areas in which graduates of social work programs
              in a partnership with clients, making and implement-             must display competency. These are discussed in the
              ing plans together. Most other professions empha-                following section. Subsequently, the core social work
              size the authority and expertise of the professional,            concepts of generalist practice, advanced practice,
              on the one hand, and the subordinate status of the               and field education will be introduced.
              client as recipient of services, on the other.
                                                                               Social Workers Demonstrate Competencies
                                                                               Competencies are “measurable practice behaviors
              Social Work Education’s Goals,                                   that are comprised of sufficient knowledge, skills,
                                                                               and values” and have the goal of practicing effective
              Curricula, and Competencies                                      social work. Highlight 1.3 summarizes the 10 required
              One way of understanding social work is to review                competencies for accredited social work programs.
              the content and expectations evident in the curricula            The following sections describe each competency
              of accredited social work programs. The Council on               and identify content areas in the traditional social
              Social Work Education (CSWE) is the organization                 work curriculum. The first five competencies involve

                           HIGHLIGHT 1.3

                           Social Workers Demonstrate Competencies
                 CSWE (2008b) requires that social work graduates dem-         2.1.5 Advance human rights and social and economic
                 onstrate competency in the following 10 major areas.                 justice.
                                                                               2.1.6 Engage in research-informed practice and
                 Educational Policy Competencies                                      practice-informed research.
                                                                               2.1.7 Apply knowledge of human behavior and the
                 Social workers must:
                                                                                      social environment.
                 2.1.1 Identify as a professional social worker and            2.1.8 Engage in policy practice to advance social and
                       conduct oneself accordingly.                                   economic well-being and to deliver effective
                 2.1.2 Apply social work ethical principles to guide                  social work services.
                       professional practice.                                  2.1.9 Respond to contexts that shape practice.
                 2.1.3 Apply critical thinking to inform and communi-          2.1.10 Engage, assess, intervene, and evaluate with
                       cate professional judgments.                                   individuals, families, groups, organizations, and
                 2.1.4 Engage diversity and difference in practice.                   communities. (pp. 3–7)

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       22   The Profession of Social Work

       knowledge, skills, and values that are evident through-         of what is stated as true or what appears to be true
       out social work curricula. The last five competencies           and the resulting expression of an opinion or con-
       relate to traditional content areas or courses in social        clusion based on that scrutiny, and (2) the creative
       work programs—social work research, human behav-                formulation of an opinion or conclusion when pre-
       ior and the social environment, social welfare policy,          sented with a question, problem, or issue. It involves
       and social work practice (competencies 9 and 10).               not taking at face value what you are told to believe.
                                                                       Rather, critical thinking entails using creative anal-
       Competency 1: Identification as a                               ysis of suppositions to determine for yourself what
       Professional Social Worker                                      is really true or what is the best choice among alter-
       Social workers should “serve as representatives of the          natives. It also concerns the ability to communicate
       profession, its mission, and its core values” (CSWE,            clearly and effectively, both orally and in writing.
       2008b, p. 3). They should be knowledgeable about
       social work’s development and history (discussed                Competency 4: Engagement of
       in Chapter 6). They should conduct themselves in                Diversity in Practice
       an ethical, professional manner, providing effective            Diversity refers to the wide variety of differences
       service to clients and respecting clients’ right to self-       characterizing people. People meriting special atten-
       determination.                                                  tion from the social work profession include, but are
          In practice, social workers should advocate on               not limited to, groups distinguished by “age, class,
       their clients’ behalf when services or improved                 color, culture, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender
       policies governing service provision are necessary.             identity and expression, immigration status, political
       They should continue developing their skills and                ideology, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation”
       acquiring new knowledge throughout their careers                (CSWE, 2008b, p. 5). Any time a person can be iden-
       to better serve clients. Finally, they should seek help         tified as belonging to a group that differs in some
       from supervisors and consultants when needed.                   respect from the majority of others in society, that
                                                                       person is subject to the effects of human diversity.
       Competency 2: The Application of Social Work                        Because social workers have a wide variety of cli-
       Ethical Principles to Guide Practice                            ents, demonstrating almost every type of need and
       From the many times they’ve been mentioned                      problem, they must be integrally familiar with the
       already, you probably have noticed that social work             concept of human diversity. Four facets are especially
       values and ethics are critical to social work prac-             significant. First, social workers must appreciate
       tice. They help practitioners assess what’s important           differences and focus on strengths. Second, they must
       or right in any situation and provide guidelines for            be sensitive to and address any hardships and nega-
       making ethical decisions and good judgment calls.               tive treatment clients may face because they belong
       Professional social workers should demonstrate                  to some diverse group. Third, they must introspec-
       competency in recognizing personal values and in                tively assess their own attitudes and strive to elimi-
       employing “principles of ethical reasoning to arrive            nate any prejudices they might have. Fourth, social
       at principled decisions” (CSWE, 2008b, p. 4).                   workers must see themselves as lifelong learners
           The NASW Code of Ethics mentioned earlier                   about the many facets of human diversity, especially
       provides some basic guidelines for social work prac-            those characterizing their clients. Chapter 3 examines
       titioners, as does the International Federation of              various aspects of human diversity in more depth.
       Social Workers/International Association of Schools
       of Social Work Ethics in Social Work Statement of               Competency 5: The Advancement
       Principles. Chapter 2 reviews values, ethics, and some          of Human Rights and Social and
       of the issues involved more thoroughly.                         Economic Justice
                                                                       The concepts of human rights and social and eco-
       Competency 3: The Application of                                nomic justice are related to the concept of human
       Critical Thinking to Inform Professional                        diversity. Human rights involve the premise that all
       Judgments                                                       people, regardless of race, culture, or national ori-
       We have already stressed the importance of criti-               gin, are entitled to basic rights and treatment. Social
       cal thinking. It is defined as (1) the careful scrutiny         justice is the idea that in a perfect world all citizens

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                                                                                       Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare    23

              would have identical “rights, protection, opportuni-             become more effective in their direct practice by
              ties, obligations, and social benefits” (Barker, 2003,           choosing interventions that have been proven suc-
              p. 405). Similarly, economic justice involves the distri-        cessful, thereby getting better and clearer results.
              bution of resources in a fair and equitable manner.              Framing social work interventions so they can be
              Social work graduates must demonstrate competency                evaluated through research provides information
              in understanding these concepts and their theoretical            about which specific techniques work best with
              bases; social workers must advocate on the behalf of             which problems. Evaluation of practice throughout
              these principles and incorporate the principles into             the intervention process can help determine whether
              their practice (CSWE, 2008b, p. 5).                              a worker is really helping a client.
                  Another important concept in social work is                     Second, accumulated research helps build a foun-
              populations-at-risk, groups of people with some iden-            dation for planning effective interventions. Knowl-
              tified characteristics that are at greater risk of social        edge of what has worked best in the past provides
              and economic deprivation than those in the main-                 guidelines for approaches and techniques to be used
              stream. Because social work practice involves getting            in the present and in the future. Research establishes
              people resources and helping them solve problems,                the basis for the development of programs and poli-
              social workers frequently work with populations-                 cies that affect many people. Such knowledge can also
              at-risk of such deprivations. It follows that social             be used to generate new theories and ideas to further
              workers need information and insight concerning                  enhance the effectiveness of social work practice.
              these people’s special issues and needs. Therefore,
              social workers require both theoretical and practice             Evidence-Based Practice Another term frequently
              content concerning the dynamics and results of dif-              used in social work, which has a meaning similar to
              ferential, unfair treatment.                                     research-informed practice, is evidence-based practice.
                  One especially important social work value is                This is “the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use
              empowerment—the “process of increasing personal,                 of current best evidence in making decisions about
              interpersonal, or political power so that individu-              the care of clients” (Gambrill, 2000, p. 46; Race,
              als can take action to improve their life situations”            2008; Rubin, 2008). Gambrill (2000) explains:
              (Gutierrez, 2001, p. 210). Some groups of people suf-
              fer from stereotypes, discrimination, and oppression.               It involves integrating individual practice exper-
              It is social work’s task to empower clients in general              tise with the best available external evidence from
              and members of oppressed groups in particular.                      systematic research as well as considering the val-
                                                                                  ues and expectations of clients. External research
              Competency 6: Engagement in                                         findings related to problems are drawn on if they
              Research-Informed Practice                                          are available and they apply to a particular client.
              Social work students must demonstrate competency                    Involving clients as informed participants in a col-
              in research-informed practice. This means social work-              laborative helping relationship is a hallmark of
              ers should use the approaches and interventions in                  evidence-based practice. Clients are fully informed
              their practice that research has determined are effec-              about the risks and benefits of recommended ser-
              tive. Social workers should employ “research find-                  vices as well as alternatives (including the alterna-
              ings to improve practice, policy, and social service                tive of doing nothing). . . . The term evidence-based
              delivery” (CSWE, 2008b, p. 5). Social workers might                 practice is preferable to the term empirical prac-
              also have opportunities to participate in practice-                 tice. The latter term now seems to be applied to
              based research. This research, which closely involves               material that has been published, whether or not it
              the everyday work of practitioners, focuses on col-                 is evidence-based. Such use represents an appeal to
              lecting data and providing results directly related                 authority (not evidence). (pp. 46–47)
              to the processes of social work practice (Tripodi &
              Lalayants, 2008, p. 518). Social work programs have              Content of Social Work Research The content of
              traditionally included a “Social Work Research”                  social work research tends to fall within four major
              course or sequence of courses in their curricula.                categories (Reid, 1995; Tripodi & Lalayants, 2008).
                  Knowledge of social work research is important               First, many studies involve the behavior of individ-
              for two basic reasons. First, it can help social workers         ual clients and their interactions with others close to

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       24   The Profession of Social Work

       them, including families and small groups. Second,              the effects of social welfare policies are all aspects
       much research focuses on how services are provided              of people’s lives that can fall under scrutiny. Focus
       to clients, what such services involve, and how suc-            on Critical Thinking 1.4 provides an example of how
       cessfully they accomplish their goals. Third, some              social workers might focus on the environmental
       studies address social workers’ attitudes and educa-            context of a problem.
       tional backgrounds, in addition to major trends in
       the profession. Fourth, some research involves the              Competency 8: Engagement in Policy Practice
       study of “organizations, communities, and social                to Advance Social and Economic Well-Being
       policy” (Reid, 1995, p. 2044). This latter category             Social workers must understand social welfare poli-
       emphasizes the importance of the larger social envi-            cies, their history, and how they affect work with cli-
       ronment and its effects on clients’ behavior and                ents. Policy, in its simplest form, can be thought of
       conditions.                                                     as rules. Our lives and those of social workers’ cli-
                                                                       ents are governed by rules—about how we drive our
       Competency 7: Application of Knowledge of                       cars, when we go to school, how we talk or write sen-
       Human Behavior and the Social Environment                       tences, and so on. (Note that Chapter 6 explores the
       Social workers must be knowledgeable about human                history of social welfare policy development.)
       behavior and the social environment. We have estab-                Policies, in essence, are rules that tell us which actions
       lished that focusing on people’s functioning within             among a multitude of actions we may take and which
       the environmental context is an important thrust of             we may not. Policies guide our work and our decisions.
       social work. Only after assessing and understanding             For the purpose of understanding social welfare and
       that functioning can social workers proceed with an             the provision of social welfare services, policy might be
       intervention plan. Social workers should have knowl-            divided into two major categories: social welfare policy
       edge of “biological, social, cultural, psychological,           and agency policy. Social welfare policies are the laws
       and spiritual development” as this occurs over the              and regulations that govern which social welfare pro-
       lifespan (CSWE, 2008b, p. 6). “Human Behavior                   grams exist, what categories of clients are served, and
       and the Social Environment” is the basis for another            who qualifies for a given program. They also set stan-
       course or sequence of courses traditionally included            dards regarding the type of services to be provided and
       in the social work curriculum.                                  the qualifications of the service provider.
           People are constantly and dynamically involved in              In addition to the broader realm of social welfare
       ongoing activity and communication with others in               policies, agency policies are standards adopted by
       the environment. Assessment is the identification of            individual organizations and programs that provide
       the “nature and extent of client needs and concerns,            services (e.g., a family service agency, a Department
       as well as critical information about client resources          of Human Services, or a nursing home). Such stan-
       and supports and other environment factors” so                  dards may specify the agency’s structure, the qual-
       that a helping plan can be devised and implemented              ifications of supervisors and workers, the rules
       (Blythe & Reithoffer, 2000, p. 551). Social work                governing what workers can do, and the proper pro-
       assessment seeks to discover what in any particular             cedures for completing a family assessment.
       situation causes a problem to continue despite the                 Knowledge of policy is vital for social workers.
       client’s expressed wish to change it. Focusing on the           An organization’s policy can dictate how much vaca-
       environment means looking not only at individuals               tion an employee can have and how raises are earned.
       themselves but also at their involvement with fam-              An adoption agency’s policy can determine who is
       ily members, neighbors, work colleagues, the politi-            eligible to adopt a child. A social program’s policies
       cal system, and agencies providing services within              determine who gets needed services and resources.
       the community. This means that clients’ problems                   Social workers must become actively involved in
       are not viewed solely as their own fault. The forces            establishing and changing social welfare policies for
       surrounding the client frequently cause or contrib-             the benefit of their clients; policies determine how
       ute to problems, so social workers must focus their             money is budgeted and spent, and where resources
       assessment on many levels. How the client and the               are made available for clients. Practitioners must be
       problem fit into the larger scheme of things is criti-          competent in undertaking policy practice to enhance
       cal. Poverty, discrimination, social pressures, and             people’s well-being and deliver effective social work

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                                                                                          Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare   25

                            FOCUS ON CRITICAL THINKING 1.4

                            Focusing on the Environment Context
                            of Problems
                  Trevor is a 15-year-old gang member in an inner city.           beyond a focus on the individual to assess the many
                  The gang is involved in drug dealing, which, of course,         environmental impacts and interactions gives the social
                  is illegal. However, when assessing the situation and           worker a better understanding of the whole situation.
                  potential actions, a broader perspective is necessary.          The answer might not be to send Trevor to the state
                  Looking at how the environment encourages and even              juvenile correctional facility for a year or two and then
                  supports the illegal activity is critical in understanding      return him to the same community with the same
                  how to solve the problem. Trevor’s father is no longer          friends and same problems. Such a “remedy” focuses
                  involved with Trevor’s family. Now it’s only Trevor, his        on the individual in a very limited manner.
                  mother, and three younger brothers. Trevor’s mother                 A social work perspective views Trevor as a person
                  works a 6-day-per-week, 9-hour-per-day second-shift             who’s acting as part of a family and a community.
                  job at Harry’s Hole, a local all-night diner, where she         Trevor is affected, influenced, supported, and limited
                  slings burgers. Although she loves her children dearly,         by his immediate environment. Continuing along this
                  she can barely make ends meet and has little time to            line of thought, other questions can be raised: How
                  supervise them.                                                 might Trevor’s environment be changed? What other
                      All of the neighborhood kids belong to one gang or          alternatives could be made available to him?
                  another. It gives them a sense of identity and importance,          Many alternatives would involve major changes in
                  and it provides social support that often is lacking in their   the larger systems around him. Neighborhood youth
                  families. Easy access to drugs offers an opportunity to         centers with staff serving as positive role models
                  escape from impoverished, depressing, and apparently            could be developed as an alternative to gang member-
                  hopeless conditions. Finally, gang membership gives these       ship. Trevor’s school system could be evaluated. Does
                  young people a source of income. In fact, they can get          it have enough resources to give him a good educa-
                  relatively large amounts of money in a hurry.                   tion? Is there a teacher who could serve as his mentor
                      The gang members’ alternatives appear grim. There           and enthusiastic supporter? Can a mentorship system
                  are few, if any, positive role models to show them              be established within the school? Are scholarships
                  other ways of existence. They don’t see their peers or          and loans available to offer him a viable alternative of
                  adults close to them becoming corporate lawyers, sur-           college or trade school? Can positive role models
                  geons, or nuclear physicists. They don’t even see any-          demonstrate to Trevor and his peers that other ways
                  one who is going or has gone to college. In fact,               of life may be open to them? Where might the
                  finishing high school is considered quite a feat. Neigh-        resources for implementation of any of these ideas
                  borhood unemployment runs at more than 50%. A                   come from?
                  few part-time, minimum-wage jobs are available—                     Concerning Trevor’s family environment, can addi-
                  cleaning washrooms at Bugger’s Burger Bungalow or               tional resources be provided? These might include food
                  unloading freight at Shirley’s Shop-Right. But these            and housing assistance, quality day care for his younger
                  are unappealing alternatives to the immediate sources           brothers, and even educational opportunities for Trev-
                  of gratification and income provided by gang mem-               or’s mother so that she, too, could see a brighter future.
                  bership and drug dealing. Even if another minimal               Is there a Big Brother organization to provide support
                  source of income could be found, the other rewarding            for Trevor and his siblings? Can the neighborhood be
                  aspects of gang membership would be lost. Also,                 made a better place to live? Can crime be curbed and
                  there’s the all-consuming problem of having no posi-            housing conditions improved?
                  tive future to look forward to, so the excitement of the            There obviously are no easy answers. Scarcity of
                  present remains seductive.                                      resources remains a fundamental problem. However,
                      This is not to say that it’s right for people like Trevor   this illustration is intended to show how a social worker
                  to join vicious gangs and participate in illegal activities.    would look at a variety of options and targets of
                  Nor does it mean that Trevor’s plight is hopeless. Going        change, and not just at Trevor.

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       26   The Profession of Social Work

       services. Policy practice involves “efforts to change           engagement, assessment, intervention, and evalua-
       policies in legislative, agency, and community set-             tion (CSWE, 2008b; Kirst-Ashman & Hull, 2009).
       tings, whether by establishing new policies, improv-            Engagement is the initial period when practitioners
       ing existing ones, or defeating the policy initiatives          orient themselves to the problem at hand and begin to
       of other people” (Jansson, 2008, p. 14).                        establish communication and relationships with others
           Sometimes, for whatever reason, social welfare              also addressing the problem. We have established that
       policies are unfair or oppressive to clients. Ironically,       assessment involves the investigation and determina-
       although such policies are intended to enhance people’s         tion of variables affecting an identified problem includ-
       welfare, sometimes they do not. A social worker may             ing the client’s needs and strengths. Intervention is the
       decide that a policy is ethically or morally intolerable        planning and implementation of the plan to solve the
       and advocate on the behalf of clients to try to change          problem and achieve goals. Evaluation is “a process of
       it. Practitioners can work to change policy “to improve         determining whether a given change effort was worth-
       social justice, fairness, and equality,” potentially affect-    while” (Kirst-Ashman & Hull, 2009, p. 269). Other
       ing “well-being for the overwhelming majority of                skills involved in social work practice include “provid-
       citizens” (Iatridis, 1995, p. 1865). Traditional social         ing leadership for policies and services” and “promot-
       work curricula typically include a course or sequence           ing social and economic justice” (CSWE, 2008b, p. 7).
       of courses on “Social Welfare Policy and Services.”                The second important dimension inherent in Com-
           Social welfare policy sets the stage for what social        petency 10 is that practice involves working with indi-
       workers can do in practice; Chapter 7 explores the              viduals, families, groups, organizations (large and
       topic more thoroughly. Other chapters discuss many              small), and communities. The acquisition of practice
       types of social welfare policies that affect various cli-       skills for use in all of these contexts is what makes social
       ent populations and social work practices.                      work useful and practical. Skills provide the muscle to
                                                                       make social work practice effective. Traditional social
       Competency 9: Responsiveness to Contexts                        work curricula typically incorporate a sequence of
       that Shape Practice                                             “Social Work Practice” courses that address the con-
       Social workers must demonstrate competency in                   tent described in Competencies 9 and 10.
       functioning within a wide variety of contexts and set-             The social work knowledge base includes infor-
       tings. They must understand the dynamics involved               mation about skills in addition to data concerning
       in macro environments like organizations, com-                  problems and services. A social worker must know
       munities, and legislative bodies that establish social          what skills will be most effective in what situations.
       welfare policies. Practitioners must function with                 Consider a family whose home suddenly burns
       and within these systems, serving as leaders to advo-           to the ground. Its members need immediate shel-
       cate on the behalf of clients. They must keep abreast           ter. The social worker decides it’s necessary to
       of new technology, demographic changes, and social              use brokering skills—that is, skills for seeking out
       trends in order to respond to current issues.                   and linking people with the resources they need.
          Competency 9 reflects an aspect of social work               In this situation, brokering skills take precedence
       practice that is closely related to Competency 10,              over other skills. For instance, using less directive
       which is described next.                                        counseling techniques to explore the relationship
                                                                       between the spouses is inappropriate at this time
       Competency 10: Engagement, Assessment,                          because there is no current evidence of need. Such
       Intervention, and Evaluation with Individuals,                  intervention may be necessary in the future, but
       Families, Groups, Organizations,                                only after the immediate crisis of a lack of shelter
       and Communities                                                 has been resolved.
       Social workers must be competent in employing                      Social workers can choose from a multitude of
       engagement, assessment, intervention, and evalua-               practice techniques and theories about these tech-
       tion when working with individuals, families, groups,           niques. Knowledge of the effectiveness of vari-
       organizations, and communities. All of these terms              ous techniques is critical to selecting those that can
       are prominent in social work practice, which involves           accomplish the most in a given situation and to imple-
       the doing of social work.                                       menting research-informed practice (Competency 6).
          There are two main dimensions inherent in Com-               Regardless of techniques chosen and used, empha-
       petency 10. First, the process of social work includes          sis is placed on client strengths and empowerment,

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Licensed to: iChapters User

                                                                                           Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare   27

              ongoing client collaboration at all stages of the                    Association of Social Workers (NASW) branch office,
              change process, and appreciation of diversity (Pin-                  policy-related placements such as legislative offices,
              derhughes, 1995). The foundation of social work                      or placements in community organizations, provided
              practice is generalist practice, discussed next.                     appropriate social work supervision is established.
                                                                                   BSW placements require a minimum of 400 hours
              Generalist Practice                                                  and MSW placements a minimum of 900 hours.
              Generalist practice incorporates all 10 competencies                 Many social work students find their field education
              and forms the heart of work education and social                     to be the high point of their educational experience.
              work practice. It distinguishes social work from
              other professions. Generalist practice is the appli-
              cation of an eclectic knowledge base,3 professional                  Chapter Summary
              values, and a wide range of skills to target any size                The following summarizes this chapter’s content as
              system for change within the context of four pri-                    it relates to the chapter objectives presented at the
              mary processes (Kirst-Ashman & Hull, 2009). First,                   beginning of the chapter. Objectives include the
              generalist practice emphasizes client empowerment.                   following:
              Second, it involves working effectively within an
              organizational structure and doing so under super-                   A Define social work and social welfare.
              vision. Third, it requires the assumption of a wide
              range of professional roles. Fourth, it involves the                 Social work is the professional activity of helping indi-
              application of critical thinking skills to the planned-              viduals, groups, or communities enhance or restore
              change (intervention) process. Chapter 4 elaborates                  their capacity for social functioning and creating soci-
              further on generalist practice. Note that BSW pro-                   etal conditions favorable to this goal. Social welfare is
              grams prepare graduates for generalist practice by                   a nation’s system of programs, benefits, and services
              providing curricula that integrate all 10 competen-                  that help people meet those social, economic, educa-
              cies (CSWE, 2008b).                                                  tional, and health needs that are fundamental to the
                                                                                   maintenance of society.
              Advanced Practice
              Advanced practice, which characterizes MSW curri-                    B Explain critical thinking and provide a
              cula, provides a specialized concentration that builds                 framework for examining a wide range of
              upon a generalist practice foundation. For instance,                   concepts and issues.
              concentrations might include a specialization in                     Critical thinking is (1) the careful scrutiny of what
              mental health, school social work, work with chil-                   is stated as true or what appears to be true and the
              dren and families, corrections, health, social services              resulting expression of an opinion or conclusion
              administration, or community organization.                           based on that scrutiny, and (2) the creative formu-
                                                                                   lation of an opinion or conclusion when presented
              Field Education                                                      with a question, problem, or issue. Examining and
              Field education is considered the “signature pedagogy”               evaluating facts and issues involve three steps: (1) ask
              of social work education by CSWE; “signature peda-                   questions; (2) assess the established facts and issues
              gogy represents the central form of instruction and                  involved; and (3) assert a concluding opinion.
              learning in which a profession socializes its students
              to perform the role of practitioner” (CSWE, 2008b,                   C Discuss residual, institutional, and
              p. 8). Field education provides a real-life experience in              developmental perspectives on social welfare.
              a social work setting where student social workers are
              placed and can practice their skills under supervision.              The residual perspective conceives of social welfare
              Placement settings may vary. They include social ser-                as focusing on problems and gaps. The institutional
              vice agencies, hospitals, schools, correctional facilities,          perspective of social welfare views people’s needs as
              organizational placements such as a state National                   a normal part of life. Society has a responsibility to
                                                                                   support its members and provide needed benefits
                                                                                   and services. The developmental perspective seeks
              3The term eclectic refers to “selecting what appears to be best in   to identify social interventions that have a positive
              various doctrines, methods, or styles” (Mish, 1995, p. 365).         impact on economic development.

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28   The Profession of Social Work

D Explain the conservative–liberal continuum with               ics, biology, psychiatry, counseling, and cultural
  respect to viewing the social welfare system.                 anthropology.
Conservatism is the philosophy that individuals are             I Discuss the uniqueness of social work.
responsible for themselves, government should pro-
vide minimal interference in people’s lives, and change         Social work is unique in that it focuses on people’s
is generally unnecessary. Liberalism is the philosophy          most difficult problems, often targets the environ-
that government should be involved in the social,               ment for change, stresses the need for advocacy on
political, and economic structure so that all people’s          a client’s behalf, stems from a core of professional
rights and privileges are protected in the name of              values, and emphasizes the importance of working
social justice. Radicalism is the philosophy that the           in a partnership with clients.
social and political system as it stands is not structur-
                                                                J Identify some basic concepts in systems theories
ally capable of truly providing social justice, so fun-
damental changes in those systems are necessary.                  and the ecological perspective that are important
                                                                  for understanding social work.
E Examine your personal attitudes about some                    Important concepts in systems theories and the eco-
  social welfare issues.                                        logical perspective relevant to social work practice
Responding to issues and questions regarding the                include system (micro, mezzo, and macro), client
importance of change and the responsibility of                  system, social environment, and coping.
government can help an individual determine his
or her personal stance on the conservative–liberal              K Describe social work education’s goals,
continuum.                                                        curriculum, and competencies.
                                                                The Council on Social Work Education’s Educational
F Explain social work’s fields of practice.                     Policy and Accreditation Standards require that
Fields of practice in social work include children and          accredited social work programs prove that students
families, aging, disabilities, health, mental health,           demonstrate 10 competencies. These competencies
substance abuse, schools, and corrections. Other                are stated and explained. Courses offered in tradi-
contexts for practice are occupational social work,             tional social work curricula are identified. The core
rural social work, police social work, and forensic             social work concepts of general practice, advanced
social work.                                                    practice, and field education are introduced.

G Explore the process of choosing a career.
                                                                LOOKING AHEAD
The continuum of social work careers includes bac-
calaureate social workers (BSWs), master’s social               This chapter introduced the basic concept of social
workers (MSWs), and social workers who have doc-                welfare and the foundations of the social work
torates in social work (Ph.D. or DSW). When con-                profession. The next chapter focuses on social work
sidering a career, it’s important to think about your           values and ethics, a primary content area that under-
general orientation toward the future, the extent to            lies and guides the social work profession.
which you are people-oriented versus non-people-
oriented, the ways in which you would like to work
with people, what majors are available, and what
                                                                FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION
type of social work you would like to practice.                 ON THE INTERNET
                                                                See this text’s Website at
H Address how social work builds on                             social_work/kirst-ashman for learning tools such as
  other disciplines.                                            tutorial quizzing, Web links, glossary, flashcards,
Social work builds on many disciplines including                and PowerPoint® slides.
psychology, sociology, political science, econom-

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