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|Activity sectors||Pursuit of social welfare and social change through economics, education, sociology, law, medicine, philosophy, politics, anthropology, psychotherapy, psychology and counselling|
Social work is a professional and academic discipline that seeks to improve the quality of life and subjective well-being of individuals, groups, and communities through research, policy, community organizing, direct practice, crisis intervention, and teaching for the benefit of those affected by social disadvantages such as poverty, mental and physical illness or disability, and social injustice, including violations of their civil liberties and human rights. Research is often focused on human development, psychotherapy and counselling, social policy, public administration, social program evaluation, and community development. Social workers typically undergo a systematic set of training and qualifications that are distinct from those of care workers, care assistants or social care workers, who may undertake social work roles but not necessarily have the qualifications of a professional social worker. Social workers are organized into local, national, continental, and international professional bodies. It is an interdisciplinary field that incorporates theoretical bases from economics, education, sociology, law, medicine, philosophy, politics, anthropology, and psychology.
The concept of charity goes back to ancient times, and the practice of providing for the poor has roots in many ancient civilizations and world religions. Even before the rise of modern European states, the church was providing social services. The earliest organized social welfare activity of the Christian church was the formation of burial societies, followed closely by provision of alms to the poor, shelter for the homeless, and care and comfort for the sick. Monasteries often served as comprehensive social service agencies, acting as hospitals, homes for the aged, orphanages, and travelers' aid stations. It was not until the emergence of industrialization and urbanization that the informal helping systems of the church and family began to break down and organized social welfare services emerged to supplant it.
The profession of social work is generally considered to have developed from three movements: the charity organization society (COS) movement, the settlement house movement, and a third, less clearly defined movement, the development of institutions to deal with the entire range of social problems. All had their most rapid growth during the nineteenth century, and all grew out of the church.
Social work has its roots in the social and economic upheaval wrought by the Industrial Revolution, in particular the societal struggle to deal with poverty and its resultant problems. Because poverty was the main focus of early social work, it was intricately linked with the idea of charity work,. For instance, it is common for modern social workers to find themselves dealing with consequences arising from other "social problems" such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and discrimination based on age or on physical or mental disability.
Whereas social casework started on a more scientific footing aimed at directing and reforming individuals (at one stage supporting the notion that poverty was a disease), other models of social work arising out of the Settlement House movement, led by activists such as Jane Addams, emphasized political activism and community solutions. Currently, social work is known for its critical and holistic approach to understanding and intervening in social problems. This has led, for example, to the recognition of poverty as having a social and economic basis rooted in social policies rather than representing a personal moral defect. This trend also points to another historical development in the evolution of social work: once a profession engages in social control, it is directed at social and personal empowerment. This is not to say that modern social workers do not engage in social control (consider, for example, child protection workers), and many, if not most, social workers likely would agree that there is an ongoing tension between these forces within the profession. For example, see the debate between structural social work and humanistic social work.<need to add references to Jane Addams and more sources on history of the profession>
Contemporary professional development
The International Federation of Social Workers says of social work today that
"social work bases its methodology on a systematic body of evidence-based knowledge derived from research and practice evaluation, including local and indigenous knowledge specific to its context. It recognizes the complexity of interactions between human beings and their environment, and the capacity of people both to be affected by and to alter the multiple influences upon them including bio-psychosocial factors. The social work profession draws on theories of human development, social theory and social systems to analyze complex situations and to facilitate individual, organizational, social and cultural changes."
It seven core functions are described by Popple and Leighninger as:
- Engagement- the social worker must first engage the client in early meetings to promote a collaborative relationship.
- Assessment- data must be gathered that will guide and direct a plan of action to help the client
- Planning- negotiate and formulate an action plan
- Implementation- promote resource acquisition and enhance role performance
- Monitoring/Evaluation- on-going documentation through short-term goal attainment of extent to which client is following through
- Supportive Counseling- affirming, challenging, encouraging, informing, and exploring options
- Graduated Disengagement- Seeking to replace the social worker with a naturally occurring resource
Six other core values[clarification needed] are:
- Service- help people in need and address social problems
- Social Justice- challenge social injustices
- Respect the dignity and worth of the person
- Give importance to human relationships
- Integrity- behave in a trustworthy manner
- Competence- practice within the areas of one's areas of expertise and develop and enhance professional skills
The education of social workers begins with a Bachelor's degree (BA, BSc, BSSW, BSW, etc.) or diploma in Social Work. Some countries offer Postgraduate degrees in Social Work, such as a master's degree (MSW, MSS, MA, MSc, MRes, MPhil.) or doctoral studies (PhD and DSW (Doctor of Social Work)). Increasingly, graduates of social work programs pursue post-masters and post-doctoral study, including training in psychotherapy.
In the United States, social work undergraduate and master's programs are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. A CSWE-accredited degree is required for one to become a state-licensed social worker.
A number of countries and jurisdictions requires registration or licensure of people working as social workers, and there are mandated qualifications. In other places, a professional association sets academic requirements for admission to the profession. The success of these professional bodies' efforts is demonstrated in that these same requirements are recognized by employers as necessary for employment.
Social workers have a number of professional associations, which provide ethical guidance and other forms of support for their members and for social work in general. These associations may be international, continental, semi-continental, national, or regional. The main international associations are the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW).
The largest professional social work association in the United States is the National Association of Social Workers. There also exist organizations that represent clinical social workers such as The American Association of Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, AAPCSW is a national organization representing social workers who practice psychoanalytic social work and psychonalysis. There are also a number of states with Clinical Social Work Societies which represent all social workers who conduct psychotherapy from a variety of theoretical frameworks with families, groups and individuals.
In the United Kingdom, just over half of social workers are employed by local authorities, and many of these are represented by UNISON, the public sector employee union. Smaller numbers are members of Unite the union and the GMB (trade union). The British Union of Social Work Employees (BUSWE) has been a section of the Community (trade union) since 2008. In 2011, the British Association of Social Workers launched a trade union arm for the second time (it first tried this in 1976) called the Social Workers' Union, but this body is not recognized by the TUC or by any employers.
Role of the professional
The main tasks of professional social workers may include a number of services such as case management (linking clients with agencies and programs that will meet their psychosocial needs - common in the US and the UK), counseling and psychotherapy, human services management, social welfare policy analysis, policy and practice development, community organizing, international, social and community development, advocacy, teaching (in schools of social work), and social and political research.
A historic and defining feature of social work is the profession's focus on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society. Social workers promote social justice and social change with and on behalf of clients. The term "client" is used to refer to individuals, families, groups, organizations, or communities. In the broadening scope of the modern social worker's role, some practitioners have in recent years traveled to war-torn countries to provide psychosocial assistance to families and survivors.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), professional social workers are the nation's largest group of mental health services providers. There are more clinically trained social workers—over 200,000—than psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychiatric nurses combined. Federal law and the National Institutes of Health recognize social work as one of five core mental health professions.
- Approved Mental Health Professional
- Child welfare
- Child sexual abuse
- Clinical social work
- Community development
- Critical social work
- Social work with groups
- Institute of Social Welfare and Research (Dhaka University)
- Mental Health Professional
- Social change
- Social development
- Social planning
- Social research
- Social Scientist
- Social theory
- Popple, Philip R. and Leighninger, Leslie. Socail Work, Social Welfare, American Society.Boston:Allyn&Bacon,2011.Print
- Payne, M. (2011). Humanistic Social Work: Core Principles in Practice. Chicago: Lyceum, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.
- "Definition of Social Work". IFSW General Meeting in Montreal, Canada, July 2000. International Federation of Social Workers. 04/10/2005. Retrieved 2008-02-19.
- Popple & Leighninger, 2011
- The National Association of Social Workers (NASW, 2005). NASW Fact Sheet. Retrieved November 15, 2006 from http://www.socialworkers.org.
- "Catholic Social Workers National Association".
- NASW, Code of Ethics
- Keough, Mary Ellen and Samuels, Margaret F. (October 2004). "The Kosovo Family Support Project:Offering Psychosocial Support for Families with Missing Persons". Social Work 49 (4): 587–594.
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