Jessica M. Black
Although it was once widely held that development through toddlerhood was the only significant time of tremendous brain growth, findings from neuroscience have identified adolescence as a second significant period of brain-based changes. Profound modification of brain structure, function, and connectivity, paired with heightened sensitivity to environment, places adolescence both as a heightened period of risk and importantly as a time of tremendous opportunity. These findings are of key relevance for social-work policy and practice, for they speak to the ways in which the adolescent brain both is vulnerable to adverse conditions and remains responsive to positive environmental input such as interventions that support recovery and resilience.
Kathleen A. Rounds and Traci L. Wike
Although rates of adolescent pregnancy have exhibited a downward trend since 1991, the United States continues to have a significantly higher rate than other industrialized nations. Adolescent pregnancy, especially in early and middle adolescence, has long-term developmental and economic impact on the teen and her child, in addition to high social costs. This entry describes the current trends in adolescent pregnancy in the United States, and examines factors reported in the research literature as associated with adolescent pregnancy, discusses federal policy directed toward adolescent pregnancy prevention, and identifies various intervention programs.
Shirley Gatenio Gabel
The history of social work is deeply rooted in helping vulnerable populations improve their well-being, and children have been at the forefront of these efforts since the inception of the profession. Health is long understood to be critical to children’s well-being. Social workers who are skilled in integrating different systems can play pivotal roles in engineering new and improving existing health-care infrastructures and can act as advocates for fusing health-service systems with other social infrastructures to optimize outcomes for children. This entry reviews trends in children’s health throughout the world, particularly in the United States. It describes the dramatic improvements in reducing infant mortality, child mortality and morbidity from many infectious diseases as well as accidental and environmental causes, and the unequal progress in realizing children’s health. The challenges that lie ahead that pose risks to children’s health are discussed, including the health inequities created among and within countries by social, economic, and political factors. An argument for a comprehensive, integrated, evidence-based, and cross-disciplinary approach to improve children’s future health is presented.
Barbara L. Jones
Despite rapid medical advances, children in this country still face significant barriers to adequate health care, including unequal access to insurance and health care. Social workers play an important role in assisting children and families facing health care crises by providing supportive services, advocacy, culturally grounded assessment, and evidenced-based interventions to improve care and quality of life. Children face societal risks to their health and development that include violence, exposure to smoking, and access to alcohol and other drugs, as well as poor nutrition and lack of opportunity for exercise. Social work is an important discipline to assist children and families in the areas of health promotion and adaptation to illness and injury.
Wendy Auslander and Elizabeth Budd
The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of: diabetes and its significance, the differences in types of diabetes, and landmark clinical trials that have resulted in changes in philosophy and treatment of diabetes. Second, a review of the various types of evidence-based and promising behavioral interventions in the literature that have targeted children and adults are presented. Social workers and other helping professionals are uniquely positioned to work collaboratively to improve psychosocial functioning, disease management, and prevent or delay complications through behavioral interventions for children and adults with diabetes.
Development of the brain in the first 3 years of life is genetically programmed but occurs in response to environmental stimuli. The brain is organized “from the bottom up,” that is, from simpler to more complex structures and functions, so the experiences and environment that shape early development have consequences that reach far into the future. This entry describes the ontogeny and processes of fetal and infant brain development, as well as major risks to early brain development (during pregnancy and after birth), with emphasis on the factors seen in social-work practice. Neuroscience research is changing social work practice, and understanding early brain development and the contributors to poor development is critical for social workers in medical, mental health, child welfare, and other practice settings.
Since the start of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) pandemic, numerous biomedical advances have caused the social-work response to shift from management of a crisis to prevention of an incurable, but treatable chronic disease. About 1.3 million people in the United States and more than 33 million people worldwide are estimated to be living with HIV. Rates of incidence in impoverished, marginalized communities are highest, with the rates continuing to increase among young African American gay and bisexual men. Other communities at high risk are people who are incarcerated, engage in sex work or other kinds of exchange sex, and participate in risky injection-drug use. Minority groups are often impacted because of reduced access to quality medical care and HIV testing. Social workers in HIV prevention work are challenged to educate clients and communities on the sexual risk continuum, provide more interventions that are culturally tailored for disadvantaged at-risk groups, and implement evidence-based HIV prevention and testing programs worldwide. The National HIV/AIDS Strategy now provides structure to funding opportunities for HIV prevention programs, and there is disparate access to effective treatments worldwide for those living with HIV.
Larry D. Icard, Jacqueline J. Lloyd, and Gisoo Barnes
HIV/AIDS has introduced an array of issues and needs for children, youth, and their families. Family-focused interventions have emerged as a viable strategy for researchers and practitioners seeking effective and appropriate responses for the prevention, treatment, and care of children, youth, and families affected by HIV/AIDS. This discussion provides an overview of the epidemiology of HIV infection among children and youth, and highlights common elements and trends in the development, implementation, and testing of family-focused interventions. The discussion concludes with a commentary on areas for future attention.
Valire Carr Copeland and Daniel Hyung Jik Lee
Social reform efforts of the settlement-house movement have provided, in part, the foundation for today’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s policies, programs, and services. Planning, implementing, and evaluating policies and programs that affect the health and well-being of mothers and children require a multidisciplinary approach. Social workers, whose skills encompass direct services, advocacy, planning and research, community development, and administration, have a critical role to play in improving the health outcomes of maternal and child populations.
Joe M. Schriver
This entry focuses on the transition to independent living process required of youth and young adults who are “aging out” of the foster care system. It addresses the multiple risks and challenges faced by young people who are aging out of care and those of young adults who have “aged out.” This entry addresses existing policies and programs intended to assist youth who are transitioning from care. Current research findings about the experience of these youth over time both prior to and after exiting foster care are presented. Finally, the unique risks and challenges faced by as well as existing resources for LGBTQ youth who are in the process of or who have aged out are presented as an exemplar of unique needs and experiences of youth from vulnerable populations. Attention is also given to the strengths and resiliency of many former foster care youth who successfully make the transition from foster care to independent living.