Conflict resolution is a core competency for social workers, and social workers have contributed greatly to this thriving field. Conflict resolution as a field of practice includes mediation, facilitation, conflict coaching, dispute system design and management, and arbitration. Conflict professionals provide preventative, restorative, substantive, procedural, and decision-making services to people in conflict. The use of conflict resolution processes is rapidly growing in areas of traditional social work practice such as child welfare, special education, family counseling, care of the elderly, and medical care. This is a tremendous potential growth area for social work.
Gaynor Yancey and Diana R. Garland
The social work profession has deep roots in religious practices and organizations. Congregations have served as viable contexts for social work practice from the very beginnings of the profession. In this entry, we examine congregational social work as a field of practice through discussion of definitions, historical development, characteristics of congregations, academic preparation of social workers for this field of practice, review of the literature and research, and ways of strengthening the future of social work in this field of practice.
Human service corporations provide opportunities that social workers are just beginning to recognize. Although the commercial provision of services has negative features, expansion of the for-profit sector bodes well for those professionals willing to consider it as a practice setting. Corporations have become prominent service providers in hospital management, nursing home care, managed care, child care, welfare, and corrections. Because for-profit firms are often more competitive than nonprofit agencies, privatization is likely to contribute to corporatization human services.
Margaret E. Severson
This entry includes contemporary definitions of crime, theoretical ideas about the etiology of criminal behavior, and information about the methods used to estimate crime rates in the United States. The focus of this entry is on adult prisoners. Key issues such as disproportionate minority incarceration, the acceleration in the number of women entering into the criminal justice system over the last 20 years, and the prevalence of persons with mental illnesses in the nation's jails and prisons are addressed. Current controversies and practices such as risk reduction efforts and rehabilitation strategies are described.
Betty Jo Barrett
Since the mid 1980s, a growing body of theoretical and empirical literature has examined the existence of intimate partner violence (IPV) in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities. Collectively, this research has suggested that IPV in rainbow communities occurs at rates comparable to those documented among heterosexual populations and results in similar detrimental psychological, social, and physical consequences for victims. Importantly, however, this work has also highlighted myriad ways in which the social and structural marginalization of gender and sexual minority populations create unique vulnerabilities for IPV that are not shared by cissexual and heterosexual individuals. This entry provides an overview of this scholarship to inform strength-based social work practice with and for LGBT survivors of domestic violence at the macro, mezzo, and micro levels.
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.
Alex Gitterman and Carel B. Germain
Ecological concepts and principles enable social workers to keep a simultaneous focus on people and their environments and their reciprocal relationships, not only in direct practice with individuals, families and groups, but also in influencing organizations and communities and in policy practice. Ecological concepts emphasize the reciprocity of person:environment exchanges, in which each shapes and influences the other over time. Ecological concepts are reviewed.
Ecological social work requires a shift in thinking for social workers because it does not place humans at the center of its concerns. Rather ecological social work puts the interrelationship between humans and nature at its center. This radically de-centered view of humanity aims to bring consideration of the planet and all of its environmental systems into decision making to ensure the sustainability of natural resources for the long term. Ecological principles can guide social work practice, research, and education in ways that promote a transition to sustainable practices in every sphere of life. Widespread ecological consciousness is advocated as an important focus for change by some social work authors promoting this approach. A global consciousness is understood to enable humanity’s capacity to deal with the growing concerns about the survival of planet earth as a suitable habitat for humans, animals, and plants. Humanity’s activities are understood to contribute to the ongoing degradation of fresh water, fertile soils, and pollution of the atmosphere. Drastic changes in the way humans behave and relate to the earth are considered necessary at the global, national, and local levels. Social workers are thus called on to engage with others in taking on significant roles in many areas of practice to facilitate these crucial societal transformations.
Fred H. Besthorn
The earth's climatic and environmental conditions appear to be going through rapid and dramatic changes. Social work has traditionally distinguished itself by claiming a particular focus on person–environment transactions. The balance between the person and the environment has not been easy to maintain—especially with the environmental construct often becoming constricted to small-scale personal space and existing social systems. In the context of a growing environmental crisis and international awareness of the earth's tenuous ecological condition, social work can reclaim its traditional commitment to environmental concerns and find new ways to express and operationalize these concerns in a rapidly changing world.
Katharine Briar-Lawson and Toni Naccarato
Over the decades, family services have been one of the overarching features of social work practice, education, and research. Efficacy studies help to reinforce the focus on serving individuals in the contexts of their families and to address intergenerational family systems. Families provide the bulk of services to their members but require tailored resources, effective services, and supports. The growing diversity in families compels more cross-cultural competence, responsive policies, and evidence-based practices. Family service practitioners must increasingly address the social exclusion of many families while integrating economic and employment supports with counseling, skill training, and other interventions.