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.
Reeta Wolfsohn and Dorlee Michaeli
Financial well-being is an individual responsibility in twenty-first century America, even though research reveals a serious inability for many Americans to attain it. Social workers have the education and training to help people modify behavior and a history of working with low-income and minority families, as well as the skills to engage and empower clients, making them the best professionals to help Americans take control of their money and their lives. This article explains how incorporating financial-literacy skills and models of financial behavioral change into the social work curriculum would benefit both social workers and their clients. It describes the financial social work model and an understanding of its relevance to the social work profession.
Valire Carr Copeland and Sandra Wexler
Despite technological advances and changes in healthcare delivery, some groups in the United States continue to have better health-related outcomes than others. This article discusses health disparities—differences in health status and healthcare utilization that are influenced by complex social structural, economic, and cultural factors. Illustrations are offered of health disparities found among diverse populations in this country. The “problem” with health disparities is then explored. From an ethical standpoint, health disparities can be seen as unjust. From a cost perspective, health disparities exact not just a financial toll that is borne by society, but individual, group, and community consequences, as well. From a human rights vantage, health disparities can further disadvantage people who are already vulnerable and marginalized—health disparities can cost people their lives. Factors contributing to health disparities, commonly referred to as social determinants, are reviewed. Finally, future directions, including social workers’ role as advocates, are considered.
Michele Rountree and Courtney McElhaney Peebles
Communities of color are disproportionately burdened by the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Research has shown that race and ethnicity in the United States are population characteristics that correlate with other fundamental determinants of health outcomes. This entry will chronicle the history of the epidemic, report the disparate impact of the disease affecting communities of color, and acknowledge the social determinants of health that contribute to the vulnerability of risk. A call to address the imbalance of health inequities, with a complement of individual-level interventions and new approaches that address the interpersonal, network, community, and societal influences of disease transmission, is discussed.
Yin-Ling Irene Wong
This entry provides an overview of contemporary homelessness as a major social problem in the United States, focusing on the definition of homelessness and its prevalence, as well as on the composition and characteristics of the homeless population. It then discusses the dynamics and causes of homelessness and examines policy responses toward homelessness since the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987. The entry points to the multifaceted nature of homelessness and highlights promising interventions that have shown to be effective in addressing homelessness among members of special needs populations.
Michael A. Dover
Human need and related concepts such as basic needs have long been part of the implicit conceptual foundation for social work theory, practice, and research. However, while the published literature in social work has long stressed social justice, and has incorporated discussion of human rights, human need has long been both a neglected and contested concept. In recent years, the explicit use of human needs theory has begun to have a significant influence on the literature in social work.
Ruth Paris and Ellen R. DeVoe
In this entry we address the primary purpose of family in supporting the growth and development of individual members throughout the life course. Life cycle and attachment theories inform our understanding of how families function. Changing family patterns are addressed in terms of the variety of family forms, the multiplicity of needs as economies shift and life expectancy lengthens, family coping and adaptation to normative transitions and unexpected crises, and the influence of cultural and racial diversity. We conclude with brief comments on the issues for contemporary families and needs for the social work profession.
Toba Schwaber Kerson
Health is a need, a basic requirement for life. Needs can become rights when bodies of people, usually governments or organizations such as the World Health Organization sanction them. While many have declared health as a right, the greatest burden of illness continues to be carried by minority and medically underserved populations. Also, industrialization, urbanization, economic development, and food market globalization have brought with them the poor health habits that place people at risk for cardiovascular and other diseases. Improved health habits and universal health care coverage would help to address the health needs of all.
Edward R. Canda
This entry provides a brief introduction to social work's approach to spirituality and religion, focusing on definitions, history, current practices, ethical and human-diversity issues, relevance to clients, practice applications, best-practices research, and controversies. Emphasis is given to a spiritually sensitive and culturally competent approach to social work that honors diverse religious and nonreligious spiritual perspectives of clients and their communities. Although American social work is the focus, some international developments are included. References and websites are listed to facilitate identification of resources for addressing spiritual diversity in practice.
Susan J. Lambert
This entry traces the development of both theory and empirical knowledge on the relationship between work and mental and physical health. Intrinsic job characteristics continue to shape the extent to which workers find meaning in what they do, and theories of stress and social roles continue to guide research. The field now includes investigations of how work affects personal life and theories that recognize the beneficial health effects of well-designed jobs. Social workers are advised that lower-level jobs come up short on all the positive qualities of employment covered in this entry, placing their workers' mental and physical health at risk.