Jill Doner Kagle
Social workers keep records to demonstrate accountability to their agencies, clients, communities, and profession. They also record to enhance practice and support a variety of administrative functions. This entry describes the history of recordkeeping in social work, and identifies important contributions to its development. The author discusses current issues related to computerization, wide access to sensitive personal information in records, and privacy legislation. The entry also outlines the characteristics of good records, those that meet the complex demands of contemporary practice.
John M. Herrick
Social policy is how a society responds to social problems. Any government enactment that affects the well-being of people, including laws, regulations, executive orders, and court decisions, is a social policy. In the United States, with its federal tradition of shared government, social policies are made by governments at many levels—local, state, and national. A broad view of social policy recognizes that corporations and both nonprofit and for-profit social-service agencies also develop policies that affect customers and those they serve and therefore have social implications. Social policies affect society and human behavior, and their importance for social-work practice has long been understood by the social-work profession. Modern social welfare policies, which respond to basic human needs such as health care, housing food, and employment, have evolved since their introduction during the New Deal of the 1930s as responses to the Great Depression. In the aftermath of the recent “Great Recession” that began in 2006, the nation has once again experienced the kinds of social problems that led to the creation of innovative social welfare policies in the 1930s. How policy makers respond to human needs depends on who has the power to make policy and how they conceptualize human needs and the most effective ways to respond to them. In the early 21st century, the idea that the state should guarantee the welfare and well-being of its citizens through progressive welfare state policies and services has few adherents among policy makers. The complex social problems resulting from the recession—the highest unemployment since the Great Depression of the 1930s, escalating budget deficits at all levels of government, an unprecedented housing crisis exemplified by massive foreclosures, increasing social and economic inequality, a nation polarized by corrosive political conflict and incivility—create a context in which social policies are debated vociferously. Social workers, long committed to the ideal of social justice for all, are obligated to understand how policies affect their practice as well as the lives of those they serve and to advocate for policies that will improve social well-being as the United States recovers.
Phyllis J. Day
American social welfare began in the colonial period with the adoption of the Elizabethan Poor Laws as the basis for treatment of society's poor and deviant. By the beginning of the Progressive Era (1900), immigration, the Women's Movement, scientific investigation of social problems, and societal growth produced significant innovations in both public and private perceptions, programs, and treatment in such areas as poor relief, mental and physical health, and corrections, and led to the beginnings of professionalization of social work.
This entry traces American social welfare development from the 1890s to 1950. It also includes social work's participation and response to need during two critical times in American history: the Progressive Era and the New Deal. Social reformers were instrumental in the development of social legislation, including the establishment of the Children's Bureau as well as the development of a public welfare system at the state level. America's response to human suffering left many groups, such American Indians, African Americans, and Asians, marginalized. In response, African Americans established a parallel system of private relief through organizations such as the National Urban League, unlike the other racial groups.
Philip R. Popple
Formal or institutional social services began in the United States in the late 19th century as a response to problems that were rapidly increasing as a result of modernization. These services were almost entirely private until the Great Depression in the 1930s when the government became involved via provisions of the Social Security Act. Services expanded greatly, beginning in the 1960s when the federal government developed a system wherein services were supported by public funds but provided through contracts with private agencies. This trend has continued and expanded, resulting in a uniquely American system wherein private agencies serve as vehicles for government social service policy.
Kay S. Hoffman
Education in social work has seen considerable growth over the course of the 20th century. Social work education in the United States began with only a few training programs established in partnership with charitable organizations at the end of the 19th century (Austin, 1997), and has grown to 641 accredited baccalaureate and master's programs at of the February, 2007 Commission on Accreditation meeting, and over 70 doctoral programs (Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education, 2007). These programs represent over 7,000 faculty and administrators and over 60,000 students at the baccalaureate and master's level (Council on Social Education, 2007). Social work education is available at the baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral level with at least one level of program represented in each of the states, as well as in the United States' Territories of Puerto Rico and Guam. Concentrations and specializations are offered in programs in many areas from practice levels (for example, direct practice, policy analysis) or areas of interest (for example, child welfare, medical social work, housing policy). Current trends in social work education include the use of distance education, the call for more accountability from accrediting bodies and social work programs (Watkins & Pierce 2005), and work toward unification in social work professional organizations (Hoffman, 2006).
James E. Lubben
Social work doctoral education in the U.S. commenced almost 100 years ago. Although initial growth was slow, the number of universities offering doctoral degrees in social work has rapidly grown over the last 25 years. During this time, the Group to Advance Doctoral Education (GADE) in social work has fostered excellence. There is considerable variation in program emphasis. Financial support for doctoral education in social work appears to be growing along with employment opportunities for graduates. Emerging trends and issues will pose major challenges for doctoral education in social work.
Philip M. Ouellette and David Wilkerson
The growth in technological advances in recent years has revolutionized the way we teach, learn, and practice social work. Due to increases in educational costs and the need for students to maintain family and work responsibilities, an increasing number of social work programs have turned to today’s advances in technology to deliver their courses and programs. This change has resulted in the creative use of new multimedia tools and online pedagogical strategies to offer distance web-based educational programming. With increases in technology-supported programs, recent research studies have identified a number of areas needing further investigation to ensure that quality distance education programs are developed.
Gary L. Shaffer
Field education has played a significant role in the professional development of social workers since the beginning of the last century. Although the apprenticeship model of training continues to play a significant role, variations on this theme have been explored and continue to be developed in response to political, academic, and economic challenges. Technological advances will enable programs to expand field education into new communities, both nationally and internationally. In addition, changes in educational policy and accreditation guidelines have the potential to revitalize the role of field education and increase research efforts devoted to this important component of professional education.
Elizabeth D. Hutchison
This entry provides a brief history of social work's changing knowledge base about human behavior and identifies the current knowledge base as multidimensional, multispherical, multicultural, multidirectional, multidisciplinary, and multitheoretical. It provides an overview of eight broad theoretical perspectives currently used in social work: systems, conflict, rational choice, social constructionist, psychodynamic, developmental, social behavioral, and humanistic perspectives. Each perspective is analyzed in terms of its central ideas, practice implications, and empirical evidence. The entry ends with a brief discussion of trends and directions.