June Simmons, Sandy Atkins, Janice Lynch Schuster, and Melissa Jones
Transitions in care occur when a patient moves from an institutional setting, such as a hospital or nursing home, to home or community, often with the hope or expectation of improving health status. At the very least, patients, clinicians, and caregivers aim to achieve stability and avoid complications that would precipitate a return to the emergency department (ED) or hospital. For some groups of vulnerable people, especially the very old and frail, such transitions often require specific, targeted coaching and supports that enable them to make the change successfully. Too often, as research indicates, these transitions are poorly executed and trigger a cycle of hospital readmissions and worsening health, even death. In recognizing these perils, organizations have begun to see that by improving the care transition process, they can improve health outcomes and reduce costs while ensuring safety, consistency, and continuity. While some of this improvement relies on medical care, coaching, social services and supports are often also essential. Lack of timely medical follow-up, transportation, inadequate nutrition, medication issues, low health literacy, and poverty present barriers to optimal health outcomes. By addressing social and environmental determinants of health and chronic disease self-management, social workers who make home visits or other proven timely interventions to assess and coach patients and their caregivers are demonstrating real results. This article describes care transitions interventions, research into barriers and opportunities, and specific programs aimed at improvement.
Elizabeth C. Pomeroy, Danielle Parrish, Angela M. Nonaka, and Kathleen H. Anderson
This article reviews existing knowledge on the assessment of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and available screening, prevention, and intervention services. The wide range of preventable conditions associated with FASD throughout the life cycle is described, along with associated high-risk maternal behaviors. In addition, cultural and social determinants are discussed, in an effort to inform social work practice. The differentiation of FASD and protective factors that have been identified as reducing negative outcomes for children and their families affected by prenatal alcohol exposure are also explained. Finally, multidisciplinary and culturally appropriate prevention services are emphasized as well as early diagnosis and strength-based intervention strategies.
James C. Raines
Learning disabilities (LD) are the most common disability in public schools. Since 1975, students with learning disabilities have been eligible for a free appropriate public education, including special services such as school social work. Students with LD may be diagnosed via standardized achievement measures and clinical assessment. Despite 40 years of progress, the evidence suggests that students with LD still feel stigmatized and finish college and enter the workplace at a rate much lower than their nondisabled peers. School social workers can assist students with learning disabilities by assessing their self-esteem and social skills and then providing appropriate intervention. Self-esteem interventions should target students with LD, their parents, and their peers in the least restrictive environment. Social skills interventions may target students with LD as a separate group or provide those skills as part of universal inclusive education aimed at all children in the classroom.
Social workers working with individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families require an understanding of the disabilities themselves as well as the larger context of disability in society. Individuals with disabilities face particular risks for poverty and poor healthcare, and it is essential for social workers to understand the complex web of social services available. Furthermore, social workers often work not only with the person with a disability but also with their caregiving families.
Kendra DeLoach McCutcheon
Social workers have a responsibility to challenge discrimination and promote social and economic justice. To fulfill this responsibility, it must be understood how discrimination exists and the detrimental affect it has on the relationship between individuals who are disenfranchised (targeted groups) and individuals who have privilege, resources, and power (advantaged groups) (Hardiman & Jackson, 2007). This entry will present an overview of discrimination, define the various forms of discrimination, present public policy and legislation regarding discrimination, and discuss implications for social workers and the profession.
Older workers make important contributions to the workplace, its productivity, and its culture. Work remains important for older adults for financial security, to give meaning to later life, to maintain social networks, and to promote lifelong learning. However, ageist beliefs about the capacity of older adults to remain productive and contributing workers in the workforce can create barriers for older workers. Understanding how older workers experience ageist behavior in the workplace can help employers, policy makers, and social workers learn more about how to address this social problem. Organizations can become more age friendly through enabling workplace programs, supportive management, and proactive human resource managers. Social workers serving older adults in employee assistance programs and in private practice can help them to challenge ageism in the workplace. Finally, legislation such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects the rights of older workers; however, more legislation is needed to address bullying and harassment of older adults in the workplace.
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.
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.
Lauren B. Gates
Vocational rehabilitation (VR) services, provided through a jointly funded state–federal rehabilitation system and available in each state, help people with disabilities prepare for, secure, and sustain employment. Since 1920, VR Programs have helped 10 million individuals with disabilities reach employment. Anyone with a mental or physical disability is eligible for VR services. While a range of services is provided, the services most consistent with VR goals are those, such as supported employment, that promote full integration into community life. Social workers are essential to community-based VR services; however, a challenge for the profession is to assume new roles to meet best practice vocational standards.
David W. Springer and Kathleen A. Casey
Rehabilitation is a complex, multidimensional approach within health care that uses an interdisciplinary model of specialized services. The comprehensive treatment team generally includes medical specialists and therapists who specialize in physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, cognitive therapy, psychology, and recreational therapy. Social workers play a key role in the treatment team, particularly in care coordination, discharge planning, and community reintegration. Trends in comprehensive medical rehabilitation will continue to be significantly influenced by forces within the larger health-care arena. Technological advancements and the social trend toward health and fitness offer great promise for the improvement and expansion of rehabilitation services.