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.
Retirement is a modest social institution that appeared in most industrialized nations near the start of the 20th century. The aim of retirement was to solve the societal dilemma of an increasingly aged labor force by moving older workers systematically out of their jobs so as to not cause them financial harm (Atchley, 1980, p. 264). Although retirement has been considered benign since its inception, the history of retirement indicates that it is one of the main progenitors of ageism in society today (Atchley, 1982, 1993; Haber & Gratton, 1994; McDonald, 2013; Walker, 1990). Retirement and its accompanying stereotypes have been used as a tool for the management of the size and composition of the labor force contingent on the dictums of current markets in any given historical era. Ever-changing ideologies about older adults that extend from negative to positive ageism have been utilized by business, government, the public, and the media to support whatever justification is required in a particular era, with little thought to the harm perpetrated on older adults. Unfortunately, society has subscribed to these justifications en masse, including older adults themselves. In this article the ageism embedded in retirement is examined to make what is implicit explicit to social work practitioners and policymakers in the field of aging.
Irwin Epstein and Stephen A. Kapp
This entry reviews agency-based research and the unique demands created by the organizational context where this activity resides. Three primary stakeholder groups are identified: administrators and program managers, supervisors, and direct service workers and clinicians. Possible uses of agency-based research by each of the respective stakeholder groups are described. Finally, the role of service consumers in agency-based research is discussed.
Eric R. Kingson, Dana Bell, and Sarah Shive
This entry examines why our nation’s Social Security system was built, what it does, and what must be done to maintain and improve this foundational system for current and future generations. After a discussion of the social insurance approach to economic security and its underlying principles and values, the evolution of America’s Social Security system is reviewed—beginning with the enactment of the Social Security Act of 1935, through its incremental development, to the changed politics of Social Security since the mid-1990s. Next, program benefits and financing are described and contemporary challenges and related policy options are identified, in terms of both the program’s projected shortfall and the public’s need for expanded retirement, disability, and survivorship protections. The entry concludes by noting that social workers have an important role to play in shaping Social Security’s future.
Edward J. Mullen, Jennifer L. Bellamy, and Sarah E. Bledsoe
This entry describes best practices as these are used in social work. The term best practices originated in the organizational management literature in the context of performance measurement and quality improvement where best practices are defined as the preferred technique or approach for achieving a valued outcome. Identification of best practices requires measurement, benchmarking, and identification of processes that result in better outcomes. The identification of best practices requires that organizations put in place quality data collection systems, quality improvement processes, and methods for analyzing and benchmarking pooled provider data. Through this process, organizational learning and organizational performance can be improved.
DeBrenna LaFa Agbényiga
As a profession, social workers must understand and work well within the realms of capacity development. This understanding is important because it provides a foundation for working at the micro and macro levels to engage communities, organizations, systems, and individuals. However, the complexity of capacity development has made it difficult for social workers to fully engage from this stance. This entry discusses the historical development of capacity development and building while linking it to social justice. It also provides a theoretical perspective and methods for understanding and utilizing capacity development and building in social-work practice.
Helmut K. Anheier and Marcus Lam
Foundations are private institutions for public benefit. With a long history that reaches back to antiquity, foundations are experiencing a renaissance and increased attention paid to them by policy makers. Already by the mid-1980s, observers had begun to report the end of the relative decline in the overall size and importance of the foundation sector—a trend that had characterized the previous decades. Some analysts suggest the possibility of a new, third “foundation wave,” after a first growth period in the late Middle Ages, alongside the rise of commerce and finance, and a second period of growth in the late 19th century, following the industrial revolution. Political stability, an increase in demand for social, educational, and cultural services of all kinds, and economic prosperity are certainly significant factors behind this growth. Yet a more immediate reason is the way in which foundations have been suggesting themselves as instruments of welfare state reform in the broadest sense.
Child care services, enabling parents to commit themselves to paid employment while providing a supervised environment for their children, have a long and complex history in the United States. Child care services can provide children with educational and other advantages, as well as custodial care. In fact, the United States has multiple kinds of services providing child care and early childhood education. Publicly funded services have concentrated on care for impoverished children and those facing other risks or disadvantages, but many of these children and their families remain unserved because of gaps in programs and lack of support for subsidies, while other families purchase the services they need.
Jennifer E. Mosley
Nonprofit organizations serve a wide variety of functions and play a particularly important role in providing needed social services in the United States. This entry begins by exploring the roles and origins of the nonprofit sector, reporting on its current scope and scale, and reviewing federal regulations governing nonprofit organizations. Special attention is then given to understanding human service organizations and their financing, including the implications of changing government-nonprofit relationships. Four additional issues facing the sector—accountability, technology, political participation, and diversity, as well as recommendations for meeting future challenges, are also discussed.
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.