Social Work Definition
Social Work may be defined as a professional activity aimed generally at enriching and enhancing individual and group development or at alleviating adverse social and economic conditions. See more about social work in the legal dictionary. Its practitioners work to provide care for abused or neglected children; rehabilitate the physically, mentally, or emotionally handicapped; and extend financial aid to the poor and the aged.
Social workers also carry out treatment, counseling, and direct-service activities to help those individuals with mental and emotional disorders, to help rehabilitate those with disabilities, or to provide preventive services.
Formerly, all forms of philanthropic and charitable activities, including those of untrained, civic-minded individuals, were regarded as social work. Such activities focused primarily on solving the immediate problems of the indigent and did little to change the conditions that caused those problems. More recently, however, a vast amount of new social research has made possible analyses of the social and economic maladjustments of modern society, and the activities of social workers have been coordinated in an effort to achieve the maximum possible benefit both for those individuals who are in need and for the entire community.
Types of Social Workers
Social workers may be employed in varied settings. Social caseworkers deal directly with the individual or the family. They work in family-service agencies, medical and psychiatric hospitals and clinics, public agencies, substance-abuse clinics, and industrial settings. In the last two decades, there has been a trend toward professionals working in private practice rather than in the nonprofit or public sector. After determining the nature of the client’s problem, the clinical social worker tries to help the person overcome these difficulties or obtain appropriate assistance. In recent years the areas of specialization within social work have increased greatly.
The social group worker is usually concerned with planning or leading activities of large groups of persons. This type of social work is often carried out in recreation centers such as those maintained by the American Red Cross and the Young Men’s Christian Association, and in hospitals and other therapeutic settings.
Social planners are social workers who conduct research and help develop social welfare policies, frequently acting as proponents of social legislation. Community organizers act as area-wide coordinators of all the programs of different agencies so as best to meet community needs for health and welfare services. They also facilitate self-help programs initiated by local common-interest groups, for example, by training local leaders to analyze and solve the problems of a community. Community organizers work actively, as do other types of social workers, in community councils of social agencies and in community-action groups. At times the role of community organizers overlaps that of the social planners.
Social Work Agencies
Social work is conducted by public and private agencies. In the U.S., for example, the federal government, operating through the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the Department of Labor, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other units, administers social welfare programs or provides funds that permit state, city, neighborhood, or private agencies to operate many programs.
These also include adoption services to abused and neglected children, foster-home care, children’s institutions, and juvenile-training schools, as well as local community organizations and neighborhood service centers. Other funds go to school social work, psychiatric clinics and mental health centers, drug-abuse programs, organizations such as the Neighborhood Youth Corps, programs to improve intergroup relations, and social planning efforts. Many states, cities, neighborhoods, and voluntary agencies grant funds for similar and other programs.
Training and Professional Material
For entry-level social work, it is necessary to obtain a degree as a bachelor of social work. For more advanced work and in order to work independently, a master’s degree in social work from an accredited university is required. The Council on Social Work Education in Washington, D.C., provides information on professional schools in the field. Social work agencies collaborate with universities in training programs, thus enabling students to obtain supervised experience in actual professional practice. Fieldwork, that is, supervised training in an operating agency, is required for most social work positions.
The professional organization of social workers is the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), with headquarters located in Silver Spring, Maryland, and local chapters around the country. NASW publishes the quarterly magazine Social Work Journal and the Encyclopedia of Social Work, in addition to books and journals.
Source: “Social Work,”Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2000. Contributed By Alfred J. Kahn, M.S., D.S.W. Professor Emeritus of Social Planning and Policy, Columbia University School of Social Work. Author of Theory and Practice of Social Planning, Studies in Social Policy and Planning, and other books.
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Environmental and Social Theories of Crime
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
History of Social Darwinism
US Native law
The Problem of Social Cost
Related topics include:
Related topics include:
- Social Assistance
- Social Protection
- Social Services
- Social work
Hierarchical Display of Social work
Concept of Social work
See the dictionary definition of Social work.
Characteristics of Social work
Translation of Social work
- Spanish: Trabajo social
- French: Travail social
- German: Sozialarbeit
- Italian: Lavoro sociale
- Portuguese: Trabalho social
- Polish: Praca społeczna