Trends in Social Work, 1874-1956: A History Based on the Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work

By Frank J. Bruno | Go to book overview

29 · THE EVOLUTION OF SOCIAL CASEWORK

The mystery of personality is not a new discovery.1

SOCIAL CASEWORK, it is sometimes thought, had its origin in a general method of conducting the professional relationship with a client, and from that branched special forms of casework. The terms "generic" and "special casework" were in fairly common usage at one time.

There is no historical basis for the assumption. The systems of social casework were being developed simultaneously in the first decade of the century in several fields: childrens' services, medical and psychiatric social work, and family welfare. If the term "generic" clung to the field of family welfare, it was because some of its early exponents, such as Zilpha Smith and Mary Richmond, were in that field. Since the term describes a method used by a professional worker in his contact with a client, there can be only one basic process.

Porter R. Lee, in his presidential address at San Francisco in 1929, on "Social Work, Cause and Function," described the way in which professional method grows out of the initial lay attempts to meet social problems. He said that social work begins by someone seeing an unmet need, and setting about providing for it. If it is a neglected child that arouses his sympathy, he makes arrangement for its care. In this phase, the worker is a missionary, a propagandist, rousing his fellows to see a need,

____________________
1
J. Prentice Murphy, "Certain Philosophical Contributions to Children's Case Work," Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work ( Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1933).

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