Academic journal article Social Work

Capacity Building for Integrated Family-Centered Practice

Academic journal article Social Work

Capacity Building for Integrated Family-Centered Practice

Article excerpt

Economic and Social Supports for Families: Historical Antecedents

The birth of social work and other helping professions at the turn of the 20th century helped to launch social welfare programs that were seen as preventive social and economic investment strategies. These strategies resulted in "mother's pensions," public schools, worker's compensation, vocational rehabilitation, child labor protections, child welfare, juvenile justice, as well as parent and child health initiatives. Leading social work reformers advocated for integrative approaches to employment, income, economically oriented casework, and social support for family well-being. For example, Florence Kelley led the National Consumer's League and authored Modern Industry in Relation to Family Health Education and Morality (1914). Josephine Shaw Lowell, who promoted the Charity Organization Society and the need for broad reforms, wrote Industrial Arbitration and Conciliation (1893). Mary Parker Follet pioneered workplace reforms and to this day is quoted in business schools for her creative work in bringing union and management perspectives into a new dialectic of "coactive power." Her book Creative Experience (1924) delineated her work in unions and management and her advocacy for the improvement of living and working conditions. Bertha Capen Reynolds's advocacy for workers, their families, and collective well-being inspired the Bertha Capen Reynolds Society of today. Her book Social Work and Social Living continues to be read as a classic in the field (Longres, 1996).

Historical accounts of some of the professional debates that occurred when the profession was founded reveal how interconnected economic and social welfare perspectives were made to seem dichotomous and then were pitted against each other. For example, Popple's (1995) historical renderings include citations from Mangold. Mangold argued in 1914 that technique-based practice needed to be subsumed within approaches promoting permanent improvement in social conditions. According to Mangold, preparation for social work practice necessitated the study of the economics of labor, which was seen to be the basis of living conditions. Mangold argued that helping a family here or there brings only slight gains compared to the gains policy reforms bring.

Mary Richmond represented the more micro focus or social casework emphasis of the profession. Calling her approach the retail version of reform, she argued that the client is the starting place for reform and that practice does not stop at the client level (Bolin, 1973; Richmond, 1917, 1922). Jane Addams's (1922) work Peace and Bread in Time of War also helped depict the link between hunger at the individual level and war's diversion of resources that needed to be reinvested in peace and human well-being.

None of these leaders was saying that macro reform should be separate from individual and family help giving. Each may have had a different starting place, but most advocated for the integration of economic and employment issues with individuals at the direct practice level as well as macro social and economic reform agendas. Despite this more integrative thinking of our forebears, polarizing debates, along with the predominance of social casework, characterized the field for the rest of the century. Even as more micro-focused and dichotomous versions of social casework emerged as the preferred concentrations of the profession, social workers nonetheless helped to build key foundations for human well-being, the historic reform legacies of the Great Depression.

From Integrative Social and Economic Advocacy to Psychologically based Practice

Social workers used their frontline experience with rising numbers of homeless and jobless families to name the crisis that had engulfed the country a "depression," despite attempts by President Hoover and others to reframe such conditions as a recession. Social workers were the architects of Social Security, now seen worldwide as a foundational safety net for human and global well-being. …

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