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

19
THE RECOGNITION OF SOCIAL CASEWORK

THE DEVELOPMENT of a social technique, such as social casework, has what might fittingly be called a "preliterate" phase during which its elements are tested out and made ready for the task for which it is designed. Yet of this period of probably intensive activity there is no record--much as our great human cultures seem to spring fully developed from an unrecorded past. Certainly, that is true of our most familiar technical term: social casework. Probably the first appearance of "case- work" in the Proceedings was in a paper by Edward T. Devine --the first that he gave after becoming secretary of the Charity Organization Society of New York in 1897--in which he said that "good case work involves much thankless labor."

The term did not occur again in the title of a Conference paper until 1909 when Mary K. Simkhovitch, of Greenwich House, New York, suggested that there was a place for the use of the method of casework with families "above the poverty line," known to settlements. In 1901 Zilpha Smith and Mary Richmond read important papers describing the methods used and the scope of resources available in casework, but in neither paper did the term "casework" occur. Then in 1911 casework burst into full view as an accepted and well-known technique. Frederick Almy, of Buffalo, spoke of adequate relief as a factor "in case work"; Dr. Adolf Meyer, of Johns Hopkins University, spoke of "Case Work in Social Service and Medical and Social Coöperation in Nervous and Mental Diseases"; and Por-

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