The Nature of Social and
The approaches to solving social problems can be summed up as services, advocacy and organizing. This view omits the question, “What are we trying to build?”
M. MILLER (2002, P. 36)
In a 1988 case involving the beating death of an Asian American gay man, a Broward County [Florida] circuit judge jokingly asked the prosecuting attorney, “That's a crime now, to beat up a homosexual?” The prosecutor answered, “Yes, sir. And it's also a crime to kill them. ” The judge replied, “Times have really changed. ”
N. HENTOFF (AS CITED IN JENNESS, 1995, P. 148)
The problem-solving process was covered in our first chapter (also see Hardina, 2002). Here we explore how situations become problems. Besides the external aspects of laws and social norms captured in the epigraph from Hentoff, we want to rivet the reader's attention on internal perspectives that can help us be part of the solution. Defining and addressing social problems entails more than doing; it involves thinking, values, and discernment about culture and related concepts. Diversity is explored in every sense of the word as we present numerous examples of challenges that social workers must meet.
Communities define which of many social problems they will make their own, just as nations do. This chapter will contribute to the social worker's understanding of problems— facilitating more appropriate interventions— and will suggest applications that can lead to mutual construction of problems and solutions and to coalition building. What determines whose definition prevails? Does power or passion play a part? From whose standpoint is a problem raised and whose worldview is accepted (Lopez, 1994)? Are there service consequences (underutilization, inappropriate interventions) to being oblivious to another group's