New Practice Model for Latinos in Need of Social Work Services

By Organista, Kurt C. | Social Work, October 2009 | Go to article overview

New Practice Model for Latinos in Need of Social Work Services


Organista, Kurt C., Social Work


This article presents a new practice model for Latinos in the United States in need of social work and other social and human services (poor and working class Latinos, immigrant and traditionally oriented Latinos, and so forth).The model is intended to make available to students, practitioners, and service administrators a comprehensive yet user-friendly approach to generalist and specialized practice with diverse groups of Latinos disproportionately affected by poverty, across a broad array of psychosocial and health problems. This article is based on extended discussion and illustration of the practice model in a recent book by the author (Organista, 2007) and begins with a brief review of key social science theories and research viewed as essential for enhancing culturally competent practice with Latinos.

ESSENTIAL SOCIAL SCIENCE THEORIES AND RESEARCH FOR ENHANCING CULTURAL COMPETENCE

The ecosystems perspective is emphasized in social work to help service providers develop a comprehensive "cognitive map" of people in their social environment (for example, Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Germain, 1987) and to consider multiple problem levels and solutions. But because the ecosystems perspective is descriptive and not prescriptive regarding practice (Wakefield, 1996), it needs to be properly infused with Latino-relevant social science theories and research for understanding problem patterns that disproportionately affect this population (for example, acculturative stress, poverty, health disparities). Each of the theories and frameworks listed in Figure 1 is discussed in Organista (2007). Although not definitive (hence the question, "What else?" in Figure 1), this set of theories lays the groundwork for assessing problems in historical, social, and cultural context; developing interventions consistent with the lived experiences of U.S. Latinos; and advancing social .justice--oriented practice:

* Oppression and social justice: Basic grounding in the complex nature of oppression and ways in which we are socialized to play various roles within its pervasive social matrix-like structure is fundamental to cultural competence. Bell's (1997) discourse on the defining features of oppression and Hardiman and Jackson's (1997) social matrix model of oppression (conscious and unconscious attitudes and behaviors at individual, institutional, and societal levels) help us link multiple forms of oppression into one overarching system that must to be addressed ill the pursuit of social justice--oriented practice.

* Acculturation and adjustment: Berry's (2003) three-stage model is especially helpful in explaining a racial or ethnic minority group's current socioeconomic status (SES) or general level of social welfare on the basis of historical conditions of contact (for example, invasion, immigration, refugee status) and conflict (for example, war, enslavement, discrimination, resistance) with the host society and the general pattern of adaptation (that is, segregation, integration, and assimilation). For example, SES disparities between Cubans and Puerto Ricans are rooted in distinctly different acculturation histories in the United States.

* Social stratification: The structured inequality of society's resources and power are determined by key social institutions (for example, government, business, education, social services) and justified by ideologies that stabilize the status quo while impeding progress toward distributive social justice (Marger, 2000). Lenski's (1966) classic theory of the social stratification of power and ethnicity is particularly useful in explaining the locations of different racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. hierarchy of power, resources, and status.

* Ethnic identity: Sue and Sue's (2003a, 2003b) models of racial/cultural minority and white racial identity development, respectively, describe adaptive and maladaptive identity development in stigmatized racial and ethnic minority groups and in privileged majority white groups, or, for example, how Latino ethnic identity can be either a source of shame or pride. …

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New Practice Model for Latinos in Need of Social Work Services
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