About Social Work

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Brief Definition of Social Work
     Organized effort to help individuals and families to adjust themselves to the community, as well as to adapt the community to the needs of such persons and families

Brief Early History of Modern Social Work
work emerged as a profession out of the early efforts of churches and philanthropic groups to relieve the effects of poverty, to bring the comforts of religion to the poor, to promote temperance and encourage thrift, to care for children, the sick, and the aged, and to correct the delinquent. Orphanages and homes for the elderly were typical results of these activities. The word charity best describes the early activities, which were aimed at the piecemeal alleviation of particular maladjustments. In such charitable work the principal criterion in determining aid to families was worthiness, while the emphasis in later social work was on restoring individuals to normal life both for their own sake and for the sake of the community.

     The first attempts to solve the problem of poverty in a modern scientific way was made by P. G. F. Le Play, who in the 1850s made a detailed study of the budgets of hundreds of French workers' families. Forty years later Charles Booth investigated wages and prices, working conditions, housing and health, standards of living, and leisure activities among the poor of London and revealed the extreme poverty of a third of the population. Booth's social survey became a method for determining the extent of social maladjustment, and through surveys in other cities in Europe and the United States a vast number of facts were accumulated, and methods were developed that provided the basis for modern social work.

     In 1874 the National Conference of Charities and Correction (now called the National Conference on Social Welfare) was organized in the United States. Public relief and private philanthropic effort remained largely matters of local and state concern until after 1930, when the federal government entered the field of social work on a large scale to cope with the effects of the Great Depression. Resources were made available, the number of social workers was greatly increased, and it became necessary to coordinate public and private activities. Social work has been steadily professionalized, and special graduate schools as well as departments in universities have been established to train social workers. By 1999 there were 377 accredited undergraduate schools of social work in the United States.

Source:  The Columbia Encyclopedia, 2004.  CREDO Reference Database

Further Information on Social Work
work generally means the activities of those who carry out a country’s social service or welfare programs. In the late nineteenth century, the need for social services began to be seriously considered, especially in Great Britain, Germany, and the United States. In such cities as London, New York City, and Boston, charity organization societies were founded to develop a system of social services. This activity led to the founding of schools of social work. As more and more nations during the twentieth century recognized their responsibility to provide aid, social work became an organized profession whose goals are to improve society through administrating programs to citizens who are ill, disadvantaged, elderly, too young to care for themselves, or in financial or other need.

     In both the United States and Great Britain, the so-called settlement movement drew voluntary workers interested in easing the suffering of society’s poor and disadvantaged. The leader in settlement work was Samuel A. Barnett, who, in 1884, founded Toynbee Hall, named after social reformer Arnold Toynbee. Barnett and his wife invited Oxford and Cambridge students to spend holidays in this neighborhood house in a depressed area of London so that they might learn about social conditions. From this, Toynbee Hall became a center for improving conditions and welfare in the neighborhood. During a European trip, American Jane Addams visited Toynbee Hall. Upon her return, she and partner Ellen Gates Starr founded Hull House in Chicago, one of the first social settlements in North America. Among its services were a day nursery, boarding rooms for working girls, a gymnasium, educational courses, and classes in arts and crafts. In addition, Hull House became a training school for social workers.

     Today, the duties of social workers include community assistance at many levels, social care assistants, helpers in the home, day-care supervisors, those who deliver in-home meals, and a variety of therapists and psychologists. Probation officers are social workers with a special link to the court system. Social workers go to homes and schools, work in hospitals and local service centers, provide counseling, and may have exclusive authority for placing children in foster care or adopting families.

     Social casework, an important part of the job for social workers, stems from the medical almoners as far back as the thirteenth century. Almoners were designated officers responsible for giving alms to the poor. They were generally connected with a religious institution. The office of grand almoner was established in France in 1486 and abolished in 1870. The office still exists in Great Britain where the high almoner distributes royal alms on Maundy, or Holy, Thursday, the Thursday before Easter. Modern casework requires the social worker to give counseling services to the individual or family in need or distress, to ascertain the type of service needed by the person or persons, and to see that the service is adequately provided.

     There is great diversity in the training and careers of social workers. Therapists and psychologists involved in social work acquire the same general education as those outside the field. In such countries as the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan, the would-be social worker may earn bachelor, master, and doctorate degrees in the field at schools within the higher education system. In other nations, France and Sweden, for instance, the aspiring social worker attends an institution outside the regular college/university system. And just as there is much diversity in their training, so there is great diversity and complexity in the roles that social workers play in the community. As modern society accepts more responsibility for the welfare of its needy, ill, or otherwise disadvantaged citizens, so the role of the social worker has broadened in scope and responsibility. In large cities such as New York City, with a broad and varied population, one social worker within the system may have almost total responsibility for the guidance and welfare of a child as he or she progresses through infant, youth, and adult programs.

     In the United States, as well as some European and Asian nations, formal voluntary and private social agencies receive direct or indirect grants from the government. Most of these agencies are registered as charities (voluntary) and companies (private). They have paid career staff who must work within the statutes of the city, state, etc. Even with government backing, these agencies could not cope with the overwhelming demand for services were it not for the informal care that is given by neighborhood and community organizations. Professional staff often train these informal-care workers.

Source:  World of Sociology, 2002.  CREDO Reference Database

Selected Library of Congress
Call Numbers and Subject Headings

Call Number:  HN - Social History, Problems, and Reform
HV - Social Pathology.  Social and Public Welfare.  Criminology.

HN 1-981 Social History, Problems, and Reform
  30-40 The Church and Social Problems
  41-46 Community Centers, Social Centers
  251-291 By Region or Country


HV 1-9960   Social pathology. Social and public
                   welfare.  Criminology.

    HV 40-69       Social service. Social work. Charity
                              organization and practice including
                              social case work, private and public
                              relief, institutional care, rural social
                              work, work relief
     HV 85-525       By region or country
     HV 530            The church and charity
     HV 541            Women and charity
     HV 544            Charity fairs, bazaars, etc.
     HV 544.5         International social work
     HV 547            Self-help groups
     HV 551.2-639   Emergency management
     HV 553-639      Relief in case of disasters
     HV 560-583      Red Cross. Red Crescent
     HV 599-639      Special types of disasters
     HV 640-645      Refugee problems
     HV 650-670      Life saving
     HV 675-677      Accidents. Prevention of accidents
     HV 680-696      Free professional services Including
                               medical charities
     HV 697-4959     Protection, assistance and relief
     HV 697-3024     Special classes
     HV 697-700.7    Families. Mothers. Widow's
     HV 701-1420.5  Children
     HV 835-847       Foundlings
     HV 873-887       Destitute, neglected, and abandoned
                                children. Street children
     HV 888-907       Children with disabilities
     HV 931-941       Fresh-air funds
     HV 959-1420.5   Orphanages. Orphans
     HV 1421-1441    Young adults. Youth. Teenagers
     HV 1442-1448    Women
     HV 1449            Gay men. Lesbians
     HV 1450-1494    Aged
     HV 1551-3024    People with disabilities Including
                                 blind, deaf, people with physical
                                 and mental disabilities
     HV 3025-3174    Special classes. By occupation
     HV 3025-3163    Mariners
     HV 3165-3173    Shop women, clerks, etc.
     HV 3174            Other. By occupation
     HV 3176-3199    Special classes. By race or ethnic
     HV 4005-4013    Immigrants
     HV 4023-4470.7 Poor in cities. Slums
     HV 4480-4630    Mendicancy. Vagabondism.
                                 Tramps.  Homelessness
     HV 4701-4890.9 Protection of animals. Animal rights.
                                  Animal w
     HV 4905-4959    Animal experimentation. Antivivi-
     HV 4961-4995    Degeneration    
     HV 5001-5720.5    Alcoholism. Intemperance.
                                   Temperance reform
     HV 5725-5770       Tobacco habit
     HV 5800-5840       Drug habits. Drug abuse
     HV 6001-7220.5    Criminology
          HV 6035-6197      Criminal anthropology including
                                         criminal types, criminal
                                          psychology, prison
                                          psychology, causes of
          HV 6201-6249      Criminal classes
          HV 6250-6250.4   Victims of crimes. Victimology
          HV 6251-6773.55  Crimes and offenses
          HV 6774-7220.5    Crimes and criminal classes

     HV 7231-9960     Criminal justice administration
           HV 7428               Social work with delinquents
                                          and criminals
           HV 7431               Prevention of crime, methods
           HV 7435-7439       Gun control
           HV 7551-8280.7    Police. Detectives.
          HV 7935-8025        Administration and
          HV 8031-8080         Police duty. Methods of
          HV 8035-8069         Special classes of crimes,
                                           offenses and criminals
          HV 8073-8079.35     Investigation of crimes.
                                           Examination and
                                           identification of prisoners
          HV 8079.2-8079.35   Police social work
          HV 8079.5-8079.55   Traffic control. Traffic
                                            accident investigation
          HV 8081-8099      Private detectives. Detective
          HV 8130-8280.7   By region or country
          HV 8290-8291      Private security services
          HV 8301-9920.7   Penology. Prisons. Corrections
          HV 9051-9230.7   The juvenile offender. Juvenile
                                        delinquency. Reform schools

 HV 9261-9430.7    Reformation and reclamation of
                                        adult prisoners
          HV 9441-9920.7    By region or country
          HV 9950-9960       By region or country

  • Administrative Agencies
  • Administrative Law
  • Adoption
  • African American Families
  • African American Families Government Policy
  • Aged Government Policy
  • Child Abuse
  • Child Welfare
  • Civil Service
  • Conflict Management
  • Crisis Intervention Mental Health Services
  • Economics Sociological Aspects
  • Family Economic Aspects
  • Family Health and Hygiene
  • Family Policy
  • Family Psychotherapy
  • Family Services
  • Family Social Work
  • Family Violence
  • Federal Aid to Human Services
  • Finance Public United States
  • Fiscal Policy
  • Foster Children
  • Foster Home Care United States
  • Government Policy Aids Disease United States
  • Government Policy Child Support United States
  • Government Policy Child Welfare United States
  • Government Policy Children United States
  • Government Spending Policy
  • Group Homes
  • Households
  • Human Services
  • Medical Social Work
  • Mental Health Services
  • Police Social Work
  • Poor United States
  • Poverty United States
  • Problem Solving
  • Psychiatric Social Work
  • Public Administration
  • Public Welfare
  • Social Case Work
  • Social Choice
  • Social Medicine
  • Social Policy
  • Social Problems
  • Social Service
  • Social Welfare
  • Social Work see Social Service
  • Social Work with African Americans
  • Social Work with Children
  • Social Work with Criminals
  • Social Work with Drug Addicts
  • Social Work with Juvenile Delinquents
  • Social Work with Minorities
  • Social Work with Older People
  • Social Work with the Homeless
  • Social Work with the Terminally Ill
  • Social Work with Women
  • Social Work with Youth
  • Social Workers
  • Unemployment
  • Victims of Crimes
  • Welfare Economics
  • Welfare State
  • Women Government Policy
  • Work and Family

Charles W. Chesnutt Library, Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, N.C. 28301
Page Maintained By: Jan S. Whitfield jwhitfield@uncfsu.edu
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