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Social Work****

(soc. service; welfare work). A. Definition. Social (from Lat. socialis, from socius, “companion; ally; associate”) work has been defined as any activity to promote soc. welfare and described as the processes involved in adjusting an individual's relationships with other persons and with his wider soc. and economic development. Since it deals with human personalities, created not only by heredity but also developed by many changing environmental factors, and with changing society, the best picture of soc. work is obtained through study of its hist., goals, and present stage of development.

B. History.

1. Soc. work arises out of the responsibility of one for the welfare of another (cf. Gn 4:9). The pre-Christian world did not lack humanitarian impulses; writings of all ancient nations tell of efforts in behalf of poor and sick. In the NT, Christian love of God and fellowman became the motive (Jn 13:34); resultant charitable service was regarded as a fruit of faith and love (Gl 5:6; 1 Jn 3:17).

2. In the early ch. this service was rendered personally or through others (Acts 6:1–6). A form of voluntary Christian communism was apparently practiced briefly (Acts 2:44–45). Later the ch. exercised almost complete control over work and institutions of charity. Institutional care was fostered by religious orders; other work was supervised by priests. Encouragement of indiscriminate almsgiving led to widespread mendicancy requiring mass relief in large pop. centers. By the end of the Middle Ages, relief of poor was a major issue.

3. The Reformation and accompanying changes swept away old concepts of charity and the old system of relief. Recognition of poverty as a soc. rather than individual problem led to the Eng. poor-law system, beginning ca. 1573, and to later large-scale development of soc. work in Eng. and Am.

4. In the 1890s the concept of character deficiency as primary cause of poverty gave way to recognition of environmental causes. Soc. action movements developed to abolish soc. inequities and economic and pol. ills that seemed to produce poverty and attendant evils.

5. Modern soc. casework began after WW I. Mary Ellen Richmond (1861–1928; b. Belleville, Illinois; soc. worker) wrote Social Diagnosis (New York, 1917) and What Is Social Case Work? (New York, 1922). Thorough investigation, accurate diagnosis, and specific treatment came to be recognized as indispensable. Emphasis on self-help grew. The family was recognized as basic in society; relationships of the family to the soc. order received much attention. The psychol. approach was developed. Personality problems came to be recognized as a potent cause of soc. maladjustment, esp. since the start of WW II 1939. Growing knowledge of the dynamics of soc. behavior provides new tools for soc. workers.

C. Types of Soc. Work.

1. Soc. work may be classified as casework, group work, and community service. Casework: work with individuals or closely knit small groups. Group work: work with larger or more loosely knit groups. Community service: work with communities. Cf. “Social Casework,” “Social Group Work,” and “Community Organization” in Encyclopedia of Social Work (successor to Social Work Year Book), 15th issue, ed. H. L. Lurie (New York, 1965).

2. Casework tries to make specialized services available, e.g., in child welfare, family service, service to transients, med., soc. service, psychiatric soc. service.

D. Organization of Social Work Agencies.

1. Pub. agencies are gen. administered as a function of local, state, or nat. govt.. They are created by legal enactment and are supported by taxes. Fed. govt. concern for soc. welfare is expressed, e.g., in the 1964 antipoverty legislation and the 1935 Soc. Security Act and its subsequent amendments. WW II and its aftermath led to expansion of govt. assistance, esp. to the internat. field through the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. A Dept. of Health, Educ., and Welfare was est. 1953.

2. Services offered by pub. agencies exceed those of private agencies in terms of funds expended, number of clients served, and variety of services rendered.

3. Private agencies are agencies founded by private initiative, governed by privately chosen bds. or committees, and supported by voluntary contributions. Many private agencies have combined under United Funds (Community Chests) and similar movements in an endeavor to secure equitable distribution of funds. Some religious private agencies operate on basis of denominational support.

E. Christian Soc. Service.

1. Gen. follows methods, techniques, and service classifications of secular service. Sponsored by Christian groups. Governed by Christian principles that vary with the tenets of sponsoring groups.

2. Distinguished from secular service in motivation. Secular service is motivated by humanitarian principles, a sense of justice and fair play, or expediency. Christian service is motivated by Christian love, a fruit of faith (Gl 5:6).

3. Distinguished from secular service also in areas served. Secular service commonly deals with biological, psychological, and soc. needs. Christian service includes spiritual needs.

4. Looks beyond this world to the world to come.

F. Lutheran Soc. Work.

1. Exalts the love and mercy of God; goes beyond soc. action and soc. reform in that it both serves individuals in time and points the way to eternity with God.

2. Luth. soc. work in Am. was first called charity. Now it is gen. called soc. service or soc. work. HFW JCC

See also Associated Lutheran Charities; Bünger, Johann Friedrich; Charities, Christian; Deaconesses; Child and Family Service Agencies; Duemling, Enno A.; Herzberger, Frederick William; Inner Mission; National Association of Social Workers; Passavant, William Alfred; Social Action; Social Reform; Sociology.

Theology and Social Welfare: Redemption and Good Works. Papers delivered at the Soc. Work Conf. sponsored by the Luth. Academy for Scholarship, March 29–30, 1968, Valparaiso (Indiana) U. (Saint Louis, 1968).


Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod


Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
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Content Reproduced with Permission

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