Celebrate and Take Action For the Final Social Work Grand Challenge

Over the past year, we’ve enjoyed taking part in The AASWSW’s Social Work Grand Challenges. Each month of 2018, The AASWSW has shared an important social challenge in America. As social workers, we’re ready to do our part and take action!

To refresh your memory, these are the previous 11 Grand Challenges:
January: Ensure healthy development for all youth
February: Close the health gap
March: Stop family violence
April: Advance long and productive lives
May: Eradicate social isolation
June: End homelessness
July: Create social responses to a changing environment
August: Harness technology for social good
September: Promote smart decarceration
October: Reduce extreme economic inequality
November: Build financial capability for all

You can read about all of these challenges and get engaged at the 12 Challenges page

In December, we’ll be focusing on this important, final challenge:
Grand Challenge #12: Achieve Equal Opportunity and Justice

This is a large and important challenge that really emphasizes what social work is all about! Ultimately, we’re working in social work to make sure that everyone living in America has equal rights and access to what they need. Unfortunately, we still have work to do as social workers to achieve equal rights, and many individuals and cultures remain marginalized.

Tackling this challenge over the next decade will be no small task, but The AASWSW breaks it down into manageable challenges of inequality that we can address. The four areas the challenges focuses on are: reducing social stigma, Latinx immigrants, African American youth, and building fair housing and equal opportunities.

Addressing Social Stigma

Being a member of a minority group, such as one’s racial or ethnic group, sex or gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, health, or immigration status, is known to lead to poorer outcomes than Americans not in stigmatized minority groups. These individuals often have poorer job opportunities, health, and mental health outcomes.

The AASWSW argues that these poorer outcomes are primarily due to stigma, including by individuals, groups, institution, and self-labeling. Strategic policy changes at the government and institutional level can give stigmatized groups more access to opportunities, such as housing and jobs. Workplaces can offer training and support that reduces workplaces discrimination. Finally, social work must examine itself as a profession and determine how it is perceived by marginalized groups, in order to be able to best support them.

Integrating Latinx Immigrants into America

More immigrants come to America from Latin America than any other part of the world. Many of these immigrants continue to face discrimination. In addition, they’re more likely to have low English language attainment, and poor outcomes with health, education, and economic opportunities.

Supporting Latinx immigrants requires an innovative, multi-faceted approach. Changes in healthcare and educational policy will give these immigrants further access to these areas. Further, social workers can work to obtain and bring in more training about Latin American culture, including in workplaces and leadership positions. Social workers, too, can benefit from continuing to recognize and embrace Latin American culture in helping these clients.

Supporting African American Children

High school graduation rates lag behind for African American youth, with graduation rates only reaching 65% nationwide. Due to stigmatization, The AASWSW asserts that young African Americans are more likely than other ethnic groups to be punished with harsher discipline, such as suspension, expulsion, and involvement with the criminal justice system, than other racial groups. Failure to graduate limits economic opportunities.

The AASWSW supports a restorative justice approach to reduce punitive punishment for African American children. Such an approach will reduce punitive punishments in favor of a top-down approach that attempts to better the school climate for all. Adding in positive behavioral intervention, involving families and communities, and tracking school data to increase accountability.

Decreasing Housing Segregation

Neighborhoods and communities in America continue to be heavily segregated by race. This segregation is particularly problematic for African Americans, who continue to live in areas with lower socioeconomic opportunity. Segregated housing puts whole communities at risk for problems, including poorer health outcomes, access to economic opportunities, and social isolation.

The AASWSW recommends wider use of Federal Housing Choice Vouchers, a program that holds families choose housing in different neighborhoods. Even more importantly, new policies can stabilize neighborhoods that are gentrifying, creating affordable housing and maintaining property rights for gentrifying communities. Finally, at a government level we can invest in lower income neighborhoods by bringing in economic opportunities, improving the housing itself, and financially incentivize development.

To read more on this Grand Challenge, you can peruse The AASWSW’s complete reports on these four topics at http://aaswsw.org/grand-challenges-initiative/12-challenges/achieve-equal-opportunity-and-justice/.

We thank all of you for participating in the 2018 Social Workers Grand Challenges! With your hard work as a student or professional, we can continue to make American a better place for everyone. We encourage you to serve your local communities by bringing these challenges to your workplace, school, and community.

Let’s come together as social workers and make the world a better place in 2019 and beyond!