Around 57,000 children under the age of 15 die every year around the world due to physical abuse. Physical abuse consists of acts done to a child by a caregiver that cause the child physical harm or have the potential of causing them physical harm. Examples include being beaten, kicked, burned, or slapped.
The social work profession exists to combat these types of social injustices. Presently social workers in the U.S. are synonymous with child welfare workers. However, the social work profession began as an advocacy movement for the poor and underprivileged. One could argue that the social work profession has lost sight of its roots by focusing on direct practice interventions of child abuse.
However, there has been a gradual focus on the macro impact the social work profession was established to address. Currently, social workers are advocating for social justice through their work in public policy, program development, administration, and community mobilizing. Through this macro lens, the social work profession has a place in combating global poverty.
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) established six core values that are embraced by all social workers. They are the following: service, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, competence, and social justice. The social work profession is distinctly qualified to address global poverty, as it is a profession that exists to pursue social justice.
The ethical principle of social justice stresses that social workers pursue social change by advocating for vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups of people. Who is more vulnerable and oppressed than the world’s poor?
The world’s poor face an immense amount of violations in terms of human rights and social justice, as well as oppression. Their daily concerns include lack of access to education, high child mortality rates, deaths caused by preventable diseases such as malaria, food insecurity, and high rates of child abuse. The social work profession was created to address these types of issues through advocacy measures.
Since the late 1800s, social workers have focused on eliminating poverty through friendly visits, settlement houses, and government roles under the New Deal in the 1930s and 40s. The work of settlement houses focused on mobilizing local people to improve neighborhoods. These people were living in poverty and experiencing human rights violations. It was social workers that were driven to seek social justice for them through organizing and advocacy efforts.
Social workers care about protecting the most vulnerable, specifically children. With 57,000 children dying every year around the world due to physical abuse, it is time for social workers to reclaim their professional roots and act to combat global poverty, as they are uniquely equipped for this. Though child abuse is widespread in high social classes, increased physical abuse, neglect, and sex abuse might be symptomatic of poverty. How can social workers advocate for the children of the world?
Social workers are exceptionally trained to be educators, mobilizers, advocators, lobbyists, politicians, researchers, community organizers, authors, and speakers for the vulnerable and oppressed in this world.
With principles of human rights and social justice as strong pillars of the social work profession, social workers are uniquely equipped to combat global poverty issues.
– Caressa Kruth
Sources: Child Safe International, Social Workers, NASWDC