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Early History of Group Work

Group work began to be accepted as a dimension of social work in America when it was given “Section” status by the organizers of the National Conference of Social Work (NCSW) in 1934….There existed considerable debate about what group work was – and where it belonged in the social work profession. Although group work methodology was developed primarily within recreation and informal education agencies it was increasingly being used in social work-oriented agencies, for example, within settings such as children’s institutions, hospitals, and churches. Influential social workers, such as Gertrude Wilson argued that group work was a core method of social work and not a field, movement, or agency.Continue Reading »

Settlement Houses: An Introduction

Written by John E. Hansan, Ph.D. ” The establishment and expansion of social settlements and neighborhood houses in the United States corresponded closely with the Progressive Era, the struggle for woman suffrage, the absorption of millions of new immigrants into American society and the development of professional social work.”Continue Reading »

Origins of the Settlement House Movement

Excerpt from “Legacy of Light: University Settlement’s First Century” by Jeffrey Scheuer. “The initial idea was simply to bring the working classes into contact with other classes…and thus to share the culture of university life with those who needed it most. An accompanying theme was that of nurturing the whole person…”Continue Reading »

State-Federal Welfare Relationships

The Social Security Act of 1935 established the basic framework for what we know as the federal-state system of public welfare. Essentially, the Social Security Act established two sets of program designed to serve different purposes: (1) a national system of social insurance – or entitlements- for wage earners; and, (2) a system of state-federal public welfare programs for persons who were deemed destitute and unable to work for wages. To this day, the entitlement programs created by the Act, Unemployment Insurance and Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance, form the bulwark of protection for the vast majority of wage earners and their families against the loss of income due to temporary unemployment, retirement, death or disability. For persons who were not then able to work, and therefore unlikely to become eligible for benefits under the wage-related social insurance programs, the Act authorized federal financial participation (FFP) in state administered cash assistance programs: Aid to the Aged, Aid to the Blind, and Aid to Dependent Children. The program of Aid to the Disabled was added in 1950.Continue Reading »

Origins of the State and Federal Public Welfare Programs (1932 – 1935)

The history of public welfare in the United States has been one of continuing change and growth. Prior to the 1900’s local governments shared with private charitable organizations major responsibility for public assistance or as it was often termed, “public relief.” As the nation’s economy became more industrial and the population more concentrated in urban areas, the need for public relief often grew beyond the means, and sometimes the willingness, of local public and private authorities to provide needed assistance. During the Progressive Era, some state governments began to assume more responsibility for helping the worthy poor. By 1926, forty states had established some type of public relief program for mothers with dependent children. A few states also provided cash assistance to needy elderly residents through old-age pensions. Continue Reading »

The First Department of Public Welfare in the U.S.

In 1909, the Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri appointed a body of prominent community leaders with experience in dealing with social problems in the city and asked them to visit large cities all over the country and learn what was being done in those cities to deal with poverty and the unemployed. From the findings of their reports and their own ideas about what to do, the commission then set out to devise a plan to create a new agency: The Kansas City Department of Public Welfare.Continue Reading »

Poor Relief in the Early America

Poor Relief in Early America by John E. Hansan, Ph.D.  Introduction Early American patterns of publicly funded poor relief emerged mainly from the English heritage of early settlers. The policies and practices of aiding the poor current in England when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts were shaped primarily by the Elizabethan Poor Laws of… Continue Reading »

English Poor Laws

English Poor Laws: Historical Precedents of Tax-Supported Relief for the Poor   In 1601, England was experiencing a severe economic depression, with large scale unemployment and widespread famine. Queen Elizabeth proclaimed a set of laws designed to maintain order and contribute to the general good of the kingdom: the English Poor Laws.  These laws remained… Continue Reading »

The Widows’ Pension Movement and its Connection to Orphanages

Widows and Waifs: New York City and the American Way to Welfare, 1913-1916 by June Hopkins, Ph. D. Associate Professor, Armstrong Atlantic State University Background In New York City, during the early decades of the 20th century, progressive reformers made deliberate use of the child-saving impulse to initiate a new welfare methodology. This had a… Continue Reading »

Employment Services: A Brief History

President Warren Harding called a Conference on Unemployment in 1921. This Conference, of which Mr. Herbert Hoover (at that time Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce) was chairman…In commenting on the need for such a service, Secretary Hoover said, “One of the causes of ill will that weighs heavily upon the community is the whole problem of unemployment. I know of nothing [more important] than the necessity to develop further remedy, first, for the vast calamities of unemployment in the cyclic periods of depression, and, second, some assurance to the individual of reasonable economic security–to remove the fear of total family disaster in loss of the job. . . . I am not one who regards these matters as incalculable. . . There is a solution somewhere and its working out will be the greatest blessing yet given to our economic system, both to the employer and the employee.” Continue Reading »

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