For this edition of the Social Work Review we have invited social work academics and practitioners to submit articles focusing on innovative approaches to social work practice, research, and education that highlight the unique contributions that social work can bring to social innovation. Innovation is a generic term with a wide range of meanings that are still under scrutiny. The most enduring question is if innovation in any given field should be understood strictly as new, state-of-the-art approaches, bound to replace the old with new, more efficient ways of doing and thinking things, or if it should embrace an extensive meaning that includes adaptations of traditional ideas and processes that form a bridge between past and novel developments. Whether the function of innovation is to completely (re)invent or to facilitate the transition from an established way of doing things to an improved one, the expectation of a positive change is implicit to any proposal that strives to be innovative. Thus, rather than framing innovation within a narrative of competition between “the old” and “the new”, there is perhaps more value in seeing it as the pinnacle of the ground-breaking ideas resulted from incremental progress attained during time. Thus, the mix between acquired knowledge and skills and the orientation toward positive change within a creative mindset becomes central to an extended definition of innovation, that can include both inter- and transdisciplinary approaches.
In social work, innovation is essentially linked to the role of social workers as agents of social change and thus becomes purposely interactional with the social reality that it seeks to alter in a positive way. Thus, innovation in social work is often times regarded as a co-creative process, actively engaging the participation of multiple stakeholders, including the social work beneficiaries/clients themselves. Innovation in social work can take place at the level of policy and intervention models, of research strategies, designs, methods and the various ways of mixing them, of theoretical frameworks, and of educational models and teaching methods. It can take the form of both creative adaptations of traditional approaches to fit the demands of the everchanging social reality, and of new, daring solutions to old and new social problems. Innovation in social work is based on complex professional know-how and on the exploration of new possibilities for embedding recent advancements in human knowledge, particularly from the technology and ICT sector.
Another way of analysing innovation in social work is by the societal level where its effects are positioned, from microlevel processes (e.g., innovative interventions, procedural changes/ adaptations, new intra- and interprofessional collaborative approaches and tools), to transformational macrolevel processes triggered by changing social policies (social action directions or even reforms of social work systems).
The contributions gathered in this edition fit in one or more of the aforementioned conceptualizations of innovation in social work and each one challenge the reader to reflect upon social workers role in a changing socio-economic landscape.
Mădălina Hideg and Nicoleta Neamţu open the conversation about social innovation, with an article focusing on innovation in social services, stressing the key role of innovation in implementing effective and efficient social services. The authors highlight the interconnection between innovation in the service sector and innovation in other sectors (technology, market economy, policy and governance) and stress the importance of evaluating innovation in social services based on its relational characteristic. The following articles delve into specific social work areas, either analysing them through an innovative lens or singling out innovative social work approaches.
Elizabeth Lightfoot and Sharyn DeZelar reflect on the specificity of social work practice with parents with disabilities. Drawing on the lessons learned from the application of well-established social work models for working with persons with disabilities, the authors present an innovative intervention model that places the role and needs associated to parenting at the centre of the intervention process.
Alina Simona Hoară reflects on social work system in the informational era and the impact of ICT on social services for the elderly. She is presenting a range of innovative projects developed at national and European level in order to improve the social services designed for the social protection of the elderly.
Opening a subcategory of contributions to this edition in the area of social work and family, Aurel Bahnaru and Remus Runcan are approaching the subject of infidelity as one of the important factors conducing to divorce. The information provided in terms of types of infidelity and couple therapy models in infidelity healing can inform both social workers’ and psychotherapists’ work with couples.
Andreea Bîrneanu’ article takes us to the area of foster care, presenting a study that contributes to the understanding of the dynamic of the relationship between foster carers and children. Analysing how foster parents see themselves in relation to the children in their care, the article raises important point of reflection on the role that foster parents have on the development of foster children and the possible ways for improvement.
Also in the area of parenting, the article of Remus Runcan and Oxana Druşcă points out the effects of paternal education on teenage girls and their implications on social work practices. The study conducted by the authors presents a practical understanding of the intertwining between parenting, communication and self-esteem.
The following two articles of this edition consider practitioners’ engagement with substance abuse issues. Monica-Luminiţa Alexandru’s article presents the results of a qualitative study on the motivating factors that led heroin users to abandon the consumption and achieve abstinence, explaining also the importance of methadone substitution treatment for former heroin users. The study also offers us useful information regarding the possibilities of social reintegration in case of former heroin users.
Continuing the topic of substance abuse, Adin-Daniel Robe attempts to analyse the effectiveness of an Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) program in controlling alcohol dependence, highlighting that the effectiveness of the program can only be explained considering the individual’s situations, beyond the overall positive results of the program in terms of structure and achieved emotional connection between members.
Reminding us the importance of macro theoretical perspectives underpinning social work activity, Petru Ştefăroi’s article analyses the ideological-doctrinal characteristics of three theoretical models identifiable as co-existing in social work (ethical-religious, critical-structuralist, and humanistic-existential) and their intertwining in social work activity that leads to emerging synthetic theoretical models.
Last but not least, George Marian Ichim’s article leaves us with an important topic of reflection that is rather marginally addressed among social work scholars, i.e. the effectiveness of workplace policies and practices and the structural determinants of labour market discrimination against mothers. Focusing on maternity in the academic and scientific field, the author highlights the challenges in balancing maternal functions with a sustainable career.
We conclude this edition of the Social Work Review with two editorial highlights: Iulia Jugănaru’s book review of Dincolo de senzaţional. Imaginea asistenţilor sociali din România în mass-media: 2010-2016 [Beyond the Sensational The image of social workers in Romania in the media: 2010-2016], authored by Florin Lazăr, Valentina Marinescu, and Silvia Branea, and Alina Hoară’s book review of Social Work: History, Recent Debates and High-Risk Groups, authored by Doru Buzducea.