Social Work Practice takes place at different levels: from individual-level, to family, small groups, organizations, community and societal level. Especially in the context of the recent crisis, the variety of social work interventions is growing. New at-risk groups and social problems enter the field of intervention, or call for some form of social action. This special issue includes contributions that fall under the broad area of social work practice and their effectiveness.
The rationale was to stimulate reflection and systematic analysis of ‘what works’/‘what sounds promising’/ ‘what does not work’ in the areas of social intervention. As ‘what does not work’ is also part of building up the evidence, contributions exploring potential rationales for failure and analysis of ‘lessons learned’ were highly encouraged. These are all, areas, still underdeveloped in Romania and a rigorous analysis of effectiveness, much needed. The absence of evidence-based evaluations of current social work interventions among the manuscripts received, confirms the need for further developments in this field.
Nevertheless, measuring effectiveness of social work interventions has never been an easy task. Whilst quantitative indicators are important, the type of change cannot/ should not always be captured in crude measurement criteria. Indeed, evidence comes in many forms, is dynamic and complex. Also, intended or expected outcomes may be accompanied by unintended, indirect effects. There is also a risk for organizations to focus on ‘manageable outputs’ and measurable services, at the expense of acting for meaningful social change.
Given the above limitations, this Special Issue conveys the voices of practitioners and includes more specific and context-based analyses of social work interventions. Contributions analyse interventions at individual/ community/ organizational/ societal level in Romania, but not only.One contribution, for instance, looks into the transfer of a research tool from the United States of America, to several European countries (Ilinca and Cutler) and engages with the limitations of measurement in social work. Other papers go from very specific, practical tools for accurate data collection, to coping strategies of care workers in high-risk contexts (Mampane and Omidire).
Ruth Mampane and Funke Omidire explore the role of community care workers and the coping strategies they adopt in high-risk contexts in South Africa. Their paper has practical implications for increasing the effectiveness of social work practice, as it includes several areas for the support of community care workers in their daily job-related stressors.
Paula Miranda, Liliana Guerra, Magdalena Calderón-Orellana and Rayen Cornejo present a historical review of the way social work has been conceptualised and linked to the organisational field and with the managerial and administrative level of practice in industry and rural communities, as well. Their analysis included ninety-one journals that comprise the Social Work Journal collection published from 1970 to 2017 by the School of Social Work of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. The article discusses the ways social, political and economic contexts shaped the understanding of social work in Chile, evolving from the pioneer stage of the academic education in the field in Latin America up-to-date.
Nicoleta Neamţu and Mădălina Teona Huzum examine the relation ship between the organizational climate and the risk of burnout for 60 employees who offer direct social work services in public institutions of Romania. The researchexaminesthegeneral institutional climate and the quality of supervision in relation to emotional exhaustion, the depersonalization dimension and personal achievement, as components of risk of burnout perceived by the executive staff, involved in direct social interventions. The article has implications for preventing the risk of burnout in social work practice. The authors of the article suggest that this outcome could be achieved using combined primary interventions at the individual and at the organizational/ institutional level, as well.
In her empirical study, Adriana Florentina Călăuz discusses supervison in social services working on issues of domestic violence and child abuse. She advances several proposals for making these services more effective and responsive to the needs of their internal (professional social workers) and external clients (primary beneficiaries of the services). The author underline the strong emotions expressed by the users of those kind of services and the social support needed in supervision by the direct providers of interventions, in order to give adequate responses to the clients’ issues.
Gonzague Isirabahenda explores social work Master’s of Arts students' views on women’s leadership in social services in Romania and the Czech Republic. His small scale qualitative research suggests that although gender-sensitive interventions are more effective than ‘gender-neutral’ interventions, still, women’s capacity to exert influence in social work decisions is, still, low. His study relates students’ perceived obstacles for women’s representation in high managerial positions with societal structures and organizational cultures.
Oana-Elena Rădăcină looks into the main changes made by technology in the practices of social work. Her paper examines how social workers in Romania integrate basic technologies (computer, telephone, internet) in order to increase the effectiveness of their work.
Elisaveta Drăghici discusses the evaluation tools for the initial needs assessment and action planning in probation services of Romania. Her article includes specific elements to be included in this process, in order to increase the accuracy of data collection for both interventions and longitudinal research.
Petru Ştefăroi proposes a theoretical paper on the role of Philosophy in the regulation of social work practice. He argues that the core values and the fundamental objectives of social work have Philosophical foundations. Consequently, he calls for incorporating multidisciplinary, complex and humanistic thinking in the professional education of social workers. The ultimate goal is for them to accomplish not only the circumstantial, momentary objectives of subsistence but also to aim towards higher goals related to human change.
Corina Ilinca and Stephen J. Cutler bring a cross-sectional analysis of country-specific data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe. They analyse the relationship between self-reported hearing ability and memory and call for considering the role of subjective hearing in memory assessments and dementia.
Claudiu Ştefani examines the effectiveness of drug and alcohol control strategies, especially in relation to juvenile delinquency in the United States of America and in Europe. He argues that the measures adopted by the European states converge towards the alleviation of the social problems associated with drug use, assisting the addicts and decriminalizing the possession and personal consumption of drugs. Different strategies are analysed according to their benefits and limitations.
Cristina Gavriluţă introduces Ion Ionescu’s book A plea for an open Sociology. Critical thinking and sustainable development Cluj-Napoca: Limes, 2018. She discusses the volume according to several possible layers of interpretation: pedagogical, critical analysis of social problems and a solution-focused approach. The review presents the implications of the book for the analisis of several social challanges: from migration and aging to community development and social services.
We hope the above collection of papers will be a useful resource to a wide audience and that it will generate healthy debates and critical reflection in academic and social work communities. We also hope it can stimulate creative solutions for improving the effectiveness of direct and indirect social work practice