The theme of this issue of the Social Work Review is The Place and Role of Social Work in the 2020s and Beyond. We have invited social work academics and practitioners to submit original articles about social work’s role in the context of rapid societal changes: rising economic inequalities, demographic aging, increased economic migration and its social effects, the rising number of displaced people, environmental degradation, the growth of technology, etc.
At the time that we made this call in 2019, little did we know about the imminent global challenge of the novel coronavirus, which reached pandemic proportions in March 2020 and led to unprecedented social distancing measures throughout the globe, with social, economic, and political long-term effects which are still to be determined. There is perhaps no better time than the present to reflect on the role of social work as a leading promoter of social justice. The ample protests which took place in the USA at the end of May 2020 and continue throughout June 2020, reverberating in different parts of the world, amplify the existing global tension and the need for collective action against social and economic injustices.
In this context, social work has been one of the professions which had to act and readapt swiftly and remain active during lockdown to respond to the changing reality. In the past few months, throughout the globe, including in Romania (National College of Social Workers in Romania, 2020), social workers have advocated for the rights and contributed to safeguarding the wellbeing of the most disadvantaged. At this time, discussions about the need for a long-term reshaping of social services are well along the way (Martinez, S, Truell, R., 2020; Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, UNICEF, International Federation of Social Workers, Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, 2020) and time will tell whether we are witnessing “a new rising of the profession” (International Federation of Social Workers, 2020, 6).
We open this edition of the Social Work Review with Francesca Pia Scardigno’s reflection on the current role of the social worker in a landscape where the participation of all stakeholders is encouraged through social policies. The author highlights the role of mediation in inclusive decision-making processes which leaves nobody behind. The article is timely and a relevant read in the context of the protests taking place in the USA and other parts of the world at this time.
Patricia Runcan offers a response to Why is authenticity important in social work? The author analyses the approaches of authenticity existing in the social work literature and continues by proposing a profile of the authentic social worker, whose qualities may prove essential during these times.
The author of the third article, Ana-Maria Dumitrescu, presents the benefits of the digital technology in social work education and argues that solid digital skills have become paramount for effective social work practice. She presents the results of a qualitative study in which social work teachers and practitioners address the benefits of using technology with students and in practice. The data was collected in the second part of 2019, before the lockdown imposed by many national governments in order to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2. In this context, the discussion is extremely relevant as devices and software which were optional in the past have now become mandatory. A continuation of the study is encouraged, as in the past few months, starting mid-March 2020, higher-education programmes were conducted online.
Gabriela Neagu and Gheorghița Nistor’s article maintains the attention on the area of education. The authors analyse secondary data to explore The Attitude of Teachers towards the Process of School Inclusion of Students with Special Educational Needs. The article addresses the factors likely to influence the attitude of teachers towards school inclusion of pupils who have special educational needs, as well as how could teachers be supported to form or change their attitude into a favourable one towards the inclusion of pupils with special educational needs. The study concludes that specialisation, life-long learning or increasing the number of specialised teachers could make a positive difference.
Social workers are a valuable resource for those who need support in order to fully participate in society. Theofild-Andrei Lazăr explores the effectiveness of vocational counselling and training for vulnerable groups and, by analysing secondary data, identifies how much success various groups obtain after services are provided. The goal is to support social workers in offering qualitative services when assisting persons who are regarded as vulnerable on the job market. He concludes that successfully completing vocational training and successful job-searching may depend on aspects such as gender, age, ethnicity and place of residence (rural-urban).
The article proposed by Elena Baciu is well-timed, giving the current social movements in the USA. The article argues that in Romania we live with ethnic prejudice curtailed by cultural and behavioural stereotypes. The data presented in the article, collected within the framework of an international project, comprises both quotes from interviews with Roma respondents and analysis of quantitative data. The article concludes that a social worker who confronts her or his ethnic prejudice will be better equipped to produce lasting change. The article can thus be viewed as an invitation to reflect on what can be done in Romania in order to reduce discrimination against its Roma citizens.
Although it is not identified as the most frequent form of human trafficking, exploitation of Romanian children for begging exists. Monica Alexandru’s article explores through interviews with professionals who work with victims of trafficking the factors which favour the phenomenon and how it could be reduced. The author concludes by stressing the importance of education for increasing social inclusion and by highlighting the need for alternative formal educational programmes which leave nobody behind.
The psychological impact of the COVID-19 crisis is seen in increased level of anxiety and stress and could lead to elevated rates of depression, self-harmful and suicidal behaviours (World Health Organization, 2020). Remus Runcan’s article brings to focus the prevailing issue of teenage suicide. The author makes an analysis of the literature on the subject and identifies three types of factors that favour adolescent suicide – biological, environmental, and psychological – illustrated with examples from the literature.
Cosmin Ghețău and Paul Teodor Hărăguș explore the relationship between Alternative Music Preference and Youth Engagement in Risky Behaviors. The article is based on quantitative data collected from youngsters who listen to alternative music. The authors analyse scores on ten dimensions: trouble avoidance, family togetherness, friend support, peer group acceptance, neighbourhood youth behaviour, self-esteem, group integration, presence of suicide thoughts, consumption of alcohol and illicit drugs.
In her article, Rebeca Popescu explores the connection between the economic migration of parents and child abandonment. She highlights that children whose parents migrate may remain without familial protection, in need of social protection, and stresses the need for parental education for child abandonment prevention.
We conclude this edition of the Social Work Review with a reflection on the role of social workers in working with preschool children. Providing evidence from an in-class setting, Alina Breaz argues that the social worker is well equipped to provide support to preschool children who present difficulties in communication, by working in a multidisciplinary team.
Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, UNICEF, International Federation of Social Workers, Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action. (2020). Social Service Workforce Safety and Wellbeing during the COVID-19 Response - Recommended Actions. [Online] Available at http://socialserviceworkforce.org/system/files/resource/files/Social-Service-Workforce-Safety-and-Wellbeing-during-COVID19-Response.pdf
(Accessed June 3rd, 2020).
International Federation of Social Workers. (2020). COVID-19: the struggle, success and expansion of social work – Rory Truell reflects on the profession’s global response, five months on. [Online] Available at https://www.ifsw.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/2020-05-18-COVID-19-the-struggle-success-and-expansion-of-social-work-1.pdf
(Accessed June 3rd, 2020).
Martinez, S., Truell, R. (2020). Time for a New Social Rights Revolution. [Online] Available at: https://www.ifsw.org/time-for-a-new-social-rights-revolution/
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National College of Social Workers in Romania (2020). Romania. Social Workers Fight COVID-19. [Online] https://www.ifsw.org/romania-social-workers-fight-covid-19/?hub=main
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World Health Organization. (2020). Mental health and COVID-19. [Online] Available at http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-emergencies/coronavirus-covid-19/technical-guidance/mental-health-and-covid-19
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