Social Justice and Children Social Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

He then went to work for the family business, lived in a nice home and drove a nice car, but had no reported income. Since the birth of their child, who is now a teenager, he has contributed virtually nothing to the child's support, though his mother has established a college fund for the child.

Research

One area of research that has influenced my view of social justice is the research on wealth disparity in America:

In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2001, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 33.4% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 51%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 84%, leaving only 16% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth, the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 39.7%. (Domhoff, 2006).

Moreover, while the American dream suggests that standard-of-living and relative wealth will improve over generations, suggesting that distribution will become more equal, giving a finite number of resources, that has not been the case. On the contrary, wealth distribution has been concentrated throughout American history, especially in large cities like Boston, New York, and Charleston. (Keister, 2005). There have been some periods of equalization, such as immediately following the New Deal and World War II and the 19070s. (Domhoff, 2006). However, there has been relatively little overall change in wealth distribution patterns since the 19th century.

While it is inappropriate to equate wealth and power, the truth is that the two are inextricably intertwined. If power is, as defined by Wrong, the ability to realize goals, then wealth certainly increases someone's power. To understand this, one can look at higher education in America. Theoretically, affirmative action programs or admission programs that look beyond standardized test scores and grade point averages are supposed to ameliorate the difference that socio-economic status can have on entering students, making a more level playing field for entrants. The reality is that most students, regardless of prior academic performance, have no chance at admission to some colleges and universities. Legacy admissions have long been a part of Ivy League tradition, which means that less affluent students compete for a smaller number of admission slots than are actually available. This practice has spread beyond the Ivy League. Daniel Golden suggests that colleges have become so dependent on private funding sources that it has resulted in a disadvantage for minorities and members of the lower class. (2003). Golden indicates the majority of funding donations derived from white Americans far exceeds donations by black American, thereby granting an advantage to potential students that are white for admission to college, since white donors are likely to have white legacy admissions candidates. (2003). Moreover, while Golden points out that this preferential admission probably violates equal education access laws, the same intangible considerations that have been incorporated into the admissions process following successful challenges to admission practices that directly consider race as a factor in admissions make it difficult to prove that wealthy students are admitted because they are wealthy, rather than because of a myriad variety of other intangible factors that could permissibly influence admission decisions. (2003). This means of limiting access to higher education for minorities and members of the lower social classes is just another way of keeping wealth concentrated. It certainly means that if 100 admission slots are theoretically available, but 20 of them are not actually open to all applicants, that minorities and members of the lower class are statistically less likely than others to be able to obtain this advantage. There are similar factors contributing to the continuation of social injustice in other areas, like business ownership.

Another area of research that has impacted my approach to social work is the research on family violence. Family violence is a pervasive, worldwide problem that impacts children. Conservative estimates suggest that approximately 275,000 million children worldwide are exposed to violence in the home. (Unicef, 2006). According to Unicef, "Violence in the home is one of the most pervasive human rights challenges of our time. It remains a largely hidden problem that few countries, communities or families openly confront. Violence in the home is not limited by geography, ethnicity, or status; it is a global phenomenon" (Unicef, 2006). The global nature of the problem makes it clear that no single approach is going to cure or fix domestic violence. However, research reveals that domestic violence is not only driven by gender power disparities, but also by other social problems that are rooted in social inequality. For example, many of the risk factors that increase the likelihood of family violence are linked to having a lower socio-economic status. These included young motherhood, poverty, and unemployment. (Unicef, 2006). Moreover, while society has taken major steps to prevent domestic violence, the fact is that the criminal justice approach taken by most states has not been sufficient to end family violence. Instead, the same mandatory arrest policies that are supposed to help the least-advantaged domestic violence victims may actually have the greatest negative impact on them because mandatory arrest policies can deprive economically marginalized families of much-needed income. (Buzawa & Buzawa, 2003).

Influence on social work

Social workers have the basic goal of social justice. "A brief glance at the many roles of social workers shows how this value system underscores everything they do. With homeless clients, for example, social workers make sure their clients have access to food stamps and health care. The same is true for elderly clients: Social workers may work to protect them from financial abuse or to ensure that they are receiving the health and financial benefits that are rightfully theirs." (National Association of Social Workers, 2008). Therefore, as a social worker, my goal will be to try to make sure that my clients receive a fair share of available resources and an equal opportunity to succeed. These goals are particularly relevant when working with children. While many traditional social work clients, such as the impoverished, are powerless and underserved, being a child only compounds that powerlessness.

Perhaps nowhere is the relative lack of power that children experience more apparent than when dealing with children who are victims of violence. Most people are aware of the role that social workers play in helping to protect children from violent homes:

Social workers play an active role in protecting children through the child welfare system and they are in a position to provide early intervention. The child welfare system is comprised of many community organizations that collaborate to promote child safety. These organizations include public agencies, such as departments of social services, and private child welfare agencies and organizations. They often collaborate with the schools, health and mental health agencies, and other community-based organizations to meet the needs of children and families.

This network investigates reports of possible child abuse, provides services to families to assist with protecting children, and arranges for foster care or permanent adoptive homes for children who are not safe at home. Child protective service workers follow up on child abuse reports if the report meets the state's legal definition of abuse or neglect. (Help Starts Here, 2008).

However, not all child abuse is the result of intentional actions towards a child, and being aware of how income disparity impacts wealth distribution can help illuminate those principals. The exact same actions in two different households cannot be treated in the same manner. Take, for example, a middle class or affluent family that allows a baby to go hungry and with very infrequent diaper changes. Those two factors would establish a case of neglect and would merit social service intervention and require training for the parents, who are neglecting the basic needs of the child. However, in an impoverished household, those characteristics may not indicate neglect. The parent may have allowed a baby to go hungry because she did not have the money to buy the child food, and infrequent diaper changes may be the result of an effort to extend the family's meager financial resources. In that instance, while parenting classes and similar interventions might be helpful, the real way to make sure that child is cared for in a more appropriate manner is to increase that family's economic resources, perhaps by getting the family involved in financial aid programs like Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the program aimed at providing food, health-care referrals, and nutrition education to low income pregnant and post-partum women and their young children. (USDA, 2008). This one example shows how an awareness of social justice issues can help impact how a social worker approaches resolving a problem for a child who is experiencing either abuse or neglect.

Furthermore, social workers apply social-justice principles on a broader scale, because social workers are not only focused on improving conditions for their clients, but also with…

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