A social worker’s job can sometimes be complicated, especially when working in a cosmopolitan area. This is understandable, considering the work they must put into learning and getting acquainted with the population. The complicated nature of social work necessitated the creation of a “social work ethic”. These ethics suggest that an average worker’s tolerance, acknowledgment, and acceptance of different people in need of their services is very important to the overall success of the immediate task.
The idea of the social work ethic started making its way into professional literature. Professionals cited and pushed for the need for racial and ethnic understanding by the average social worker. Before the 1960s, an average social worker was indoctrinated to prioritize their duties, which revolved around adding value and understanding the general behavior of their subjects as “one people”, without nuances based on race or ethnicity.
In the 1980s, new theories and approaches emerged, evolving social work into a more inclusive profession. These new approaches encouraged social workers to get acquainted with understanding their subjects’ cultural orientation based on race. Today, an average social worker, no matter the area of the assignment, can easily serve diverse populations, using a variety of strategies.
Modern social workers acquire the knowledge needed to treat diverse populations through various trainings, workshops, and seminars delivered in MSW programs in PA. Keuka College, for example, offers an online master of social work program that provides students with a comprehensive social work education that includes strategies to approach diverse populations. Below, we have listed the strategies and approaches that a social worker might use in the workplace when dealing with a diverse population.
The color-blind strategy
This strategy was introduced in the early 1970s and mandates the social worker to “turn a blind eye” to the race of their subjects. It requires all social workers to see everyone in society as equals. The idea of this strategy is to encourage equal opportunities for all. The strategy aims to achieve positive health outcomes that are not dependent on race.
This approach teaches that a social worker should endeavor to develop, acquire, and use the right “cultural perceptual schema” depending on the person they are treating. This approach has divided the term “culture” into both surface-level and deep structures. While the surface type, also known as superficial, includes things such as food and music, the deep structure covers their traditions, norms, social customs, history, etc. The purpose of this approach is to tailor the approach of social workers, as their actions affect both the deep structures and the surface type of the people’s culture.
Anti-racist social work approach
The anti-racist social work approach, introduced in the late 1980s and continued through the 1990s, has become increasingly pertinent in addressing the structural inequalities deeply rooted in society. Anti-racist social workers not only acknowledge the economic environment of their place of assignment but also recognize the pervasive influence of power dynamics intertwined with race. They firmly believe that an unstable society is often the consequence of an unjust social governance system, which disproportionately impacts marginalized communities. To combat these systemic injustices, anti-racist social workers emphasize collective action and collaboration as the primary strategies. They understand that dismantling deeply entrenched racial biases and inequalities requires a concerted effort from individuals, communities, and institutions working together towards a common goal.
Anti-tyranny practice approach
The main idea behind this is for social workers to embrace the complexity around them and recognize the presence of another opinion or figure. While applying this approach, an average social worker is expected to identify coworkers who can help in their practice, ensuring that their actions are always checked and that patients can benefit from the expertise of several professionals. The goal of this approach is to ensure practice remains focused on positive patient outcomes by eliminating inevitable human error as much as possible.
Cultural competence strategy
This strategy has been applied since the early 1990s. Social workers use this strategy to ensure their practice remains culturally aware. Social workers practicing cultural competency ensure their work is sensitive to a community’s religion, culture, and race. This strategy aims to deliver appropriate services on both individual and institutional levels. This strategy, in turn, responds effectively to the needs of different cultural populations and acquaints people with the planning and execution of general social work services.
Advocacy and social empowerment
This was originally meant to be part of the social worker’s code of conduct. It wasn’t but regardless, has, over the years, morphed into a commonly used strategy. Here, social workers identify the problems of their immediate environment, e.g., their local policies, social systems, cultural practices, and multicultural programs. With awareness of these structures, they will be able to organize the community and pursue a common course, ensuring key infrastructure and policies work positively for local communities.
Promoting cultural competence and unity in social work
It is important to note that every social worker, no matter their primary place of assignment, must endeavor to display strong leadership skills regardless of the race, ethnicity, or culture of their community. They must create a way to encourage cultural unity using their experience as social workers. Through the approaches and strategies mentioned above, social workers must also work towards advocating against oppression and enforcing unity through the inclusiveness of communities and institutions.
Lastly, social workers also need to understand the importance of cultural awareness and culturally competent practice. As previously discussed, cultural competence is vital in understanding a community’s cultural background, belief system, values, and tradition.