How have social workers reacted to the effects of globalization in the US?

Globalization can seem like a vague notion that is happening to other people somewhere else in the world – a process that is mainly related to the fields of finance and commerce. However, the impact of globalization is felt every day. Its influence can intensify several social issues, including income disparities, health inequality and family disruption. As it can affect the living and working conditions of some parts of the population, it also shapes certain aspects of welfare policy, such as state provision.

Meeting the challenges of globalization

The influence globalization has on the population is a concern for social workers in relatively affluent states and those working in states struggling with economic hardship. It changes many areas of their practice, as well as the way they deliver their service and the types of problems they are asked to address. Social workers have responded by elevating the service they offer to meet these new challenges. They use the skills they have and their values, combined with research, to provide help to those who need it.

What is globalization?

Globalization is a term that refers to the increasing level of connection between the cultures, populations and economies of the world. It has been established and driven through cross-border trading in services and numerous goods. In turn, this trade has brought about an international stream of information, people and investment through many different countries. Over hundreds of years, these economic collaborations have flourished, and by the late 20th century, they began to play a more significant role in modern life. Overall, the effects of globalization have been positive, nurturing a deeper level of understanding across cultures and borders.

In what ways does globalization affect social workers?

Although the economic and cultural effects of globalization can be a great benefit to society at large, there are some groups that tend to be overlooked in this process. Due to the nature of their work, social workers are likely to meet people who have experienced some of the adverse effects of the mishandling of globalization. In some areas of the US, many businesses have moved their operations abroad to take advantage of the higher profits that can be made. This has plunged many Americans into unemployment, often for the first time in their lives.

Offering a safe haven

Migrants and asylum seekers from countries affected by war and poverty may be forced to seek out resettlement countries, such as the United States. They arrive feeling relieved to finally be somewhere safe but also traumatized by their experiences. Lone child migrants, refugees from war-stricken countries and other asylum seekers and migrants can be vulnerable when they first arrive in a new country. They can feel confused and marginalized, unsure how to navigate the education or healthcare system. Social workers strive to treat everyone with the dignity they deserve; they respectfully signpost services and are conscious of ethnic and cultural diversity.

Celebrating and nurturing different cultures

Cultural diversity is another aspect of globalization that impacts the practice of social work. Social workers create a sense of healing and inclusiveness through their work with community support groups and other types of action. They connect clients who are immigrants with local programs that could help them get settled and services that might be useful to them. Social workers use their skills and the practical forms of assistance at their disposal to help people integrate culturally and find their feet economically.

How social workers serve a multicultural community

The US has a well-established multicultural community. It is home to numerous ethnic, racial and religious groups. These add value to the country and boost diversity, especially when people coexist peacefully. However, problems can arise when it comes to integration. As globalization becomes more prevalent in their local area of practice, social workers are adjusting to dealing with more culturally diverse families and individuals. They use cultural competence to engage with clients effectively and build trust with those who might otherwise feel marginalized by the local community.

Cultural competency is an essential skill

Social workers will not be experts on the culture of every person they serve, but being open and respectful is a good place to start. Specifically, all competent social workers will ensure they have a sound knowledge of the cultural diversity present in their area of practice. If there are any historical events of significance to certain parts of the population, such as social unrest in the country they originate from, social workers should carry out some research to understand how these factors could influence their clients. Understanding other worldviews, as well as the traditions and beliefs of different cultures, is extremely helpful.

Clients are treated as individuals regardless of their background

Part of the training for social workers involves recognizing that even though people or families are from the same cultural background or religious group, their values might not be the same. Getting to know people as individuals is a key part of the job and part of what makes it so rewarding. People who want to make a difference in the lives of others and are interested in the profession can find social work programs in New York at Keuka College. Its Master’s in Social Work combines fieldwork with written study to ready students for a successful career serving their community.

Breaking down barriers

One of the most important skills a new social worker must learn is withholding judgments or assumptions. Instead, it’s vital to ask clients what is important to them and what they want out of the service they are receiving. Once a level of trust has been established between a client and a professional, progress can be made. Social workers have a lot to offer people who experience problems due to cultural differences. They enable people to overcome barriers to accessing education, healthcare and employment in a number of ways.

Language is empowering

If a client speaks another language, there can be limitations on communication. However, social workers respond by contacting healthcare facilities that offer translation services to patients. These experts can assist people in navigating their way through conversations with their social work team and the healthcare system. Social workers with a translator to assist with their work show cultural competence when asking and answering questions. They are mindful of the feelings of people in varying cultural groups and the distinct issues affecting them. Language can leave a service user feeling empowered, as they may only have been able to communicate with their new community once accessing these services. To use their language to advocate for themselves with a translator and social worker who are really listening means the client can be involved in the decisions made around them.

Social workers learn from their clients

To improve their service over time and ensure their response to globalization is constantly improving, social workers use their client’s experiences to inform their practice. They spend time getting to know people from different cultures as individual service users, meetings are unrushed and interventions are taken at the client’s pace. The best social workers understand that the client is an expert when it comes to their experience of living in a culture. As such, it’s essential to be ready to learn from them. Even if they serve many clients from the same cultural heritage, social workers know they are different people with varying needs.

Social workers and the economic impact of globalization

Although globalization significantly expanded the US economy and ensured American companies became part of the global economy, some negative impacts have emerged. One of the most problematic is the outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries where the work can be done at a cheaper rate. This has led to numerous job losses in certain industries in particular. Manufacturing has been one of those hit hardest. This, in addition to more competition from goods imported from abroad, means working-class people find themselves in a difficult economic situation.

How do social workers protect families and individuals from economic hardship?

People living in poverty come up against a range of obstacles, but with concrete help from social workers, service provision and referrals, they can have their needs addressed. From short-term counseling and advice to concrete employment assistance and temporary funds, social workers are a link between their clients and useful organizations. They can also make people aware of locations where they can find affordable housing units and businesses that offer childcare, so it’s easier for every member of a family to find employment. If people need an emergency injection of cash for overdue utility charges, security deposits or rent money, social workers can suggest resources where these can be obtained. Often social workers advocate for their clients when it comes to speaking with funders and negotiating with non-profits to get the best results for those in need.

Tapping into the community’s resources

Although globalization can create new and dynamic communities, for people who cannot afford to live in their home neighborhood, it has the opposite effect, especially for those who feel very rooted in a particular location. Here, once again, social workers can reach out to community partners to ensure people remain valued members of the community, even when they are experiencing economic hardship. They might speak to landlords or faith groups to find suitable places for people to live or to collect food, clothing and school supplies. If children are having difficulty accessing their school due to a house move and a lack of transport, social workers will liaise with the school district to locate transportation and keep a child enrolled in the meantime.

Social work and people who are on the move

The terms refugee, migrant and asylum seeker all have slightly different definitions, but all these groups are made up of people who have left their country to start a new life elsewhere. Often, this is because their destination country has more to offer in terms of keeping them and their family safe, providing opportunities and allowing them to avoid the effects of war and conflict. Social workers are there to represent their interests, ensure their rights are protected and establish a good plan of care if necessary.

People need support for various reasons

Refugees are people who arrive in the US and ask for its protection. This could be because they are being persecuted and displaced due to their nationality, race, religion or another factor. In many cases, the government in their own country is unable or unwilling to protect them from harm. Asylum seekers arriving in the US are not yet classified as refugees; instead, they are waiting for the US to decide whether they can be recognized as refugees. Migrants are not refugees or asylum seekers; instead, they are people who hope to work in the US, live with the family they have here or study. Some leave to get away from difficult circumstances and poverty at home. All of these people have a huge amount to offer, but they often need help to get started in their new life. It is the job of social workers to bring out the best in people and ensure they become productive, healthy and fulfilled members of society.

How social workers help refugees, migrants and asylum seekers

Social workers can suggest policy changes that would assist refugees; they can help them manage family separations and ensure their living conditions are suitable. Social workers have become a lynchpin in these processes and a point of contact for refugees who need someone within the system to turn to for advice. Frequently, several agencies become involved in working on each refugee, asylum seeker or migrant’s case, but it is social workers who manage the person’s immediate needs. In the early days, this could involve making sure they have somewhere to live, as well as food and water. Later, they can help a person find work and access state support.

Helping new citizens make social connections

The US is a popular resettlement country for people who are on the move for any number of reasons. As such, social workers in the US also assist newcomers in the form of enriching their social connections. Whether people arrive alone, with their family or plan to move in with their extended family, they are initially in an unfamiliar environment. Providing practical social support in these early stages can make all the difference. It can reduce a person’s feelings of stress and anxiety and give them a sense of control over their new life.

Encouraging community connections

Furthermore, to foster a sense of belonging, a group of caseworkers can coordinate their practice to place people near family members when they are first housed so that they can rely on this vital support during the initial integration process. If there is no family to connect individuals of families with, they could be introduced to established members of the refugee population and encouraged to nurture connections in their receiving community. This network can prove to be a vital resource when it comes to finding other essentials for everyday living. This could be employment, gaining a social network, the chance to volunteer and opportunities to have fun during activities such as days out or parties.

Maintaining the cultural identity of a person or a family

The established refugee community can form a link between people who have just arrived in the US and their local language and culture. They know what life is like in the US and have often created a community of their own in which their cultural identity can flourish. By bringing together new and existing members of the refugee community, social workers allow people to reconnect with the religion, practices and values that bring them comfort and are familiar. With this support, people can maintain their cultural identity while also establishing a new one in their current home.

Allowing people to make a choice

Some people arrive in the US because they hope to make a clean break from the country they were born in. They may have experienced discrimination based on their gender or sexuality or another personal circumstance. Therefore, social workers also support people who do not want to make contact with refugees from their home nation.

Challenging inequalities and welcoming newcomers

Although the effects of globalization can result in new policies and practice changes in social work, the fundamental message of the profession remains. Social workers strive to construct and nurture human relationships, challenge inequality and remain trusted advocates for their diverse clientele. Wherever communities, families or individuals are in need, they promote inclusivity and engagement with health, social and other services. In doing so, social workers improve their client’s future and that of society as a whole.