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Alfred Kadushin on the Origin and Professionalization of Social Work

Alfred Kadushin on the Origin and Professionalization of Social Work


[Music] KADUSHIN: People have been doing social work since the beginning of time. Both the Bible and the Koran mention the question of charity and they use almost the same words. If you got to Florence as an institution that was established in 1441 for what were called the cast-aways, people who were cast away. If you go to Paris, there’s an institution in 1535 that deals with the enfants trouves, that is, infants found and so on and so forth. So all along there have been people doing what is the equivalent of what is social work or the functions of social work accepting that it was on a hit or miss basis. People who volunteered to do this, people who felt that they were interested in it but there was no professional organization. The professionalization of social work began around the turn of the century when people who were involved in this kind of activity decided that they wanted to codify the practiced wisdom that was available and then establish programs of training for people who might be interested in doing this work and so early in the twentieth century schools were established by- just before World War I, we had five schools of social work. We had the beginning of a literature, social diagnosis, the beginnings of textbooks and so on. Now over the course of time that I’ve been associated with social work, there’s been increased professionalization of the activity. That development in professionalization was the one that I became interested in in social work, seeing this as a very worthy endeavor, a service that was very desirable and that the community needed but nevertheless one that needed to be upgraded in terms of its research and in terms of its education and over the course of the sixty years, what we had was a development of the infrastructure of the profession. NASW, the national organization was established. CSWE, the council on social work education that had the responsibility for educational programs. We developed many more schools of social work so that by now we have something like 125 masters degrees programs. We have about 60 DSW or PhD programs. We have over 300 bachelors degree programs so there has been then a proliferation of the educational establishment and the proliferation of the support. In addition we have amassed a very considerable amount of information- the testimonial to that is the first edition of the social work encyclopedia was called the 1929 yearbook had 600 pages. The last edition of the encyclopedia of social work has more than 3,000 pages which indicates something of the mass of information that we’ve developed over course of time. As part of the infrastructure we’ve had licensing in most states, have registration in many states and so on and so forth. All of this relates to the infrastructure of a profession, the establishment of the structure of the profession. [Music]

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