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    Ethnicity and Social Work Practice

    By: Carole B. Cox

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    Increasingly, social workers are working with clients from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Because ethnicity influences social workers in myriad ways, it is important for them to have a greater understanding of ethnicity and the ways in which it can influence individuals perceptions and responses to problems and treatment. Knowledge and understanding have therefore become critical for effective practice. However, knowledge is not the only factor necessary for establishing social work relationships with clients. To a large extent, the development of these relationships depends upon the sensitivity of the practitioner to the culture and traditions of the client, and the ways in which these may influence behaviors. Ethnicity and Social Work Practice fills a major gap in the literature on social work and ethnicity by offering a broad, conceptual model applicable to all ethnic populations. It presents ethnicity in an innovative way, focusing on its many dimensions as encountered in various areas of social work practice (individuals, families, groups, and communities) and includes separate chapters on social services, healthcare, and social planning and policy development. Rather than attempting to address these issues by describing the traits of specific ethnic groups, this text presents the model of an ethnic lens. It is through this lens that ethnic groups are likely to perceive society, problems, the helping process, and the social workers who assist them. At the same time, social work practitioners perceive various ethnic groups through their own lenses, based upon their own experiences and beliefs. The effectiveness of practice and the establishment of a valid social work relationship depends to a large extent on the clarity of these lenses. Ethnicity and Social Work Practice is careful to avoid the twin traps of stereotyping or ignoring the importance of ethnicity, presenting a comprehensive conceptual framework useful to both students and practitioners. As the text links substantive themes to the ethnic perspective, it underscores the critical role ethnicity plays in social work practice, making it a significant contribution to courses in social work practice, cultural diversity, and human behavior in the social environment.

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