Adapting International Social Welfare Innovations

M. C. Hokenstad and James Midgley , Lessons from Abroad: Adapting International Social Welfare Innovations

Doreen Elliott

M. C. Hokenstad and James Midgley (Eds.), Lessons from Abroad: Adapting International Social Welfare Innovations. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers Press, 2004. $44.99 papercover.

This volume of readings by two pre-eminent international authors, M,C. ‘Terry’ Hokenstad and James Midgley, incorporates a splendid collection of ideas from the contributions of leading thinkers in the field of global social work and social welfare. Superbly conceptualized and excellently executed, this collection challenges the reader to view familiar issues with global lenses. An introductory chapter by Hokenstad and Midgley brings the collection together well and sets the reader’s expectations for the feast that follows. Seven chapters from well-known contributors review topics central to social work and social welfare such as child welfare, mental health, welfare and poverty, aging, as well as introducing material less familiar to social workers with chapters on social development and human rights. This is a timely volume of stimulating and challenging ideas. It is timely because the Education Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) encourage social work programs to include a global perspective in their curricula. This approach needs to be reinforced by comparative literature which supports courses taught in a global context. The volume has the advantages of being concise and of focusing on issues central to the social work curriculum. Students will not be daunted by highly technical language and abstruse ideas, but will be inspired by global comparisons and information and the possibility of innovation, all presented in a highly readable package.

Guseilo, Curl and Hokenstad use a strategy of giving us a glimpse into the future of the United States through a review of pension policy in Sweden, one of the demographically oldest countries in the world with approximately 17% of the population over the age of 65. It will be some years before the United States reaches this level, and so to examine the experiences of a country which has already met the challenges of maintaining income security for a graying population is a useful device for policy analysis and planning. This excellent chapter on aging further discusses the growing issue of elder suicide and takes an analytic look at Long Term Care in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Van Wormer reviews global child welfare issues and provides examples and analysis, which while acknowledging important US innovations in the field, also questions accepted views and practice. She reviews the international origins of kinship care, family group conferencing and points to important international programs relating to children’s rights and child abuse. Van Wormer argues that institutionalized deprivation and violence or social abuse is more pervasive than care-giver abuse, thus challenging the bio-psycho-social model dominant in the delivery of US child welfare programs.

Along the same line of thought, Wetzel-Wood argues that oppression and socio-economic development are intrinsically linked with mental health. Both Van Wormer’s and Wetzel–Woods chapters’ serve as salutary reminders that the bigger picture may cause us to see social and individual problems in a different perspective.

In a very timely analysis of privatization of Social Security, Midgley reviews pension reforms in Chile, Singapore and Britain and the lessons learned. This is an analysis that deserves wider circulation in the current debate and should be regarded as essential reading for all students of social work, public policy, and human services administration and planning.

Writing on Welfare, Poverty and Social Services, Gilbert reviews the global trend to implementing policies encouraging ‘active’ participation in the workforce, otherwise known as ‘workfare’. He considers important questions such as ‘should caring for children, the elderly and infirm relatives qualify as a form of work?’ (p. 83).

Livermore and Midgley discuss Social Development in the context of lessons from the global society: micro enterprise, social capital and human capital are concepts which have not yet made their way into mainstream social work and human services practice and literature, but which have great potential for facilitating an empowerment model of practice for the social work profession.

At a time when the US is challenged by other nations for its ambivalence in the area of the Geneva Convention, what can be more appropriate than Lightfoot’s excellent summary of international conventions pertaining to human rights, child welfare and women’s issues and their implications for social work and social welfare in the United States?

While Social Work as a profession owes much to the United States in the twentieth century for the growth of theory, research and professional identity and direction, this book is a salutary reminder that we have already imported many good ideas and still have much to learn from the rest of the world. It is invaluable for courses wishing to respond to the EPAS exhortation to add a global perspective to the social work curriculum and it will undoubtedly find a place on the reading list of numerous courses in the next few years. It is a must read for every thinking social worker, students of social work, human service and public policy planners.

Doreen Elliott

University of Texas at Arlington

COPYRIGHT 2005 Western Michigan University, School of Social Work

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group