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Social Work Should Align More with Human Rights Roots, Professor Says in New Book


In her new book, A Human Rights-Based Approach to Justice in Social Work Practice, Shirley Gatenio Gabel, Ph.D., professor and Mary Ann Quaranta Chair for Social Justice for Children, invites readers to revisit the roots of social work and rediscover its profound commitment to justice and human rights.

Early social work practitioners were fervent human rights defenders, Gatenio Gabel writes, advocating for societal reforms and challenging discriminatory practices. However, as the profession evolved, a shift occurred toward “professionalization.” Theories and guides to social work practice are now the driving force of the work instead of justice. 

“The role of social workers as human rights defenders faded as the place of justice in social work receded,” the book’s description states. “Social work practice moved from instigating change toward maintaining the existing social infrastructure.”

The book, published by the Oxford University Press, questions the false micro/macro dichotomy within social work, offering a human rights-based approach toward justice in its place. This approach emphasizes the vital role of impacted individuals and communities in creating systems that support human rights, economic justice, and environmental sustainability.

With engaging case examples, thought-provoking exercises, and reflective activities, the book is an indispensable guide for social work practitioners seeking to implement and integrate a rights-based approach to justice. 

“Readers will be challenged to think critically about the social infrastructure we have built, who benefits from it, who doesn’t, and how it perpetuates inequities,” the book’s description continues.

A Human Rights-Based Approach to Justice in Social Work Practice empowers social work professionals to reclaim their role as advocates for justice, inspiring positive change at both the individual and societal levels. 

Read more and purchase the book here.


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