It is almost passé these days to note that the circumstances in which social work is practiced have changed considerably and that the seeming certainties of the past have largely vanished. Nevertheless change is the reality, particularly in the cases of what were once thought of as the advanced welfare states of Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. A brief tour through the professional social work journals produced in those countries readily illustrates that this notion of change, in particular destabilizing and perhaps transforming change is widespread. Some American commentators adopt an apocalyptic tone (see Meinert, Pardeck, and Kreuger, 2000; Kreuger, 1997; Stoesz, 2002), suggesting that forces of discontinuity arising from institutional transformation are so great that they fatally undermine the very future of the profession. Others are less pessimistic, but still propose that social work in the United States and in other countries such as Australia, Canada and Britain is at a critical juncture (Finn and Jacobson, 2003; Hil, 2001; Leonard, 2001; Lymbery, 2001; Sowers and Ellis, 2001; McDonald and Jones, 2000). Irrespective of the specific position adopted, the core message promoted is that social work as a collective enterprise (and individual social work practitioners and people thinking about becoming social workers) should, at a minimum, take stock of what has been occurring. Social workers need to evaluate the impact of developments in the environment, to think about the realities of the present and the implications for the future, and to fashion individual and collective directions forward.
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