Using Structural Social Work Theory to Drive Anti-Oppressive Practice With Latino Immigrants
Using Structural Social Work Theory to Drive Anti-Oppressive Practice With Latino Immigrants
Caitlin L. O'Grady
Abstract: Social work practice with marginalized populations not only requires intervention to address individuals’ immediate service needs, but also requires intervention to address the larger structural context that impacts well-being. Critical theoretical frameworks, such as Structural Social Work (SSW) theory, are essential in helping social workers to develop a comprehensive understanding of the manner in which social systems are intentionally designed to oppress marginalized populations, including immigrant and refugee communities. SSW serves to both understand how society’s structure causes social problems and to identify how these structures must be changed in order to alleviate harm. Focusing specifically on Latino immigrants, this article presents an overview of SSW theory and discusses its relevance to social work practitioners. This SSW framework will then be applied to analyze two U.S. social systems, the labor regulatory and mental health systems, that are integrally connected to Latino immigrant well-being. Finally, drawing from two case examples of research conducted in Chicago, alternative models of practice in the realms of labor and mental health are presented. Findings from these case examples illustrate how social workers can engage in anti-oppressive practice when they implement interventions that promote personal healing while simultaneously challenging oppressive elements of social systems.
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