Journal of Human Rights and Social Work

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 89–98 | Cite as

Exceptional and Necessary: Practicing Rights-Based Social Work in the USA

  • Jane McPherson


This paper argues that it is critical for social workers to become familiar with the larger set of human rights—including social and economic rights—and put them into practice because respecting and validating these rights has the potential to transform our clients, our societies, and our social work profession. Beyond arguing the importance of human rights, this paper will provide needed human rights background, as well as specific guidance for social workers and educators about how to take a rights-based approach to professional social work practice. Though the article focuses on the US example, global readers may find the analytic framework employed here useful for understanding the challenges social workers in their own countries face when adopting rights-based approaches. In all countries, social workers must analyze the legal and cultural specificities that promote—or limit—human rights and how the local context may encourage or challenge rights-based practices. Overall, a rights-based approach to practice has the potential to offer social work—a profession oriented to social well-being—the opportunity to take leadership, and become the point profession on economic, social, and cultural rights.


Human rights Social work practice Social work Human rights practice Social work education Social work ethics USA 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social WorkUniversity of Georgia (USA)AthensUSA

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