International Social Work

To social workers, it has been obvious that humanity’s problems are shared across geographic boundaries, which is why social work has a long history of international focus. Since 1928, when the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) was founded, hundreds of thousands of social workers have crossed national borders to alleviate suffering and address social concerns throughout the world. Today, many U.S. social workers have chosen to continue this tradition and are providing human services to the international community through diverse activities, including refugee aid, adoption support and disaster relief. Social workers staff international service organizations like the Red Cross and UNICEF. They are also involved in researching international issues with the goal of furthering social justice, human rights and the quality of life. International social work jobs are available in a variety of settings. The United States government maintains a presence around the world, and its international offices provide social services for visiting Americans and frequently offer support to local populations. Multinational corporations employ social workers to help their personnel who have relocated abroad. Inter-Governmental Organizations (IGOs) and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), including the United Nations and other global bodies, also provide social services to people in need around the world. International social workers are also employed by foundations that are involved in human service projects with an international scope, where social workers are employed as program directors, consultants and field representatives. Religious organizations that work with international service projects also employ social workers. As the world becomes more interconnected, an ever-increasing number of social workers are needed to play a role in world affairs. Colleges and universities have recognized the world-wide demand for social workers and many have added specialized coursework, as well as study abroad programs, international field internships and cross-national collaborations. Leaders in the social work field have identified globalization as more than a strictly economic trend and believe that social workers are uniquely equipped to work with immigrants, refugees and other marginalized sectors of the international community. They would like to see the U.S. government foster a social work approach to international relations, an approach that uses mediation rather than armed conflict to resolve international disputes and provides disadvantaged communities with the power of self-determination.