Abstract: Recent Development of Financial Social Work in China (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Recent Development of Financial Social Work in China

Friday, January 17, 2020
Independence BR B, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Jin Huang, PhD, Associate Professor, Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, MO
Suo Deng, PhD, Associate Professor, Peking University, Beijing, China
Shu Fang, Associate Professor, Sociology and Psychology School, China Central University of Finance and Economics, Beijing, China
Ling Zhou, PhD, Assistant Professor, School of Public Government, Beijing City University, Beijing, China
Jiuyun He, Program Director, Lezhu Social Worker Office, Taizhou City, China
Fei Liu, Director, Tongxin Social Services Center, Taizhou City, China
Background: Financial social work (FSW) is an emerging social work practice area that promotes individual financial well-being through financial capability and asset building (FCAB, Sherraden & Huang, in press). There is an increasing attention on developing FSW to address challenges of poverty and economic inequality in China. However, at the early stage of the FSW development, it is a common question among policymakers, researchers, educators, and practitioners on how to initiate finance-related social work programs and services. The study reports several FSW innovations to shed lights into the ways to provide FCAB services to social work clients in China.

Methods: Little research has been conducted on the development of FSW in China. To fill the gap, we took a “field scan” approach to search relevant studies and news reports, to interview leaders of social work organizations, and to identify important FSW innovations in the field. We conducted cases studies on three innovations and collected qualitative data from the leaders of these innovations.

Results: Study revealed three FSW innovations. First, Child Development Account (CDA) pilot programs targeting vulnerable children have been implemented in Shan’Xi province, as an example of an child-centered antipoverty approach. The programs created asset-building accounts for low-income children and integrated asset building with family support services (e.g., parenting training) and social media technology. The participatory assessment shows children and families have gained more positive development prospective, increased access to financial services, and improved livelihood strategies.

The second innovation is on FSW education. As a university with a strong background on finance and economics disciplines, the China Central University on Finance and Economics (CUFE) initiated a FSW concentration in the MSW program and implemented a new curricular plan. The FSW concentration offered one stand-along introductory FCAB course and infused at least one FCAB module (e.g. long-term asset building and child development, and debt and mental health) to all requisite courses. Specific FCAB content has been included in the requirement of graduate students’ professional practicum. 

The third innovation is on FSW practice guideline developed by a nonprofit organization collaborating with local government in efforts to regulate the new development of FSW practices. The guideline clarifies the relationships among FCAB, FSW, and financial well-being. It defines the goals, scope, process, approaches, and management of FSW practices. The guideline also creates multiple assessment tools to help social workers and clients understand financial capability status in micro and clinical practice. The guideline will be implemented in the government-funded FSW services in the future.

Implications: These innovations suggest that there is a great potential to develop FCAB services for vulnerable populations. Different strategies could be applied to promote various aspects of the FSW development (e.g., programs, education, and practice). One key to successful FSW innovations shared by these cases is to connect FCAB services with major national plans supported by the government (e.g., the National Poverty Reduction Plan, and the National Medium and Long-term Talent Development Plan) and identify the roles of FCAB services that contributes to the achievement of these national plans.