Abstract: Interpersonal, Professional and Political: Minority Social Workers As Policy Actors (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

740P Interpersonal, Professional and Political: Minority Social Workers As Policy Actors

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Hani Nouman, PhD, Assistant Professor, School of Social work, Israel
Faisal Azaiza, PhD., Associate Professor, Univetsity of Haifa, Israel
Guy Enosh, Ph.D, Professor, Univetsity of Haifa, Israel
Background and purpose: Limited realization of social justice and unequal access to basic social resources place demands on social workers to take action in shaping adequate public and social policy. Previous studies have identified various challenges that limit the involvement of social workers in policy practice. These challenges have rarely been examined in the context of social workers that belong to ethnic minority groups in multicultural societies.

This paper attempts to fill this gap by examining these challenges among social workers from the Palestinian-Arab minority group in Israel. Additionally, drawing on their own experiences, participants offer suggestions regarding the best ways to assist in the development of training and practice to increase the involvement of social workers from diverse ethnic groups in policy arenas in multicultural societies.

Methods: Fifty-four in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with social workers from the Arab minority in Israel. All had qualified from academic institutions in Israel and were employed in public welfare agencies in local authorities of Arab and mixed (Jewish–Arab) communities in Israel .Most of the participants (76%) were women, participants' ages ranged from 23 to 55 years, and their professional seniority ranged from one to 28 years. The sampling frame of potential interviewees were identified through official listing of certified social workers by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services. Participants were sampled through a process of multidimensional purposive sampling intended to ensure heterogeneity of gender, religion, and types of communities in which the social workers were employed.

The interviews included a number of guiding questions that directed the interviewees to focus on their challenges for involvement in policy practice. Except for these guiding questions, interviewees were encouraged to surface issues in order to provide an objective description of the various meanings and personal perspectives of the participants regarding the effects of belonging to an ethnic minority on involvement in policy practice. The analysis was conducted according to principles of constructivist grounded theory.

Findings: Data analysis revealed challenges that focus on three areas: political challenges (Discriminatory policies at the national-political arena; Hierarchical structures at the local-political arena), cultural challenges (Loyalty to the family clan and its values; Paternalistic attitudes towards women), and personal challenges (Lack of knowledge and skills; Lack of personal resources; Language gaps). These challenges are closely related to the socio-political context of an ethnic minority coping with inequality, discrimination and oppression, as well as the social and cultural gaps between majority and minority in the contexts of a multicultural society.

Conclusion and implications: Findings highlight the importance of acquiring cultural competence skills for involvement in policy practice in cross-cultural political situations. These are required both in academic frameworks and in training frameworks in the professional field. Our findings may be implemented in leading a process of encouraging and teaching social workers and students from minority groups how to deal with the challenges and act successfully when involved in processes of social change, while striving for social justice and equality in diverse societies in multicultural countries.