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ONLINE – Virtues and Character in Social Work Practice


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Virtues and Character in Social Work Practice offers a fresh contribution to the Christian social work literature with its emphasis on the key role of character traits and virtues in equipping Christians in social work to engage with and serve their clients and communities well.

Social work practitioners are social change agents who spend much of their time examining social structures and advocating for policies and programs to advance justice and increase opportunity. Social justice is central to the mission, professional development, and ethical decision making process in social work practice. However, the development of character traits and virtues for Christians in social work is equally important in furthering social justice and working with diverse populations.

A re-publication of the combined Summer and Fall, 2014 special issue of Social Work and Christianity (NACSW’s quarterly journal), Virtue and Character in Social Work Practice brings to light questions about professional identity, relationships, and the ability to thrive and sustain social change through the understanding and development of a virtue framework. This framework combines philosophy, theology, and pedagogical practices to offer a holistic approach to professional development and explores the virtues of charity, faith, generosity, gratitude, and justice in social work practice.

Especially useful in the classroom or social work trainings, Virtues and Character in Social Work Practice addresses a range of critical questions such as:

  • What character traits and virtues ought Christians in social work seek to nurture in their lives and work?
  • What sorts of dispositions, commitments, and practices should the social work profession seek to instill in social workers?
  • What resources do Christian educators and trainers draw from to shape a vision for the type of social workers they hope to cultivate?
  • What is the role of the church in the character and virtue formation of Christians in social work?
  • What educative and training practices (i.e., pedagogical, curricular, continuing education) best contribute to forming social work students and practitioners with the necessary character traits and virtues to serve their clients and communities well? The purpose of this book is to explore how to form Christians in social work who love justice, who care deeply about people and their flourishing, who settle for nothing less than doing their work competently, and whose core posture toward their work is one of integrity. Dr. David Sherwood, Editor-in-Chief of Social Work & Christianity, says about Virtues and Character in Social Work that:Ethical practice in social work is informed by theory, knowledge, and rational analysis, but it is ultimately action resulting from the character of the practitioner, from the habits of the heart formed by the disciplined practice of love, justice, and the other virtues over time. Virtues and Character in Social Work Practice, edited by Terry Wolfer and Cheryl Brandsen will be a valuable resource for Christians in social work as they seek to become persons of character who practice competently and ethically.Sr. Ann Patrick Conrad, The Catholic University of America, adds that:

    This work has the potential to provide a significant resource for on-going professional development as well as for students entering the field of social work. Its focus on the place of Virtue Ethics within the overall framework of ethical responsibility is an area of particular interest for professional practitioners. Attention is given both to the theoretical foundation as well as the practical application of this approach to ethical decision making within a faith-based context.

    Terry A. Wolfer, PhD, MSW is Professor and PhD Program Coordinator at the University of South Carolina College of Social Work. He has taught there nearly 20 years. Cheryl Brandsen, PhD, MSW is the provost at Calvin College. She is a member of the sociology and social work department at Calvin College where she taught for 18 years prior to taking on administrative roles.


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