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Human Services Workers

History

Before the 20th century, charity and philanthropy consisted mainly of donations from the affluent. These donations were distributed by church groups to the needy. No systematic methods were established to follow up on charity cases or improve the conditions of the poor in any permanent way. 

After the Industrial Revolution, public opinion about the inequities of wealth began to change. In 1889, Jane Addams, the daughter of a banker, founded Hull House in Chicago, an act that is usually considered the birth of formal social work. Addams's philosophy of helping the underprivileged gain a better, more permanent standard of living inspired many others to launch similar programs in other parts of the world. After World War I, social work began to be recognized as a valid career. The Great Depression of the 1930s provided further impetus to the growth of social work, as the federal government joined with state, municipal, and private efforts to ease the pain of poverty. The social disruptions of the years following World War II contributed to further growth in social work. Today, social workers and human services workers are employed in a variety of institutional and community settings, administering help and support to the poor, the homeless, the aged, the disabled and mentally ill, substance abusers, parolees, and others having trouble with adjustments in life.