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International Social Work

Professional Action in an Interdependent World

Third Edition

Author Lynne Moore Healy and Rebecca Leela Thomas

Publication Date - 15 August 2020

ISBN: 9780190922252

528 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock

The seminal and classic text written by the director of the country's first center for international social work studies


International Social Work: Professional Action in an Interdependent World, Third Edition, is a comprehensive treatment of all dimensions of international social work. The authors' four-part framework includes domestic practice and policy influenced by global forces, professional exchange, international practice, and global social policy. The first section of the book explores globalization, development and human rights as foundational concepts for international social work. The text then provides an overview of global social issues and international organizations related to social welfare. Part II offers an overview of the global history of the profession. Similarities and differences in social work around the world are examined through seven country examples. Part III provides an extensive discussion of current aspects of the global profession, with chapters on ethics, social policy, international development practice, and practice at the international/domestic interface. Modalities of international professional exchange are then explored prior to a concluding chapter that provides recommendations for international action.

The text is enlivened by numerous case examples, drawn from many parts of the world. The history chapters include brief biographies of noted social workers on the international scene whose accomplishments serve as inspiration for readers. The text is extensively referenced with updated professional literature and intergovernmental documents. Carefully selected items in the appendix expand the usefulness of the book.

New to this Edition

  • Coverage of growing global inequality, the rise of populism and its threat to globalism, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
  • Extensive discussion of climate change, environmental justice, and sustainability
  • Expanded content on human rights, including rights of sexual minorities, and people with disabilities
  • Updates on the global social work profession


  • Case examples enliven the text and bridge the gap between theory and practice
  • Brief biographies of noted social workers bring history to life
  • Extensive references provide students with up to date professional literature and intergovernmental documents
  • An action- and practice-focused definition of international social work serves as the framework for student learning
  • Combines the expertise of Lynne Healy, a world-renowned pioneer in international social work, and her new co-author, Rebecca Thomas, who has a background in both social work and international development and direct experience in several countries

About the Author(s)

Lynne M. Healy, MSW, Ph.D. is Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. She has lectured or consulted in more than 25 countries. Dr. Healy is currently the Main Representative to the United Nations in New York for the IASSW and serves on the editorial board of the Encyclopedia of Social Work and of several professional journals.

Rebecca L. Thomas, PhD, is an Associate Professor and the Director of the University Of Connecticut School Of Social Work Center for International Social Work Studies. Dr. Thomas is the Chair of the Global Commission and represents IASSW on the NGO Committee on Migration at the United Nations. She also serves on the City of Hartford Commission on Immigrant on Immigrant Affairs.


"Human rights is the core theme that weaves together the different discussions throughout the book. The authors are champions for transformative global change through advocacy for policy change and the development of innovative theories and interventions to improve the human condition. Ultimately, they aim to address the profession of social work in the 21st century by focusing on the global core values of inclusion, respect, peace, and equality, which will advance social justice across the world." -- B. Troutman, CHOICE

"Healy and Thomas provide the social work profession a tremendous gift with this book. Many recall how Healy's first 2001 edition inspired professional action. This volume is thoroughly researched and meticulously referenced; it should be considered the definitive source on international social work. This text should be available in social work programs and agencies worldwide." -- Mary S. Carlsen, St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN USA

"The publication of the third edition of International Social Work attests to the book's enduring popularity and value. In this edition, Healy and Thomas provide up-to-date information about developments in social work and social policy around the world. Like its predecessors, the book is wide ranging, informative, well written, and balanced. It will continue to be a primary resource for students, professional social workers and researchers interested in international issues for many years to come." -- James Midgley, University of California, Berkeley, United States of America

"This is an exceptional contribution to the literature on international social work. The chapter on human rights is particularly important because it provides an important global context for this important social work value that is often spoken of without adequate depth. This book is certain to excite new social workers about international practice and reinforce the knowledge of those already committed to international work." -- Sandra E. Crewe, Howard University, United States of America

"International Social Work is a masterpiece filled with passion, encouragements, expectations, and hopes for the social work profession to effect transformative global change in the international arena, advance social justice, and improve human well-being." - Angelina Yuen-Tsang, (Hong Kong), Former President, IASSW

"An improved edition of a milestone book, where readers can find an updated analysis of the knowledge about the international dimension of social work, as well as some new deep insights on human rights, climate change, environment awareness, UN policies and much more. Interesting cases from different parts of the world are provided to show how theories and concepts can be useful in real life contexts, amalgamating academic rigor with practice wisdom. This inspirational book should be a must-have for scholars, students, practitioners and all the people who want to understand the role of social work in our globalized world." - Annamaria Campanini, (Italy), President, IASSW

"Lynne Healy and Rebecca Thomas's updated and revised International Social Work is an important and much welcomed text. In this new edition the authors strengthen their argument that social work has an important role to play in the international arena. This is particularly pertinent in the current climate where global influences are increasingly impacting local and national interests and concerns. I highly recommend this influential text for graduate and undergraduate courses across the globe and as important text for social work and human services workers who are committed to placing local and national issues in their international context." - Carolyn Noble, ACAP, Australia

"This book highlights the ebb and flow of social work's influence, internationally, within historical perspective and challenges social workers to amplify the profession's global voice and common vision within the context of diversity. It comes at a time when multilateral organizations like UNICEF are promoting social work and social service workforce strengthening as an entry point for advancing care and support for the world's most vulnerable groups." - Rebecca T Davis, Rutgers University, United States of America

"In compelling ways this book promotes the shared awareness amongst social workers of the world as our collective home. Lynne Healy and Rebecca Thomas in their extensive research and vivid case studies end the debate about the role of international social work, making it clearly an imperative for the twenty-first century. The central role of human rights is presented in urgent and operational ways so that readers are invited to see the rich resources and policy instruments that are part of the framework of intervention. Similarly the authors trace the concept of development so that readers recognize that we are all in developing countries, where the eradication of poverty is a universal goal. There is prescient discussion of past global viruses such as SARS and an empowering theme of collaboration as the world copes with COVID-19 and recognizes more forcefully the value of working together for social justice and well-being." - Rosemary Link, University of Minnesota, USA

"The third edition of International Social Work is an impressively comprehensive text that gives a framework for understanding what international social work, in all its facets, is. As well as explaining the history, theories, and research, the many cases and biographies give life to the text. " - Gurid Aga Askeland, VID Specialized University, Norway

"International Social Work is essential reading for scholars and students interested in pressing global issues of poverty, human rights, and development. In this third edition, Healy and Thomas give renewed emphasis to environmental issues and sustainability while maintaining the previous edition's groundbreaking focus on social work practice, policy, exchanges, and organizations around the world." - David K. Androff, Arizona State University, United States of America

Table of Contents


    1. International Social Work: Context and Definitions
    Globalization: Why International Social Work?
    What Is International Social Work?
    Knowledge Base for International Social Work-Major Concepts
    Countries Selected as Special Examples for the Text

    2. Theories and Concepts Underpinning International Social Work: Globalization
    The Impact of Globalization and Global Interdependence on Various Sectors
    New Economic Crises and Reactions
    Social Issues and Globalization: Two Examples
    Prospects for Action: Opportunities in Globalization

    3. Theories and Concepts Underpinning International Social Work: Development, Environment, and Sustainability
    Defining Development
    Brief History of Development Efforts
    The Environmental Challenge
    Social Work and Development
    Summary on Development

    4. Theories and Concepts Underpinning International Social Work: Human Rights
    Human Rights Philosophy
    Human Rights as a Regime of International Law
    Human Rights and Social Work
    Conclusion: Linking Development and Human Rights

    5. Global Social Issues
    The Status of Women
    Problems of Children in Difficult Circumstances
    Natural and Man-Made Disasters

    6. International Social Welfare Organizations and Their Functions
    Introduction to Development and Development Assistance
    United Nations Agencies and Activities
    Governmental Agencies
    Nongovernmental Organizations
    Conclusion: Moving Forward

    7. The History of the Development of Social Work
    International Development of the Profession

    8. International Professional Action: A Selective History
    Antecedents: Activism in the Social Movements of the Early Twentieth Century
    Social Work Takes the World Stage: International Organizations
    Direct Work in International Organizations: Three Examples

    9. Social Work Around the World Today
    Costa Rica
    United States
    Similarities and Differences in the World of Social Work

    10. Values and Ethics for International Professional Action
    Universalism Versus Cultural Relativism
    Values and Ethics for International Professional Action
    Conclusion and Recommendations

    11. International Relief and Development Practice
    Context and Content of International Relief and Development Practice
    Social Work Roles in International Relief and Development
    Lessons Learned From International Relief and Development: Program Principles
    Conclusion: What International Practice Means for Social Work Domestically

    12. International/Domestic Practice Interface
    Transnational and Social Work With International Populations
    International Adoption
    Intercountry Casework
    Social Work in Border Areas
    International Practice Issues for Social Work Planners, Administrators, and Community Organizers
    Policy Issues and Agency Boards

    13. Understanding and Influencing Global Policy
    International and Global Social Policy Defined
    Rationale for Social Work Involvement: Policy Agenda and Professional Values
    Global Social Policy Actions in Practice
    Types of Policies and Strategies for Influence

    14. International Exchange: An Essential Mechanism for International Social Work
    Importance of International Exchange Relationships in Higher Education
    Learning From Abroad: Comparative Policy Analysis and Technology Transfer
    Mutual Exchange in Social Work
    Study Abroad, International Field Placements, and Other Educational Exchanges
    Technology and Exchange
    The European Example: Exchange as a Tool to Promote Europeanization
    Regulation and Labor Mobility for the Profession
    Paradigm Shift in International Exchange
    The Promise of International Connections for Developing the Profession
    Preparation for International Social Work: Beyond Exchange Programs
    Conclusion and Recommendations

    15. Professional Action for Transformative Global Change
    Essential Concepts for International Social Work
    Social Work Values and Professional Issues
    Social Work, Civil Society, and Transformative Global Change

    Appendix A. Global Social Work Statement of Ethical Principles
    Appendix B. United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Selected Goals With Targets
    Appendix C. Countries by Human Development Index Rankings
    Appendix D. Milestones in the International History of Social Work Around the World

    Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations