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A Century of Forensic Social Work: Bridging the Past to the Present

Roberts, Albert
June 4, 2015

Source: (1999) Social Work 44(4).

This article traces the emergence of forensic social work from the Progressive Era and the founding of the first juvenile court in 1899 to present day policies and practices with victims of violent crimes and with juvenile and adult offenders. Although social workers have been providing outreach to at-risk youths, gang members, offenders, and crime victims for a century, the term “forensic social work” has not previously been widely used. A unifying definition of forensic social work is provided. This article examines the most significant federal initiatives that have provided funding for forensic social workers to reach out to at-risk youth, offenders, and crime victims. It emphasizes the role of forensic social workers in different settings: police departments, juvenile courts, probation departments, adult corrections, and domestic violence and victim assistance programs. This article also includes a discussion of the unique contribution of forensic social workers in advocating for the social service needs of crime victims as well as of offenders.


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