The Evolution of Social Work Resources

Mental Health Resources Online

The Evolution of Social Work Resources

Often, social workers are the only conduit to resources for their clients and their clients’ families. It can be a challenging role to connect people with the specific information or service they require, particularly when attempting to do so in a way that is timely and cost-effective. Thankfully, the resources available to social workers have multiplied and become more accessible since the field’s early days.

A Brief History

Upon social work’s early roots in the 19th century, almost all of the resources available were offered by governments or religious organizations. For example: In 1834, the Poor Law Amendment Act in the United Kingdom created a commission to disburse money, aid, clothing and goods to the poor, but often required recipients to enter government-administered workhouses to qualify. Following the Industrial Revolution, which brought greater numbers of people from rural farmlands into urban centers, churches also began to take on a larger role in helping the poor, even commissioning proto social workers as “friendly visitors” to provide direct relief coupled with evangelism. In response, “scientific charity” was touted by government charity boards, which oversaw the construction of mental asylums, poorhouses and orphanages, as the proper, secular way to address the needy. Later, in the late 1880s, a reformist trend known as the settlement movement attempted to better integrate the poor within society by creating homes that provided education and health care services, which were funded by the wealthy and staffed by middle-class volunteers.

The creation of these various institutions, from state-sponsored aid programs to religious social services to private charities, questioned not only the proper approach to social work, but also the need for professionals to maintain these institutions. These two questions eventually birthed social work as a profession, which concentrated on casework, research and reform. During the late 19th century and early 20th century, formal social work education, which first began as a tangent of medicine, eventually came into its own. This formalization of social work as an educational pursuit also made universities key providers of social work resources.

Social Work Resources Today

Thankfully, recent advancements in technology have made it easier, faster and cheaper to access social work resources. The Internet has ushered in an age of readily accessible, free information provided by a number of respected social work associations and other organizations dedicated to specific challenges, such as Alzheimer’s, depression and suicide awareness. Through these websites and online tools, social workers can refer clients to life-changing services and help their families better understand the nature of the challenges they face, thereby combating pervasive stigmas.

To that end, here are a number of online resources that all social workers should be familiar with as they provide a range of information and services needed to address client issues:

A Social Worker’s Guide to Mental Health Resources on the Web

General Mental Health Information and Service Location Websites


Topic- and Target Audience-Specific Websites