The idea for this edited collection dedicated to rural and northern social work came from our own practice and research over many decades. We both have extensive experience with undergraduate students and were often faced with the difficulty of locating contemporary Canadian material that addresses the complexities of social work with rural and northern communities. We issued a general call for abstracts through professional social work associations and schools of social work, and were delighted at the immediate interest of scholars, educators, and practitioners. We hope the experiences of these authors will encourage social workers to consider the exciting area of practice with rural and northern communities.
Most social workers, upon completing a BSW degree, believe that the best opportunities for entering the field and advancing their professional careers are found in large urban centres. However, we know that the generalist nature of social work practice in rural and remote communities serves as a remarkable training ground for new social workers, preparing them for long and rewarding careers. For those social workers originally from places outside of urban centres, a social work job in a small community can create a pathway to “giving back” and actively engaging with and contributing to communities that may feel familiar to them. For social workers who have had limited exposure to life outside of large urban centres, working in a small community can open a door to a new lifestyle and rewarding career that may not have been considered previously.
This book is divided into three distinct parts. Part I focuses on the foundations of this practice by highlighting the importance of context, and by recognizing and respecting place using anti-oppressive perspectives. The chapters found in Part II examine practice competencies, and emphasize trauma- and violence-informed approaches. The mental wellness of social workers is discussed in detail as a necessary element to ensure resilience and good practice. Finally, Part III of this book explores selected areas of practice including social work with those who have experienced abuse and intimate partner violence, work in the context of mental health issues and addictions, work with newcomers and immigrant populations, work with older adults, and child protection work.
It is our hope that the collective wisdom and ideas shared in these chapters will prepare undergraduate students for practice, and will inspire them to ask questions, to dig deeper, and to fully embrace the unique opportunities for social workers in rural, remote, and northern communities.
In addition to the contribution of the authors, we would like to acknowledge the additional contributions that were essential in completing this book. We thank Pamela Reimer for her organizational skills and dedication to this project – we could not have completed this without your assistance. Thank you to Dr. Dorothy Lane who provided supportive and helpful editorial assistance on the chapters. We would also like to acknowledge the financial support for this project that we received from the University of Regina Open Textbook Program.
Bonnie Jeffery & Nuelle Novik