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CHAPTER 1 Rural Communities and Social Work An Introduction

R ural social work has been with us since its birth in the early 1900s and remains a significant and vital part of helping individuals and families and addressing community problems to meet their social welfare needs. Despite the fact that the population of North America has increasingly be- come urban for more than a century, a significant minority of the population of the United States and North America still resides in rural areas. Despite romanticized visions of the very tranquil and simple life in the countryside, rural people experience problems in living that social workers can help make better. Although we are no longer primarily a rural or agrarian society, rural people, their culture, and their economic contributions remain an important part of our society, and we should give them the same level of attention as the rest of society. Rural people experience challenges like the rest of society, and sometimes their needs rise to the level of requiring professional help; that is where social workers enter the picture. Perhaps a child in a small town experiences a mental health problem such as bipolar disorder and needs help; children who live with rural parents supplementing their income by manufacturing methampheta- mine need protective services; a woman who is raped in a small town requires counseling; the elderly need help getting economic supports such as Medicare, Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or Social Security; or someone who develops a respiratory condition from working with pesticides needs better access to health care. Social workers can and do help with these situations. But because rural people are a minority, they are often more distant from the services they need and tend to have lower incomes and

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