Trajectory of Social Work Development in Mongolia

In order to describe how social work is being developed in Mongolia, it is essential to know how this profession is defined and understood by its people. The process of how to define social work has been an ongoing project among Mongolian social workers. There is no national definition operationalized and agreed upon by local professionals. Despite differing viewpoints, the definition by the International Federation of Social Workers (2000) is used in Mongolia as a reference for social work education and practice. It is a strategic decision for Mongolian social work professionals to introduce and popularize the social work profession in the country due to the novelty of professional practice in the social service system.

Today's society recognizes social work as one of the forms of social services and there is an increase in understanding of the roles of social workers. However, the public and clients interpret social work in many different ways – the nature and scope of social work services are still not clear for many people. To date, social workers' roles are perceived as community leader, activity director, khoroo coordinator, inspector of living conditions, and counsellor of relationship problems. At the grass-roots level, some people still think that a social worker is a person who is responsible for distributions of common welfare goods including flour, rice, and clothes and making referrals to goodwill agencies. The 2004 study 'Current Situation of Mongolian Social Work' (DMTC and MUST, 2004), showed that 40 per cent of people surveyed responded that they 'do not know about social work' or had 'just heard about it' and only 20 per cent of them had a good understanding of the profession. The Mongolian government has played a significant role throughout the social work profession's development process. Since its beginning, the government provided effective leadership that ensured a conducive mechanism and legal environment, providing education and training of social workers, encouraging the assimilation of foreign practices and developing local initiative, and establishing service infrastructure: The Social Security Sector Master Plan identified the development of professional social work as one of the reform elements of the social welfare subsector's 10-year strategy, stating that 'the objective is to establish a nationwide national system of social workers at the professional level' (26).

The definition of social work and the role of social workers is outlined in the Social Welfare Law, which prescribes the required professional qualifications and integrity and professional ethics for the social work profession (Parliament of Mongolia, 2006).

Other laws, the Law Against Domestic Violence and Laws on Education, have been in force since 2004. Social workers' roles and duties are reflected in these policy documents, however, the provisions of these laws are not integrated. Each law has defined the roles of a social worker within the command of that law. Because of these differences, a process of the development of social work as well as professional values, ethics, and obligations of social work has been hindered.

In order to give an overall understanding of the development of the social work profession in Mongolia, we outline four interfacing periods: the pre-professional (before 1996), the launching and professionalization phase (1996–2001), the capacity-building years (2001–2007), and lastly, the further institutionalization of social work education and practice (2007–Present) (Namdaldagva et al., 2010).

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