Practicing Rights

Human rights-based approaches to social work practice

Author David Androff

Social work Codes of Ethics of professional organizations around the world appeal to the concept of people having ‘rights’ that social workers need to respect and advocate for. However, it isn’t always clear how social workers can actually incorporate human rights-based approaches in their practice, whether domestic or international. This book fills this gap by advancing rights-based approaches to social work.

The first part gives an overview of the relationship between human rights and social work, and outlines a model for how rights-based approaches can be integrated into social work practice.

The second part introduces the rights-based framework across five mainstream areas of practice – poverty, child welfare, older adults, health, and mental health. Each of these substantive chapters:

introduces the area of practice and traditional social welfare interventions associated with it
outlines relevant human rights frameworks
explores case studies showcasing rights-based approaches
presents practical implications for implementing rights-based social work practice.
The book ends with a discussion of the limitations and criticisms of rights-based approaches and lays out some future directions for practice.

This accessible text is designed for all those interested in learning how to introduce human rights-based interventions into their practice. It will be of particular use to social work students taking direct practice, macro practice, social policy, international social work and human rights courses as part of their program.


David Androff, Ph.D., M.S.W. is Associate Director for Doctoral Education and Professor in the School of Social Work at Arizona State University. Dr. Androff earned his Masters and Ph.D. in Social Welfare from the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Androff is an internationally recognized scholar in the areas of human rights, immigrant and refugee rights, social development, and global social work. Most recently this recognition includes being elected a Fellow of the Society for Social Work and Research in 2023 and receiving the Partners in Advancing International Social Work Education Award by the Global Commission of the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) in 2022.

Dr. Androff co-chaired the 21st International Consortium for Social Development conference in Yogyakarta, Indonesia in 2019 where he was Visiting Professor in the Department of Development and Social Welfare at the University of Gadjah Mada. He is a Research Associate with the Centre for Social Development in Africa at the University of Johannesburg, and was a founding member of the CSWE Committee on Human Rights.

He is the editor of the forthcoming Routledge International Handbook on Social Development, Social Work, and the Sustainable Development Goals, the author of Refugee Solutions in the Age of Global Crisis: Human Rights, Integration, and Sustainable Development (Oxford University Press, 2022) and Practicing Rights: Human Rights-based Approaches to Social Work (Routledge, 2016).