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Phase 1: Pre-Professional (Before 1996)

The first phase of Mongolia's social work development covers a vast historical period from ancient times to modern days. This phase is characterized by the nonexistence of the concept of social work as a professional discipline; although Mongolia has had a long tradition of social welfare. The helping traditions of Mongolia's nomadic peoples have served as a rich foundation for the profession's development. For centuries, herders and families relied on each other to overcome the everyday problems they faced. Strong family networks have been an advantage to facilitate this helping process.

On the other hand, because of factors such as an extreme climate, a sparsely populated land mass, and dependency on the land for food and survival, people have become resilient, independent, and learned to solve problems. They had to as there was no alternative. Additionally, spirituality and religion as well as ideology during the period of Russian communism have impacted the lives of Mongolians, while influencing their perception and mindset as to what is good and bad, what is worthwhile, and what is to be expected. All of these factors combined have given Mongolians a largely unquestioned sense of fatalism.

Historically, the Mongolian government was genuinely concerned about the disadvantaged people in society. For example, according to the Secret History
of the Mongols
, rules and regulations of the Mongolian Empire included some types of social provisions and protective and rehabilitative services to people such as war veterans, their dependents, and poor families. Social services were centralized and became ideological in nature during the social regime from 1921 to 1990 and mass population-based organizations such as the Mongolian Pioneers Organization, Mongolian Revolutionary Youth League, Mongolian Organization for the Elderly, and the Mongolian Trade Union provided social services to the target populations of children, youth, elderly, and workers, respectively.

In 1990, the Republic of Mongolia made the peaceful transition to a multiparty parliamentary system and a market-driven economy. During the 1990s, legislative reforms took place and the social welfare system was newly restructured with the establishment of an independent social welfare system (Ogborn and Humphries, 2002). The Social Welfare Laws approved in 1995 became the first legislation for social welfare and social work services and the beginning of a professional helping system for needy people and their families.

Children were the most disadvantaged group in this transitional society. Following the collapse of the socialist system because of an abrupt end to monetary aid and subsidies coming from the socialist bloc (countries with communist orientation) and Russia, the social services sector experienced huge cuts in expenditure. According to the UNDP Human Development Report between 1992 and 1998, as a proportion of GDP, government spending on health, education, and social security dropped from 16.2 to 14.8 per cent. Consequently, support for child welfare deteriorated. The previously unknown phenomenon of street children emerged. As well, other social problems such as unemployment, child neglect, school dropouts, youth crime, and working children started increasing.

In the mid-1990s the National Children's Organization began to collaborate with the United Nations Children's Fund, Save the Children UK, Norway's Save the Children, World Vision, and so on. International organizations came forward to redress the transitional difficulties affecting children and their families. Professional social work interventions familiar in the Western world were seen as needed to tackle the child welfare issues present in Mongolia. A situational analysis was undertaken with the intention of launching social work education (CSD, 1996; Tuvshintugs, 2009) and according to this analysis, social work education and interventions were appropriate and necessary in Mongolia to promote individual and community well-being (CSD, 1996).

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