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Phase 2: Launching and Early Years (1996–2000)

This phase is characterized by the birth of social work as a professional discipline and practice. With the initiatives and contributions of Save the Children, UK social work education and practice in schools has been commenced and supported in Mongolia (Batkhishig, 2001).

The need for social work professional services has increased due to rapid changes in the political, economic, and social environments of the country. The
issues drawn from the social problems, including the increase in numbers of children living without parental care; people engaged in illegal mining; working abroad; affected by human trafficking, prostitution, and HIV/AIDS; a widening gap between the poor and the rich; and stresses aggregated by family dysfunctions and other negative social problems, are creating the need for new types of social work. A legal environment for social work services has been introduced by the enforcement of laws in education and the protection of children's rights.

Social work education programs were first offered to professionals working with children and families and they became 'child social workers' (Tuvshintugs, 2009). In the fall of 1997, the Mongolian State Pedagogical University (SPU), with financial and consulting support from Save the Children Fund UK, launched the first formal university undergraduate degree for social workers in Mongolia. An undergraduate degree to train social welfare specialists also commenced at the Mongolian University of Science and Technology in 1997.

The first National Seminar on Social Work was organized in 1997 to learn from the experiences of other countries where the social work profession was well established. Social work and social development practitioners and academics from the United States, the United Kingdom, China, and Russia shared their experiences and provided their expertise (Social Work Resource Center, SPU, 1997). Through subsequent consultations and workshops, Mongolian professionals declared that the most appropriate model for social work in Mongolia (through university education and professional development and training) was that of social development and preparation as a generalist social worker.

Social work educators provided leadership in the development of the social work profession in Mongolia and their initiatives led to the foundation of professional associations, the first of which was named the National Association of Social Workers, established in 1997 and soon thereafter becoming a provisional member of the International Federation of Social Work.

Social work was introduced through numerous seminars, workshops, and training to various professionals and at different levels of education and expertise. Topics ranged from child rights and child protection, school social work, social welfare and assistance, social policy, program planning, community development, and poverty reduction to domestic violence.

Social work teachers immersed themselves in the profession through shortterm, intensive training with academics from the United States, India, Australia, Russia, Denmark, Scotland, and Japan, 'train the trainer' models, and co-teaching with international colleagues. In the summer of 1997, the first group of social work teachers attended two weeks of social work training in Russia. These academics played an essential role in the further preparation of instructors to teach social work, developing social work curricula and methodology, and teaching and learning resources.

A pilot program in two urban schools implemented by the Mongolian Child Rights Center during 1998–1999 served as groundwork for the introduction of school social work in secondary schools. By virtue of its successful implementation,
the Mongolian government approved the position of school social worker in 2000 (Batkhishig, 2001).

Social work positions emerged in local government organizations, and in government and nongovernmental organizations working with children, youth, and families. Unfortunately, these new social work positions were just renamed 'social work' and filled with the previous occupants of the positions – people who had responsibility for children, youth, and family affairs.

The development of civil society in Mongolia at the time led to favorable conditions for the emergence of social work in the country. Since the 1990s, many nongovernmental organizations became established in the social sector to fill the gap in the provision of social services to needy people and families in order to tackle the social problems adversely affecting them. National NGOs such as the Center for Children's Rights, the National Center Against Violence, the Center for Social Development, the Danish-Mongolian Training Center, and the Methodology and Research Center served as field practicum places for social work students.

In addition, learning opportunities for social work practice were provided through programs and projects run by international NGOs. During the 1996–2000 period, a solid foundation of social work education was established as well as the formal recognition of the social work profession.

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