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Abstract

This study focuses on characteristics, challenges, and benefits of practicing social work in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan. Using a mixed-methods design, data were analyzed to determine demographic descriptors, seek differences between groups, and learn why social workers pursue and remain in social service employment in the UP. In addition, challenges and benefits of rural practice and perceptions of living and working in this region are addressed. Quantitatively, differences were found between younger and older social workers regarding where they currently live and where they grew up, and whether or not they were raised in a rural location. Qualitative findings suggest that professional challenges to practice include responding to the effects of persistent poverty and unemployment, lack of specialty care for children and families, and inadequate transportation. Benefits of practice include quality community experiences, proximity to familial systems, and professional connectedness.

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