The odds aren’t good and haven’t been for decades. One in every four black men will end up in jail, according to the U.S. Justice Department. And black boys are three times as likely to be enrolled in special education programs than their white counterparts, according to one study at the University of Georgia.

These issues facing black males, young and old, were some of the many topics examined April 21 at the National Association of Black Social Workers’ annual Professional Development Program.

The event, hosted by the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, was titled, “Social Work and Social Welfare Responses to African American Males: A Research, Public Policy, and Intervention Practice Symposium.”

The conference has a simple purpose: to educate social workers about research that may help them help black males.

“It’s important that we find ways to integrate important research findings into the work of the people who are working at the ground level,” said Waldo E. Johnson, Jr., symposium chair and associate professor at the University of Chicago.

Black males as a group, Johnson says, have “fallen off the radar” and often go ignored.

“In American social welfare policy, men are generally viewed as undeserving of the system,” Johnson said. “Men are generally viewed as able-bodied people who should go out by themselves.”

Workshops focused on issues ranging from suicide to fatherhood, child welfare to unemployment.

“Not everything is going to be good news,” said Jamie Stanesa, associate dean for programs at U. of C.’s School of Social Service Administration. “But the more information we have, the more we can develop intervention and development programs for these issues in meaningful ways.”

The symposium featured keynote speaker Lawrence E. Gary, a professor at the School of Social Work at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and author of Black Men, a classic work, published in 1981, discussing the status of black males.

“Many of the issues in the book are still disproportionately plaguing African-American men,” said Johnson. But the problems are now expanding to “boys, adolescents and young adult men,” and social programs should aim to help black males across their lifespans.

“We don’t want to write off an entire generation,” said Johnson.