If you ask someone what a social worker's job is within a school, they may not be able to fully answer the question. The fact is that the role of the school social worker has changed drastically in the last decade or two, In the past, there may have been a shared social worker that went to a variety of schools within a district. Now, more schools see the need to have their own dedicated social worker on hand for the entire school day. In some areas, one social worker is not enough for the student population and they may need to hire additional contracted clinicians.
Why is there a sudden need for more social workers within many of our schools in the United States? A lot of this has to do with the needs of the students coming to our buildings. Many children have experienced events in their lives that cause them to struggle in the classroom. Teachers are unable to address these, but social workers have the background to assist and support them. Social workers are trained to help with the social and emotional needs. They are able to take time to get to know the nuances of life outside of school for these children. Perhaps a child witnessed domestic violence, has a sick parent, or doesn’t have food at home – these things can affect how they do in school along with their everyday attitude. The social worker is able to build a relationship to earn the trust to talk and work through this with the kids.
Today, social workers in schools work with students who have behavioral, emotional, and developmental challenges. They help children with learning disabilities, teens with substance abuse, and those who have lived through traumatic experiences. In addition to this, social workers are a liaison between the students, teachers, and families at home. Many schools have social workers that not only meet with kids in school, they also go to places outside of the school to meet with them. The role of many social workers in urban areas is to help troubled and struggling students with one-on-one time. They help with the social, emotional, and mental health components that many of them need.
Schools have found that with more intensive therapy, there appears to be a benefit. Many kids stay in school, are less of a behavior challenge, and do better with academics. Teams must assess the needs of children within your individual buildings to see what may be helpful. There is a cost to adding additional social workers, but many times there are grants available to accommodate this. Take time to research what is out there and also reach out to your community for volunteers that may be willing to help.