School social work in America goes back quite a long way – as far back as the 1900s, educators recognized a need for liaising between schools, parents, and an external authority. To ensure that children got the most that they could out of the education system, authorities started to send out visiting teachers who would travel to homes and talk to parents about the value of education.
Today, school social work is one of the main branches of the profession; it primarily attracts social workers who want to help shape students’ lives. Since it is so popular, all the top American universities now offer social work degrees. Those who enroll can choose a specialization either toward the end of their studies or as soon as they graduate.
Florida State University College of Social Work Online, for example, has an excellent Master of Social Work degree that prepares students not just for social work in general, but also for leadership and management positions in the profession. The course covers topics such as the social work profession, human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policy and services, social work practice, and social work with groups and communities.
To qualify, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and complete a College of Social Work application. They must also submit a resume, letters of recommendation, transcripts of all their undergraduate and graduate courses, and a Statement of Purpose.
Those who are accepted into the program can take up to two courses at a time and finish their course in as little as two or three years. All the material is online, which makes this a perfect course for busy professionals, and for those looking to progress their career whilst continuing to work.
When considering enrolling on this course, it is important to understand why school social workers are so important. How do they benefit the children they supervise?
How children benefit from having social workers in schools
A master’s degree is a great way to get into the social work profession, and those who are particularly interested in working with small children, teenagers and young adults can specialize in school social work. It is a profession that comes with many benefits; it is emotionally rewarding and can mean developing a large quantity of diverse skills in many areas. So, what are the key aspects of the role?
They are child advocates
The primary role of the school social worker is to advocate for the child. This means that the social worker is in place to make sure that the child has everything they need to enable learning and grow up well-adjusted.
These professionals assess every child in their care to find out what problems they may be facing. Where they find them, they do whatever they can to make sure that the child is properly supported as they develop. For example, if a child isn’t doing very well in class, the social worker will reach out to find out why and do what they can to improve the situation which is causing these results. This could include obtaining more textbooks or supporting material, or even arranging further tuition.
If the problem lies somewhere else – for instance, at home or in the neighborhood – then the social worker works with the relevant authorities to try to normalize life as much as possible to improve the child’s condition so that they can better focus on learning and a healthy growing-up process.
They examine a child’s living situation and help where it is needed
If it is brought to the attention of the social worker that a child’s living situation could do with some improvements, it is their job to visit the home, make an assessment and either make recommendations on how to make things better or make alternative living arrangements that are more comfortable and allow the child to learn and develop normally.
If a social worker is alerted to these issues, they examine the situation and find ways to help the child. If they are not getting enough to eat, for example, then the social worker can organize school dinners.
They assess children to determine their needs
If there are any concerns about a particular child, it is the social worker’s job to make an assessment and determine their mental, emotional, and psychological state – whether using their own resources, or through other means such as a mental health evaluation. In a school setting, this is done to measure whether the child is able to learn effectively. One of the things that these professionals regularly assess is learning disabilities.
If they cannot learn effectively, or have learning difficulties, the school social worker recommends either special classes or even another institution where the needs of the child can be better served. Unfortunately, learning disabilities can be complex to diagnose, and difficult to spot in certain students. However, there are certain symptoms that can indicate certain learning disabilities, which may be more easily spotted by a professional like a school social worker as they may often encounter students with learning difficulties.
After the social worker is alerted to the child, they assess them to find out what they could be suffering from and recommend how best they can be helped.
They track children with disabilities
Children with disabilities need special assistance to stop them from falling behind in their studies.
The school social worker must track each child with a disability and make sure that they are adjusting as required and are meeting their developmental markers. If for any reason the child has fallen behind, the social worker will try to determine why, and together with other school authorities and the parents, decide on the best way to help them catch up.
They help children develop positive coping strategies
The teenage years can be difficult, and if not properly managed can lead to lifelong problems. Social workers help identify children who have a tough time in their teens and explore strategies to help them cope at home and in school.
Using various therapeutic techniques they identify the exact issues that the teenager is facing and provide them with coping strategies.
They play a role in helping students choose their higher education options
By the time the children in their care are ready to choose universities and colleges, the social worker may meet with them individually to discuss their options. They talk about the child’s particular strengths, and where those strengths may be best used. They could even help to recommend potential career options.
If the child is from a disadvantaged family, the social worker can alert them to available options to pay for college and even part-time jobs that they can take up to support themselves.
Social workers usually involve parents in these discussions and let them know of the funding options that are available to their children. They may help them fill out applications for scholarships and grants and make sure that they are sent off on time.
They intervene where there are social and behavioral problems
Social and behavioral problems are some of the most common problems that social workers deal with.
With the right interventions it is possible to ensure that every child can grow into a healthy, independent and happy adult.
With the help of teachers, parents and others in the community social workers identify children who have social and behavioral problems and use the right therapies to help them develop normally.
They perform mental health assessments and provide therapies whenever possible
Mental health problems can begin at an early age, and if teachers and other school authorities identify a child with suspected mental health issues, they may alert the social worker who can then assess both the child’s needs and the potential next steps. If the child does not have clinical or severe mental health issues, the social worker may use a number of therapies, or they might engage a counsellor in the situation. If it is not an issue that the social worker can help with directly, they can bring in a professional, such as a psychiatrist.
It is the social worker’s responsibility to follow up and make sure that the child gets the required treatment.
They train teachers on social welfare issues
In many schools across America, social workers regularly hold training sessions with teachers and other school employees and talk to them about the issues that children may be facing. They train the teachers on how to identify them and tackle them as they occur.
Everyone can brainstorm and come up with the best ways to help children improve in any areas they are experiencing difficulties.
They can intervene in a bad home situation
If something is happening at home that interferes with a child’s ability to learn, it is the job of the social worker to meet the family and discuss the issue to help them solve it.
In some homes, for example, parents are markedly absent because they have to work for long hours and the child is left unsupervised. This could lead to a lack of authority in the household, and a child not being encouraged to do their schoolwork. If the problems are severe, the social worker may suggest that the child be removed from this home and relocated to another family, in order to benefit their general wellbeing, and as a consequence, their schoolwork.
They help with conflict resolution within the school
There may be a situation in the school where a child feels that a certain teacher is unfair, while the teacher feels that the child could do better if they worked a little harder. This is a perfect situation for conflict mediation for the social worker. They bring both parties together and help them try to get along.
School social workers also play a significant role in helping students mediate conflict among themselves and may frequently hold discussions between students in order to prevent long-term social issues within classes.
They guide students and parents to community resources
Community resources, especially free ones, can help students do better not just in school but also in their lives overall. These may include libraries where children can access books and computers, food banks, free evening care for young children or even book clubs. The social worker can point out these resources – to both parents and students – and elaborate on how these will help, and how they are accessed.
They talk to children about sensitive issues
The school social worker has a responsibility to talk to children about certain behaviors and the potential consequences.
They help them understand their environment and their community and the issues that they are likely to encounter as they grow up. They also talk to them about how best to cope when they encounter difficult circumstances, and who in their lives can provide guidance when they need it.
They conduct home visits
It is the role of the school social worker to schedule home visits, especially if they suspect that all is not well.
The social worker checks that the student gets the support that they need at home. They talk to the parents about day-to-day issues that may affect school performance and assess the home to make sure that it is a good situation for the child.
Home visits can be scheduled in conjunction with a regular social worker who has more experience in making assessments, and together they can advise the family on how best to support the child so that they can meet their academic goals.
Is it easy to be a school social worker?
Looking at all the above ways that school social workers help the children they are charged with, one may wonder whether it is an easy job, or whether one needs to have special skills to cope.
School social work, and indeed all branches of social work, require commitment and dedication. To succeed and make an impact, these professionals must have a genuine interest in helping others improve their lives.
You will get the requisite technical training during your college years, but certain soft skills will come in handy during your career.
- The best social workers are empathetic; they can sympathize with others and use the resources at hand to help them. They are also good listeners and take the time to listen to their clients so that they understand their difficulties. They are not judgmental, and they treat every client with respect regardless of their circumstances.
- A good social worker has stamina because the job is demanding. Their day often starts early in the morning and they keep going until late in the afternoon, after which they may have to file reports. It is therefore important that they learn how to take care of their physical and mental health.
- They also have a strong constitution and will not let things get to them easily. Social workers sometimes come across terrible situations in families, but they cannot afford to break down. Instead, they step in and assist right away.
- They don’t let themselves get personally embroiled with their clients, and they remain professional at all times. If a client forms an unhealthy attachment, they will remove themselves from the relationship and have the case assigned to another social worker.
Is school social work worth it?
School social work is worthwhile for both the social worker and the student. The social worker gets to do what they love best: help young people realize their potential by providing advice, counseling, and resources. They are an important part of the learning environment because they identify and deal with problems early, providing crucial services that allow students to excel.The social worker is a necessary presence. They are there to provide interventions to students, parents, and to teachers when they are needed, and to discuss their experiences and potential solutions.