Experience in School Social Work
As a member of the student services team, school social workers are a link between the home, school, and the community. School social workers work within multi-cultural contexts with the social functioning and social conditions/environments of students to promote and support the student's academic and social success. They advocate for and assist students to accomplish tasks associated with their learning, growth, and development toward a fuller realization of their intrinsic dignity, capability and potential.
The social worker's responsibilities are not just to the students with whom they assess, but with the educators, the school's administrative staff, the parents/guardians, and to the state who employs them. "In response to expressed, assumed, and implicit needs not only of students, but of teachers, administrators, parents, community groups, and other systems that interact with the educational system, school social workers constantly have had to redefine themselves, their practice skills, and their use and understanding of a variety of ecological entities." (Graber, 1990, p.11)The responsibilities differ depending on which aspect of the case is being worked.
School social workers are often confused by the general public with school counselors and sometimes psychologists. The school social worker's responsibilities and goals differ from that of a counselor or a therapist. The role of the counselor or therapist is to be reactive and utilize tertiary prevention. The school social worker's role is to be more proactive and practice primary and secondary prevention.
"Opportunities for continuing education of public school teachers seems largely limited to matters of curriculum and subject matter. The involvement of a social worker with one staff enabled them to transcend these issues and develop insights into their own attitudes and responses to children's behaviors." (Graber, 1990, p.11) The school social worker takes over where traditional educators leave off. Teachers and the administrative staff are not trained to, or even allowed to interact with students in the manner that a social worker does. Cases of abuse, whether it is physical, emotional, sexual, or neglect is referred to the social worker by the education staff, such as teachers or those in administrative positions. Once a referral has been written up and sent to the social worker, it becomes the social worker's responsibility to assess the situation and decide a course of action.
Social workers talk with the student in a manner that is comprehensible to the student. For the most part, students are not very forthright about their issues. The social worker reads into the words used, the body language, actions, among other things to "dig" for information needed to help the student. They must rely on training, previous experience and instinct to devise a course of action on an individual basis and find the answers that will help protect the child.
For the student, the social worker is a confidant, the person who is their advocate. They are their protectors and sometimes are even their savior. At times they are the vaults in which family secrets are kept, and interpreters of actions and behaviors. They work solely in the best interest of the student. At times what is in the best interest of the child is not what the child wants. While the worker is looked upon as a friend, they are an interested party whose job is to keep the child free from harm.
Social workers are sometimes viewed as the enemy or interloper by parents and guardians. Where the child sees the worker as a vault for the family secrets, the parents' views, for the most part, believe the social worker as the exposer of those secrets. This is not an accurate description whatsoever. The worker does the best they can to get to the root of the problem and help the family as a whole to correct the problems, and point them in a direction to find further and...
References: Graber, A. W. (1990, January,). Describing Children, Describing Ourselves: Helping Teachers Analyze Behavioral Descriptions. Social Work in Education, Vol. 12(Issue2,), p77-87.
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