The role of a school social worker is to network with students that are having difficulties at school and to implement ways to sort out issues that are affecting them. Apart from dealing directly with the children they will also be in direct contact with the parents or guardians of the particular child as well as the school’s staff and administrators. Working together, the social worker will attempt to reduce present or potential risk in a student’s life.
These social workers are very critical members of the educational team as they go directly to the source of the problem which can often be very difficult to assess. Dealing with a school social worker is also normally the first point of contact for families that find out their child is having problems in their school. They will set out a developmental, preventive and remedial program to achieve their goals. Social workers within the education field use their sound knowledge of human behavior, social systems and social work in the delivery of services.
Education And Experience
To be able to apply for school social worker jobs a person must have a master’s degree in social work. They must also obtain their states credentials to work in a public school. This will often involve the social worker taking a qualifying test. Many schools also require work experience within a school before applying for a position as a social worker.
The salary of a school social worker, will depend on experience and the school district they are working in. An average salary in the US is somewhere around $65,000 a year. This can be much higher depending on years of experience, or much lower if recently qualified.
Skills Needed To Perform
There are many skills that a school social worker will need. These skills are apart from the educational requirements of obtaining a masters degree. A social worker will need to have exceptional interpersonal skills as the need to deal with many different people and students will be happening on a daily basis. A social worker will need to be flexible, as no two days will be alike, and can often take the social worker into many different environments. They need to be in possession of excellent communication skills as the need for public speaking in front of large audiences will happen. They will also have to perform staff training sessions as well as participating in community panels. Apart from the educational requirements and top-notch communication skills, they will have to be fully computer literate. They will be working on word processing software, spreadsheet software and database listings. They will also have to be fully equipped to search the internet when needed, so a good sound knowledge of computer skills will be required by a social worker enabling them to perform their duties at a high level.
The Areas Of Practice
There are many different areas of work that a school social worker job description can involve. They will hardly ever find themselves in an office, but rather based within the school and often visiting a student’s parents at their home as well as consulting with other social service departments. Their duties are varied and include the following:
- Early invention to reduce or eliminate stress within or between individuals or groups – The social worker will share their expertise and offer advice to the student and their family regarding emotional, educational and the social and physical well-being of the child.
- Problem solving services to students, parents, school staff or community agencies – A skilled school social worker will use many different skills to resolve a problem. This can be by diagnostic testing. By detecting a child that has developmental disabilities early will help their teachers to develop a correct plan to assist the student.
- The early identification of students who are at risk – Families and social workers will be in frequent communication. Students that are deemed to be at most risk or are in an economically depressed family that receive services from a social worker. A school social worker will have to be in contact with outside school social service departments to ensure that the students overall needs are obtained.
- Working alongside various groups within the school to develop coping, social and decision making skills – The social worker will often find the need to refer parents for counselling services if they deem that the parents need educating in assisting their child’s well-being and future.
- Removing a child – This can be a very difficult and stressful part of a social worker’s job. There will be cases where the social worker feels that it is necessary to remove a child from their home. They will then be working alongside law enforcement as well as the local children’s services department. This is probably the last resort that a social worker will take and only be used when needed for the sake and welfare of the child.
- An important link – They will often intervene with students that are having difficulty at school. They will be providing a very important link, acting between the child’s parents or guardians as well as the student’s teachers and school administrators.
- Addressing problems – When a student has issues to deal with such as pregnancy or are playing truant at school and missing classes a these social workers will be able to talk to the student. They will also advise their teachers and families on how to deal with these important issues.
- Consulting medical professionals – If a school social worker feels the need to involve doctors, therapists, and medical professionals to assist with a student they will get in touch and set up meetings with whoever they feel can assist. This could involve a student’s social or psychological challenges that the child is facing and suggest to the child what treatments they feel could help.
- Helping Students – They can help students reach their full potential as well as helping to understand themselves. They can teach students to cope with stress that might be affecting them at home or at school, and improve their relationships where issues may be a problem. They can also assist students in their decision-making skills, not to make rash decisions that could lead to bigger problems.
- Helping Parents – Social workers can be of great assistance to parents helping them become more involved in their children’s lives. They can also help parents who have special needs children to better understand their children and what they are going through. They will help those parents find resources and programs to meet their children’s specific needs.
- Helping Communities – School social workers serve as a bridge between schools and communities and try to ease and resolve issues that occur.
Techniques Used By A School Social Worker
The social workers will have to use various forms of counselling and referral techniques depending on the issue they are dealing with. They will first have to identify the problem and consider what options they can use to resolve the problems. They will develop and obtain resources and information to assist the student and when need be, the student’s family as well. Their goal is to improve the overall quality of life of the student and that they are able to learn and progress in school, safely and freely. A school social worker will on occasions have to work within a team to achieve their goals. The basis for a good relationship between a student and social worker is based on total respect and trust. A child that is having problems needs to be spoken to in a certain way and dealt with accordingly, this is where a social worker will use their knowledge and skill to build up a trusting relationship. Confidentiality is a prime concern of both the student and their family, so all information that is shared will be held in the strictest of confidence.
Direct counselling can be on an individual basis or with group sessions. They may hold group sessions with students if their behavior or academic progress is indicating a need for counselling. They will be able to assess the child’s particular needs and perhaps will recommend a change in their school setting, tutoring or special classes that would be beneficial to the student. If they feel that a community agency referral is the way to go, then the social worker will arrange for that to happen. The main goal of these social workers, is to maximize the child’s potential and allow them to benefit from their education.
School social workers perform an important role in gathering all information needed about a student’s social, emotional and behavioral adjustments to both school and community. They will conduct interviews with the student, the family, school personnel and other social service departments. By performing these interviews and also attending classes of the student they will have all the relevant information needed to identify the student’s strengths and problem areas and determine what course of action is necessary.