About the Social Work Department
The Social Work Department of the Special School District provides individual and group social work counseling (direct) and support for school personnel (consult) to students and their families, and promotes awareness and understanding of these issues in schools and in the community.
The department's primary purpose is to help address barriers to learning that impact the student’s ability to function in the educational setting. These barriers may be internal (i.e. challenges associated with un- or under-treated mental health disorders) or external (i.e. food insecurity, homelessness, abuse and neglect, domestic violence, etc.). Social workers work to support the whole child and school team in order to improve that child’s ability to be successful in school and remain in the least restrictive setting.
What is School Social Work?
School Social Work is a specialized practice area within the profession of social work. School social workers of the Special School District enhance the district’s ability to meet its academic mission, which places a priority on home, school and community collaboration.
As a vital part of the total education team, School Social Workers work directly with students and in collaboration with teachers, administrators, counselors, psychologists, nurses, speech pathologists and other staff. Their unique training and perspective enables them to understand the interaction and impact of the home, school and community on the student and thus overcome barriers that interfere with learning.
School social workers are bound by professional ethics and are responsible for their continued professional growth and development.
School Social Work & Special Education
Federal regulations implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (P.L. 102-119, 1991) define social work services in schools as a related service in special education.
These [social work] services include the following as they relate to the child’s disability: preparing social or developmental histories on children with disabilities; providing group and individual counseling to children and their families; working with problems in children’s living situations (home, school, and community) that affect their adjustment in school; and mobilizing school and community resources to optimize the student’s potential to learn in educational programs. As appropriate, school social workers may also design and implement behavior management plans, consult with regular education and special education teachers, and provide case management for students and families requiring multiple services.
Supports for School Personnel are indicated in the Present Level of the IEP and examples can include, but are not limited to:
- Short term Crisis Intervention/Abuse and Neglect
- Addressing Barriers to Learning (i.e. basic hygiene, hunger, utility assistance, homelessness, etc.)
- Consult with school team
- Assistance with situational issues (i.e. divorce, death, disaster relief, etc.)
- Attendance concerns
- Contact an outside agency with release from parent/guardian.
- Parent education regarding disability. Working with problems in children’s living situations (i.e. home, school and community) that affect their adjustment in school.
- Mobilizing school and community resources to optimize student’s potential to learn in their educational programs.
- Social workers may also coordinate with facilitators to help design and implement behavior plans.
- SSD Social Workers can also be requested to support a crisis regarding the death of an SSD student or staff member. Social workers are available upon request to all SSD and LEA sites throughout St. Louis County. Services include short-term group and individual counseling, assessment and consultative services to administration, coordination with local resources and referral when long-term therapeutic needs are indicated. Social workers are assigned geographically throughout the county and are on call to respond immediately.
SSD School Social Workers help students, parents, schools and communities
They help students:
- Achieve maximum academic benefit from their special education opportunities.
- Understand the challenges related to their medical and mental health diagnosis
- Recognize their strengths and how to apply them both in the educational context and in life.
- Develop appropriate social skills.
- Develop self-control and take responsibility for their actions.
- Develop decision-making skills.
- Cope with stress and anxiety.
They help parents:
- Participate effectively in their child’s Individual Education Plan.
- Better understand and meet their children’s social, emotional and special education needs.
- Better understand and effectively utilize school and community resources available to help students and families.
They help schools:
- Understand environmental and psychological factors that affect a student’s ability to make maximum use of his/her school experience.
- Access community resources to assist in the planning and transition of students with special needs.
- Improve school services through development of policies and a wide range of prevention and intervention programs for students with special needs.
- Understand the impact of trauma and toxic stress on students in the school setting.
They help communities:
- Understand school policies, programs and practice. Minimize environmental factors which inhibit learning and self-independence for children with special needs.
- Develop and expand resources to adequately meet the needs of students and families
- Provides individual and group social work counseling/therapeutic support to help students meet their academic and emotional potential.