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SCHOOL SOCIAL WORK

School Social Work is a specialized area of practice within the broad field of the social work profession. School social workers bring unique knowledge and skills to the school system and the student support services team. They are instrumental in furthering the purpose of the schools - to provide a setting for teaching, learning, and for the attainment of competence and confidence. School social workers are hired by school districts to enhance the district's ability to meet its academic mission, especially where home, school and community collaboration is the key to achieving that mission (http://www.sswaa.org).

Social work services in schools first began independently in New York City, Chicago, Boston, and Hartford during the school year of 1906-1907 to meet the social service needs of children and to improve communication between the home and school. The first board of education to initiate and finance a school social work program was in Rochester, New York, in 1913 (Shaffer, 2006).

During this century of school social work, school social workers have grown significantly in numbers and the focus of the service has changed in response to important influences of the times. A focus on school attendance in the early 1900's showed the need for professionals who understood the influences of living conditions, socioeconomic status, poor health, family and community on academic performance, behavior, and attendance at school (Shaffer, 2006). The foremost responsibility of the school social worker at that time was home-school-community liaison. Although school social work has evolved considerably with the dynamic changes of society and school social workers function as change-agents more so than ever before, school social workers today continue to serve as the vital link between home, school and community.

In order to be a licensed school social worker in North Carolina, one has to complete a bachelor's or master's degree in social work from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) accredited program with additional specialized preparation in school social work. Within these school social work education programs, several standards are studied such as the foundations of school social work practice, assessment and evaluation, cultural diversity, consultative and collaborative relationships and understanding of the role of advocacy and facilitation. Also required are intervention strategies to support student development, discernment of statutes and case law and completion of a school social work internship comprising of a minimum of 400 contact hours in a school setting.

School social workers are expected to apply their professional training in schools in order to support student success. Their capacity to influence student success is clearly influenced by school social worker-to-student ratios (No Child Left Behind recommends one-masters-degreed-school-social-worker-to-800-students ratio; the School Social Work Association of America recommends one master's-degreed social worker per 400 students). Through specialized school social work programs that strengthen the home/school/community partnership and address barriers to student learning, school social workers serve as catalysts in promoting student wellbeing and successful completion of school.


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