The development of school social work is rooted in the school's recognition of the importance of nonacademic factors in the student's success in learning, adjustment, and growth. School social workers bring a unique professional knowledge and skill to the school system. They are hired to enhance the school system's ability to meet its academic mission, especially where a priority on home-to-school and community collaboration is key to achieving that mission.
School social workers use the approach of working with relationships between people and their environment and utilizing prevention strategies and interventions designed to contribute to the overall health of the school environment. Prevention, focusing on the total wellness of the student body, and intervention, targeting those students at risk, are combined to promote a school climate that encourages all students to learn and to develop social competence. Through assessment, crisis intervention, and coordination of community services, school social workers help students, families, and school systems overcome barriers that interfere with learning.
The school social worker was originally established as a visiting teacher who was responsible for the promotion of student attendance. The purpose of the law was to protect the educational rights of children. A visiting teacher should focus on attendance issues and refer the nonattendance problems to the school social worker. The school social workers, as the trained professional, should view nonattendance as a symptom of underlying problems in the home, child and/or school. As the emphasis on education reform increases, school social workers are being seen as a vital link to and resource for intervention and prevention strategies. As a result, the Georgia Department of Education is in the process of working with school social workers to develop new guidelines and strategies of practice.
Social Worker Competencies
A committee of school social workers representing school social workers from across the state has met to examine best practices, effective strategies, and successful state models in school social work. The purpose was to develop a revised State School Social Work Manual that would serve as a guide to assist school social workers in utilizing identified critical competencies necessary for student achievement results. The competencies that were developed were based on research and the North Carolina School Social Work Guide.
These competencies are aligned with the Georgia Quality Core Curriculum (QCC) and National Social Work Standards. The manual committee spent a great deal of time in research, assessing and getting feedback from peers and other stakeholders. These competencies are the first and most important part of the manual because it sets standards with academic relationships for students and the professional. They also serve the purpose of setting a foundation by which the school social worker can begin to measure performance and results that can have an impact on student achievement and to do what is value for children and their families.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a school social worker?
School social workers are distinct from other school personnel in their contributions to the assessment and intervention with students at risk. School social workers are itinerant. They work with different students for different problems at different times in different places. They also deal in fundamental human needs in a real social context. School social workers are a bridge between community and family.
- Does a school social worker need certification?
Yes. A school social worker must have at least a T5 certification (Basic Teacher Level). For more information, contact the Professional Standards Commission, 1452 Twin Towers East, Atlanta, Georgia 30334, or call (404) 657-9000.
- Will there be an updated school social workers' manual?
Yes. A committee has been formed and a draft of the manual is almost completed to begin the review process.
- Are school social workers employed by the school or the school system?
School social workers are employed by the system because they work for the various schools in the system.
- What is the funding formula that determines the number of school social workers?
The funding formula is: 1 school social worker for every 2,475 students.