Social Work Services
With the enactment of P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975, school social work was identified as a related service and social workers were given the additional specific role of assisting pupils with disabilities. As stated in 1991 by the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities, "Social Work Services are provided in order to address the whole welfare of the student with a disability in his or her life at home, in school, and in the community."
The compatibility of social work and special education services is summarized in the following statement: "The principles of special education legislation complement the basic philosophy and code of ethics of the social work profession. The social work profession is founded on democratic and humanitarian ideals. It is committed to protecting the right of individuality, self-respect, and the opportunity for development, without discrimination. Legislation that grants infants and youths the right to an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment is consistent with these ideals."
Social work service in schools includes:
Preparing a social or developmental history on a student with a disability is done informally by getting background information on students from reports, parent conversation, direct observations, etc.;
Group and individual counseling with the student and family;
Working with those problems in a student's living situation (home, school, and community) that affect the student's adjustment in school;
Mobilizing school and community resources to enable the student to learn as effectively as possible in his or her educational program; and
Assisting in developing positive behavior intervention strategies.
What We Do
Referral to the school social worker may be because of student behaviors, attendance issues, or when school personnel, special education staff, or the family identify needs related to issues that interfere with the student's special education experience.
The need for the services of the school social worker to be provided to the student or family can be determined by the ARD/IEP Committee. In this instance, it is recommended that the social worker be part of the team making the recommendation.
The school social worker, in collaboration with the family and others who have knowledge of the student and family in question should assess the need for social work services.
According to the Texas Education Agency, social workers have specific expertise and interest in assessing the needs, characteristics and interactions of children, families, personnel in the local education agency, and individuals and groups in the neighborhood and community.
Some tools that may be used in this process include genograms, ecomaps, and various psychosocial and family assessments.
Service Delivery Models
Models of school social work practice should be developmental, not static, and should use a holistic perspective.
The social worker is often responsible for a variety of services. The social worker assists families and schools to help a student transcend barriers to successful school experience including poverty, substance and other abuses, community violence, access to health and medical supports, and family conflicts.
The models of service delivery include:
Direct, indirect, or integrated supports (to include counseling). This form of service delivery is a complex helping process in which the social worker establishes a trusting and confidential working relationship. The focus is on problem-solving, decision-making, and discovering personal meaning related to learning and development.
Consultation. This form of service delivery is a cooperative process in which the social worker assists the parents, family, and school personnel to think through problems and to develop skills that make them more effective in working with their child, accessing needed resources, connecting with in-school and out-of-school resources.
The Social Workers roll is mainly doing consultation with special education students; however, there are times where direct supports are provided.
Social Work Services in the IEP
Factors that may contribute to the need for social work as a related service may include:
a student experiencing behavioral problems,
lack of provision of basic needs,
evidence of emotional disturbance,
abuse or neglect, and/or
other issues present in the home and community.
The ARD/IEP Committee can make a referral for social worker supports as a supplemental aid and service to assist the family to make viable connections with private and governmental support agencies, access needed equipment (e.g., wheelchairs) and supplies (e.g., diapers, food, clothes), provide psychosocial assessments, needs referrals, coordination of resources, and individual, family, and group counseling.