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School Social Work

What are school social workers trained to do?

  • Support students, families and schools, while removing barriers to academic success
  • Work with both special education and general education students and their families
  • Elementary school social workers have been trained in Child Centered Play Therapy (CCPT), an evidence-informed, early intervention therapeutic approach to help young children self-regulate emotions, develop improved executive functioning skills and increase emotional literacy using play and Grief and Trauma Intervention for Children (GTI-C).
  • Middle and high school social workers have been trained in Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) and/or Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress (SPARCS). CBITS is a recognized evidence-based treatment designed to reduce trauma symptoms and was created specifically for implementation in the school setting. SPARCS is a present-oriented, strength-based intervention that focuses on enhancing resilience through the development of important self-regulatory, problem solving, and communication skills.
  • At the secondary level, DCPS also offers training in Motivational Enhancement Therapy/Cannabis Youth Treatment (MET/CYT). Using motivational enhancement therapy and cognitive behavior therapy principles, this 5-8 week treatment is designed as a marijuana abuse/dependence treatment for adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18.

Social workers employ many evidence-based treatments in their practice. For more information about some of the evidence-based treatments used by DCPS school social workers, please browse the following links:

      • The following table summarizes all evidenced based treatments that are currently provided throughout the District.

Elementary School Interventions

Bounce Back

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Child Centered Play Therapy (CCPT)

Grief and Trauma Intervention for Children (GTI)


  • Unstuck and On Target
  • Zones of Regulations

Middle and High School Interventions

Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress (SPARCS)

Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cannabis Youth Treatment (CYT)

Love is Not Abuse (LINA)

Theater Troupe/Peer Education Project


School Priority Areas Supported by School Social Workers

  • Behavioral Support Services (BSS) to students with Individualized Education Programs (IEP), 504, and Response to Intervention (RTI) plans
  • Social emotional support to general education students
  • Social Histories and Functional Behavior Assessments (FBAs)
  • Behavior Intervention Planning
  • RTI team membership
  • School crisis response and recovery
  • Service documentation
  • Homeless liaison support
  • Attendance Intervention

How do school social workers support the day-to-day operations?

  • Providing targeted evidence-based interventions to promote mental health and school success
  • Behavioral screening to identify students in need of social-emotional support
  • Ongoing consultation with classroom staff and caregivers to support positive behaviors
  • Create safe, positive school climates
  • Strengthen family-school partnerships
  • Support school-wide universal interventions to foster mental health and social emotional well-being
  • Improving school-wide assessment and accountability
  • Provide crisis intervention services both in schools and district-wide

The Role of the School Social Worker: Preventive Work

Social Workers are involved in preventive work with students, staff, and families that promote positive school climate and social/emotional well-being. In this role, school social workers:

  • Provide consultation to school staff and parents to facilitate student educational, social, and emotional growth
  • Conduct individual and group counseling as well as psycho-education
  • Obtain information concerning the effects of environment, including family, cultural, and economic disadvantages that may be adversely affecting student progress 
  • Conduct home visits that encourage home/school communication
  • Work collaboratively with the RTI Team to develop plans of assistance for students at risk of academic and/or behavioral difficulty
  • Serve as the home-school-community liaison
  • Make appropriate referrals for community resources

The Role of the School Social Worker: Special Education

Social Workers are involved in special education. In this role, they:

  • Serve as a member of the multi-disciplinary team (MDT)
  • Conduct Social Histories and FBAs for initial eligibility and re-evaluation
  • Provide BSS as prescribed by the IEP, including social, life, and transitional skills that can be transferred from school to community
  • Complete student progress reports
  • Participate in MDT, IEP, manifestation determination, and other related meetings
  • Work collaboratively within the classroom setting to implement student IEPs
  • Collect and document data for the purpose of monitoring social emotional progress and evaluating effectiveness of services
  • Provide mental health consultation on strategies that improve outcomes for special education student
  • Coordinate the design and implementation of behavior intervention plans
  • Participate in legal proceedings

The Role of the School Social Worker: Child Find

Social Workers are involved in the early identification of needs for students aged 2 years 8 months to 5 years 10 months. 

The Role of the School Social Worker: Program Development

Social Workers are involved in program development to meet the unique needs of the school. In this role, they:

  • Conduct needs assessments and plan for support services both within and outside the school;
  • Facilitate special support groups (i.e., students with incarcerated parents, grief and loss, divorce, teen parents, conflict resolution, etc.) as needed;
  • Work with administrators to implement effective policies and programs to address school safety, school attendance, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, child abuse, and neglect, as needed;
  • Provide guidance and training to address each school’s specific needs; and;
  • Work to ensure that students receive social emotional support equitably.