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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.

School Priority Areas Supported by School Social Workers

  • Direct services to students with IEPs
  • Direct services to general education students
  • Attendance support
  • RTI team member
  • Homeless liaison support
  • Therapeutic services (Individual and Group Therapy)
  • Family support via case management

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

  • Providing targeted evidence-based interventions to promote mental health and school success
  • Consulting with classroom staff and caregivers to support positive behaviors
  • Creating safe, positive school climates
  • Strengthening family-school partnerships
  • Supporting school-wide universal interventions to foster mental health and social emotional well-being
  • Improving school-wide assessment and accountability
  • Providing crisis intervention services

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 (Social History Analysis)
  • Conduct home visits that encourage home/school communication
  • Work collaboratively with the Response to Intervention (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 work evaluations and other related assessments for initial and re-evaluations
  • Provide related services 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 data for the purpose of monitoring social/emotional progress and evaluating effectiveness of services
  • Provide technical assistance on strategies that improve outcomes for special education students
  • Coordinate the design and implementation of behavior intervention plans and functional behavior assessments
  • Attend court hearings as a DCPS representative

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
  • Manage family resource centers, where parents/guardians can access needed information and participate in opportunities to learn how to support their student(s)
  • 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

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: