The Roles of Social Workers at School

a4 good hope bannerAbstract:
Nowadays children are increasingly victims of many social forces that negatively affect their role as students. School social work is a specialized area of practice within the broad field of the social work profession. This practice in the most vulnerable parts of the educational process, and their roles can be as complex as the worlds they deal with. The basic focus of the school social worker is the constellation of teacher, parent, and child. The social worker must be able to relate to and work with all aspects of the child’s situation, but the basic skill underlying all of this is assessment, a systematic way of understanding and communicating what is happening and what is possible. The present article expresses the importance of school social workers to follow professional standards and especial guidelines for school social workers to have common approach to work in this field. The findings show that to reduce psychological, familial and social problems among children and adolescents school social workers roles can provide services for students, parents, families, local communities and society.

Key Words: Social Work, School, Student, Family, Community.

Children today are increasingly victims of many social forces that negatively affect their role as students. The family is in a state of change and until it becomes stabilized, in whatever form, children’s unmet physical and emotional needs will continue to interfere with their ability to learn and adjust in school. The family and the school are the central places for the development of children. However, there are often gaps in this relationship, within the school, within the family, and in their relationships to each other and to the needs of students. There are gaps between aspirations and realities, between manifest need and available programs. In the dynamic multicultural world of the child today, there are gaps between particular cultures and what education may offer. Everywhere it is a top public priority that children develop well and that schools support that development. Nevertheless, aspirations are unfulfilled, policies fail, and otherwise effective programs fail with certain students. School social workers practice in the space where children, families, schools, and communities encounter one another, where hopes can fail, where gaps exist, and where education can break down.
The school social worker is becoming a useful professional to assist children who are marginalized—whether economically, socially, politically, or personally—to participate in this. Social workers work to make the education process effective. To do this, their central focus is working in partnership with parents on the pupil in transaction with a complex school and home environment. School social work is a specialized area of practice within the broad field of the social work profession. It brings unique knowledge and skills to the school system and the student services team. School social workers 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. (School Social Work Association of America, 2005)
Professional Social Work
Social work as a profession commonly is known in England about 110 years ago and is the benefactor and well-organized group of women to take shape. The ladies and gentlemen who are mainly women, who had excelled in their community, seeing the chaos and confusion of many of its citizens, mostly due to poverty, disease and aging in a busy hospital or home remedy poor were admitted to the idea fell and the good of the group and provide assistance to people who need it. Gradually, it became coherent organizational aspects of behavior and professional infrastructure established that nowadays a large and complex bureaucratic organization and must find any modern democratic society is considered (Samadi Rad, 2008). In 2007 the International Association of Social Workers has accepted the following definition of social work: “Professional social work, social change, problem solving in human relationships, empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being and promotes development. Using theories of human behavior and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environment. Human rights and social justice are the principles and foundations of Social Work” (IFSW, 2000, cited in Wilson, Ruch, Lymbery and Cooper, 2008:49). Social work has different aspects and includes a sophisticated analysis of the individual and the environment in human behavior (Hutchison, 2008). The following is an attempt to define the meaning and purpose of their integration in social work: “Social work is trying to get through to those who do not have the right to earn a living and help to achieve the highest degree of autonomy” (Crouch, 1979). Thus the material presented can be concluded that social work is the professional service or services or special activity that is based on specific knowledge and skills, the purpose of the assistance to individuals, groups or society in order to deal more effectively with the problems they are facing and thus to achieve personal independence and fulfillment of personal or social.
With regard to the role of social workers Doctor Ghandi has defined the profession of “social work” as service professionals who have specific knowledge and skills. Their aim is to help individuals, groups or society to personal independence, social and personal satisfaction and social gain “(Ghandi, 2001: 12).
Perlman believes that social work is an alive event and for this reason it cannot be reduced to a simple definition, it provides a definition of “social work activities” and the way in which some welfare institutions offer it to their clients and assist them to more efficiently with difficulties in performing their social tasks [that] have faced “(Perelman, 1992: 4). A comprehensive definition can be defined in social work so that professional social work, knowledge, principles, skills and techniques that aim to help individuals, groups and the community to build on the capabilities and features are available to solve a problem or meet their needs and to achieve relative independence and personal satisfaction (Mousavi Chalak, 2004: 38). The comprehensive definition of social work can thus be defined and the social work profession is based on knowledge, principles, skills and techniques that aim to help individuals, groups and communities and to be able to rely on the capabilities and features. Social work has a direct and indirect method. Based on the principle of social work, six principles, which are discussed in many other fields as well are including: acceptance, individuality, privacy professionals, corporations and self-giving bodies in the activities of social work. Also social work is based on skills. As a professional social worker, to gather information, identify problems or special needs, so you must have skills and among them are the skills in interviewing, observation, good listening and home visit. Social work profession has both direct and indirect methods and is also using the direct method:
1. A personal social work or work with a person.
2. A collective social work or work with groups.
3. A social worker or social worker to work with the community.
Indirect methods of social work:
1. Management of Institutes
2. Social Researches
3. Social Action
The Beginnings of School Social Work
School social work began during the school year 1906–1907 simultaneously in New York, Boston, Hartford (Costin, 1969), and Chicago (McCullagh, 2000).These workers were not hired by the school system but worked in the school under the sponsorship of other agencies and civic groups. In New York, it was a settlement house that sponsored the workers. Their purpose was to work in various projects between the school and communities of new immigrants, promoting understanding and communication. In Boston, the Women’s Education Association sponsored “visiting teachers” who would work between the home and the school. In Hartford, Connecticut, a psychology clinic developed a program of visiting teachers to assist the psychologist in securing social histories of children and implementing the clinic’s treatment plans and recommendations (Lide, 1959). In Chicago, Louise Montgomery developed a social settlement type of program at the Hamline School that offered a wide range of services to the Stockyards District community (McCullagh, 2000). This unheralded experiment anticipated the much later development of school-based services for the entire community. In many ways these diverse early programs contained in rough and in seminal form all the elements of later school social work practice. Over the following century, the concerns of inclusion and recognition of individual differences, the concept of education as a relational process, and the developing mission of the schools would shape the role of the school social worker.
The Roles of School Social Workers
School social workers practice in the most vulnerable parts of the educational process, and so their roles can be as complex as the worlds they deal with. Practice rests on a wide range of skills that are defined and take shape through interactive teamwork. School social workers may work one-on-one with teachers, families, and children to address individual situations and needs. They become part of joint efforts to make schools safe for everyone. In preserving the dignity and respect due any one person, the school needs to become a community of belonging and respect.
When the school decides to implement a zero-tolerance policy, social workers are available to consult with teachers on implementation and to work with victims and perpetrators of harassment. They may help develop a crisis plan for the school with the principal, teachers, representatives, and the school nurse. They may work with that crisis team through a disturbing and violent incident, working in different ways with individual pupils and teachers experiencing crisis and with the broader school population. They may develop violence prevention programs in high schools experiencing confrontations between students.
The basic focus of the school social worker is the constellation of teacher, parent, and child. The social worker must be able to relate to and work with all aspects of the child’s situation, but the basic skill underlying all of this is assessment, a systematic way of understanding and communicating what is happening and what is possible. Building on assessment, the social worker develops a plan to assist the total constellation—teacher and students in the classroom, parents, and others—to work together to support the child in successfully completing the developmental steps that lie ahead.
The school social worker’s role is multifaceted. There is assessment and consultation within the school team. There is direct work with children and parents individually and in groups. There is program and policy development. In 1989 a group of nineteen nationally recognized experts in school social work was asked to develop a list of the tasks that entry-level school social workers perform in their day-to-day professional roles. The result was a list of 104 tasks, evidence of the complexity of school social work. These tasks fell along five job dimensions:
1. Relationships with and services to children and families
2. Relationships with and services to teachers and school staff
3. Services to other school personnel
4. Community services
5. Administrative and professional tasks (Nelson, 1990)
Further research on these roles, tasks, and skills found four areas of school social work to be both very important and frequently addressed:
1. Consultation with others in the school system and the teamwork relationships that make consultation possible
2. Assessment applied to a variety of different roles in direct service, in consultation, and in program development
3. Direct work with children and parents in individual, group, and family modalities
4. Assistance with program development in schools (Constable & et al., 1999).
A key skill, the foundation of all other areas, is assessment. Assessment is a systematic way of understanding what is taking place in relationships in the classroom, within the family, and between the family and the school. The social worker looks for units of attention—places where intervention will be most effective. Needs assessment, a broader process, provides a basis for program development and policy formation in a school. It is often a more formal process that utilizes many of the tools of research and is geared toward the development of programs and policies that meet the needs of children in school.
Professional Standards for School Social Workers
In many countries school social workers has a significant and remarkable role in increasing the empowerment and engagement of students, families and schools. However it’s important for School social workers to follow especial guidelines at schools, here are some points and standards:
• School social workers should provide services for students and their families in the context of their culture and be ensure that family support for the students is promoting.
• School social workers should pay attention to the time, energy and workload in order to achieve the delegated tasks and priorities with regard to their organization.
• School social workers must adhere and follow the values and ethical principles and guidelines that the National Association of Social Work has deducted.
• School social workers should consult with school staffs, educational institutions, school board members and all stakeholders before make decision.
• School social workers are mediator in accessing community resources for students and their families to empower them.
• School social workers must respect the privacy and confidentiality of client and his/her families.
• School social workers should provide advocacy and support to students and their families.
• School social workers as members and leaders of multidisciplinary teams must be active and effective to address the needs of students and their families with mobilizing local education agencies and community resources.
• School social workers have the training and education programs to develop and promote the aims and mission of educational institutions.
• School social workers need accurate information in order to plan, manage and evaluate their services to assess the behavior and needs of students who are directly involved in the planning process.
• Social workers as the agents of change should notice to some needs that have failed to recognize by local educational institutions.
• School social workers need some skills in problem solving, mediation and conflict resolution strategies to enhance the ability of students to facing their destructive relationships.
• School social workers should notice that student background, his/her culture and range of experience will affect their learning at school.
• School social workers should be aware of local training institutions and make effective relationships with them.
• School social workers should systematically acquire skills in assessment and practical research.
• School social workers should understand the relationship between actions and policies that affect students and their family support.
• School social workers should know how to use effective interventions to enhance the educational experience of students.
• School social workers must be able to assess their actions and their findings for utilization of clients, local educational agencies, community, stakeholders and the other professionals.
• School social workers need communication skills and ability to create solidarity at the local, provincial and national levels to improve student skills.
Social work profession, which has been existed for over a century, became a more important profession because of poverty, deprivation and social change in the world. The most important aim of social work profession is empowerment of people in poverty, who are oppressed and vulnerable, increase their wellbeing, and help all people to fulfill their basic needs. Social workers try to bring an end to poverty, discrimination, oppression and other forms of injustice and they are sensible towards cultural and ethnic discrimination (Reamer, 2006: 6-7). One of the important places that social workers are playing significant roles is schools.
Practice learning within a school environment can enable social work students to develop specific work programs within education. At early stages in their careers it is beneficial to combine the values of partnership and participatory work in school environments with skills in direct work with children. This provides opportunities for students to develop intellectual agility within a modernizing framework by reflecting on their experiences of direct work with children to explore the basis for future interventions. The ability to hear and understand the ways in which children and young people communicate is also a skill needed by all social workers if they are to comply with the legal requirement that a child’s wishes and feelings should inform decisions made about them (CETSWA, 1991: 18). Also school social workers treat students in groups. Group supervision and practice teaching provided essential support to ensure that students considered issues of accountability and authority when working with young people in the school setting and for exploring their own and others attitudes to statutory agencies.
At last it’s important to say that school social workers can influence the development of their roles in school and local community to reduce problems with focusing to social and psychological aspects.
Suggestions for School Social Workers
The following suggestions can improve school social workers roles to provide services for students, families and community in order to reduce psychological, familial and social problems among children and adolescents. Therefore school social workers can provide the following services:
Services to Students
* To work in order to provide welfare for students and their family.
* Arranging spare time activities, social services and community organizations for students, to improve the life style of the community
* Providing crisis intervention for vulnerable students.
* Developing intervention strategies to increase academic success.
* Assisting with conflict resolution and anger management.
* Helping the child develop appropriate social interaction skills.
* Assisting the child in understanding and accepting self and others.
* Providing case management for students and families requiring multiple resources.
Services to Parents/Families
* Interviewing the family to assess problems affecting the child’s educational adjustment.
* Providing crisis intervention for vulnerable families.
* Working with parents to facilitate their support in their children’s school adjustment.
* Alleviating family stress to enable the child to function more effectively in school and community.
* Assisting parents to access programs available to students with special needs.
* Assisting parents in accessing and utilizing school and community resources.
Services to School Personnel
* Providing staff with essential information to better understand factors (cultural, societal, economic, familial, health, etc.) affecting a student’s performance and behavior.
* Assessing students with mental health concerns.
* Developing staff in-service training programs.
* Assisting teachers with behavior management.
* Providing direct support to staff.
Services to Community
* Obtaining and coordinating community resources to meet students’ needs.
* Helping school districts receive adequate support from social and mental health agencies.
* Advocating for new and improved community/school service to meet the needs of students and families.
* Helping the system respond effectively to each child’s needs.
Related Services
* Participating in special education assessment meetings as well as Individual Educational Planning meetings.
* Coordination must be established among volunteer organizations and social worker.
* Counseling (group, individual and/or family)
* Mobilizing family, school, and community resources to enable the child to learn as effectively as possible in his or her educational program
* Assisting in developing positive behavioral intervention strategies.
* Working with those problems in a child’s living situation that affect the child’s adjustment in school. (home, school, and community)
* Preparing a social or developmental history on a child with a disability.
* Identifying and reporting child abuse and neglect.
* Statistical data must be collated on social services by social workers.
* Developing alternative programs for drop-outs, truants, delinquents, etc.
* From the social services points of view cooperation must be established between all relevant organizations.
* Assist in developing and implementing educational programs for children for exceptional children
* Normal and handicapped children must be protected and educated during the preschool years as well as during the school years.

• CETSWA (1991). The Teaching of Child Care in the Diploma of Social Work. Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work, Cambridge.
• Constable, R., Kuzmickaite, D., Harrison, W. D., & Volkmann, L. (1999). The Emergent Role of the School Social Worker in Indiana. School Social Work Journal, 24(1), 1–14.
• Costin, L. (1969). A Historical Review of School Social Work. Social Casework, 50, 439–453.
• Crouch C (1979). Social Work Defined. National Association of Social Workers.
• Department of Health (2004) The Children Act 2004. The Stationary Office, London.
• Hutchison E (2008). Dimensions of Human Behavior Person and Environment. London, Sage.
• Ghandi, Mohsen, (2001). Social Work. Second edition, Tehran: Atai.
• Lide, P. (1959). A Study of the Historical Influences of Major Importance in Determining the Present Function of the School Social Worker. New York: National Association of Social Workers.
• McCullagh, J. (2000). School Social Work in Chicago: An Unrecognized Pioneer Program. School Social Work Journal, 25(1), 1–14.
• Mousavi Chalak, Hassan, (2006). Social Work with person (1). Tehran: SAMT.
• Nelson, C. (1990). A Job Analysis of School Social Workers. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
• Reamer, F.G. (2006). Ethical Standards in Social Work: A Review of the NASW Code of Ethics. 2nd Edition, NASW Pres.
• Samadi Rad A (2008). Social work in Iran. Kayhan 25/04/2008.
• Wilson K, Ruch G, Lymbery M, Cooper A (2008). Social Work. Harlow, UK, Longman, Pearson.
• School Social Work Association of America. (2005). SSWAA’s organizational mission statement. Retrieved April 1, 2008, available at:
• Wilson K, Ruch G, Lymbery M, Cooper A (2008). Social Work. Harlow, UK, Longman, Pearson.

Sajjad Majidi Parast1 and Farzaneh Fakharzadeh 2
1. M.S. Student of Social Work, Allameh Tabataba’i University, Terhran, Iran
Cell phone: +989352190526
2. M.S. Student of Social Work, Allameh Tabataba’i University, Terhran, Iran

Back to top button