By Sherri EllingtonSchool social workers are a relatively new part of education but are essential behind the scenes, the board of education heard. It also learned the grant that pays for some of the services offered locally has been extended to March 2015.’School social work is the link between home and schools,’ said social worker Kiana Battle at the Nov. 11 board of education meeting. ‘I’m an advocate for students. We can’t educate a child without supporting his or her other needs.’Battle is also in charge of mandated reporter training for child abuse recognition. As many workers as possible ‘“ including substitute teachers ‘“ are being taught to recognize the signs.School social workers address social, emotional and environmental barriers to learning so teachers can prepare students to be college and career ready, Battle said.Lamar County schools have a total student population of 2,671. A total of 32.2% of households ‘“ 684 ‘“ have an annual household income less than 150% of the federal poverty threshold and 70.66% of students receive free and reduced lunch.Battle is in charge of Red Ribbon Week drug prevention activities, mandated child abuse reporter training, home visits and an elementary school secondary counseling grant. The program works with the juvenile court attendance task force, Helping Hands weekend food assistance and Christmas assistance.Social workers handle groups for grief counseling, conflict resolution, social skills, family dynamics and Real Girls. They oversee individual student meetings and work with the Lamar County Family Connection Collaborative and Local Interagency Planning Team. They hold parent workshops and conferences, some paid for by grants or offered by partner agencies, such as mental health counseling.So far in the 2014-15 school year, there have been 13 Child Protective Services reports, three attendance orders and two student safety plans. Last school year there were 22 CPS reports and four attendance orders.’We don’t remove children from their homes,’ Battle said.According to educational research and data from the Georgia Department of Education there is a correlation between student attendance and graduation rates. It also says 180,995 Georgia students missed 15 or more days of school in 2010.In 2010-11 school social workers addressed 169,868 attendance cases, made 10,563 referrals to juvenile court and provided academic support services for 56,071 student referrals statewide.Social workers help keep schools safe by addressing student mental health needs. They do crisis intervention for suicidal or homicidal students, bullying and gang prevention and intervention, and help teachers, counselors and administrators with Department of Family and Children Services reports of child abuse and neglect. In 2007, suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24.According to the Health and Human Services Office of HIV/ AIDS Policy on Bullying and Teen Suicide, bullied teens are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, skip school and be depressed. In 2010-11, Georgia school social workers made 13,396 referrals to community mental health providers, 14,039 referrals to DFCS and intervened with 26,749 cases of student discipline. They try to keep parents involved with parent and student conferences, home visits, parent groups and workshops. Parental involvement in a child’s education results in higher grades and test scores, better attendance, higher graduation rates and greater enrollment in post-secondary education, she said.In 2010-11 Georgia school social workers made 233,319 family contacts, 83,113 home and agency visits on behalf of students and were involved in 99,799 cases that provided support for personal, health and social services for students and their families.Social workers help schools reduce risks and liabilities by helping them meet expectations of federal, state and local mandates, particularly those designed to promote equal educational opportunity and social justice, and remove barriers to learning.In 2010-11 school social workers provided IDEA mandated services for 20,181 special education cases, provided support to enable the education of 26,428 homeless students and made 299,542 referrals to community agencies on behalf of students and families.The statistics are based on services provided by 503 regular education social workers. The services aim to help students increase academic success, improve interpersonal relationships and attendance and build self-esteem.
Social workers essential to school system
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