School Social Work: Skills and Interventions for Effective Practice

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Geriatric social workers, also under the healthcare social work umbrella, assist older adults and their families in finding services such as meal delivery and home healthcare. In some instances, they support seniors as they transition into assisted living or nursing care facilities and continue to work with seniors in those settings. Hospice social workers, another type of healthcare social worker, help patients and their families cope with terminal illness.

Hospice social workers either provide families with grief counseling or link them to outside services offering grief counseling and support groups.

Social workers specializing in mental health and addiction provide individual and group therapy, crisis intervention, and case management. Social workers in this field also support clients in adhering to treatment plans by scheduling appointments, arranging transportation and childcare, and monitoring progress toward set goals. They also manage substance use prevention programs and promote mental health education. Substance use problems are common in many areas of social work practice including child abuse and neglect cases, juvenile delinquency, domestic violence and other legal problems, veterans services, and older adult services.

School social workers work with children at all grade levels, assisting students whose academic struggles, behavior, truancy, and interpersonal difficulties impact their school progress. They may consult with parents, teachers, and other support staff to find solutions for struggling children. School social workers are often called upon in situations of child abuse or neglect to navigate legal channels and serve as a liaison with outside agencies. While some of these professionals are assigned to one school, many work for the larger school district and respond to mental health crises and child abuse concerns in multiple schools.

School social workers are often part of a multidisciplinary team of counselors, psychologists, nurses, administrators, and educators working to support students. School social work is typically considered mezzo practice as it involves working with the entire student community in one or more schools, though it can be classified as micro practice when a professional is working one-to-one with struggling students. These social workers work closely with community leaders as well as residents to understand issues that affect them and their impacts on the community.

Assessment by a community social worker might involve taking surveys of community members, analyzing the physical environment, and researching historical neighborhood trends. These social workers may then act as advocates for change, working to promote community development, assisting the community in finding needed resources, and helping the community implement proposed solutions.

Community social work can also fall into the category of macro social work, depending on the size of the community and the scale of the interventions.

In This Section

Professionals in community health commonly work within a social service agency or local government. Similar to a community social worker, community health workers CHWs seek to address health problems at the community level. Community health workers act as liaisons between the members of the community and the social services available to them. CHWs also provide basic health and medical care to people within a community, often educating them about health issues and sharing preventative measures they can take to avoid illness. Social and community service managers oversee and coordinate service programs or the organizations offering such programs.

Their work is similar to that of community social workers, but is more administration- and management-focused. Social and community service managers typically work for non-profit and government agencies. Their responsibilities routinely include coordinating with contractors, managing service availability, and supervising counselors, social workers, and other staff. Social work graduates with an interest in management can be competitive applicants for positions as social and community service managers, especially with related experience in the public services field.

Group social work can take place at the micro or mezzo level.


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Formal groups above the family level are typically included in mezzo social work, although some social workers regard family practice as taking place at the micro level. These social workers may also work in private businesses or organizations to identify and suggest tools for constructively managing sources of intergroup conflict or tackling workplace issues.

School Social Work: Skills and Interventions for Effective Practice

In most environments, group social workers seek to help group members develop positive communication tools collectively to promote personal growth and to collaborate effectively on common issues and interests. Group support or group therapy is a common career path for these types of social workers. Health educators, who are typically employed in non-profit and government organizations, promote health education from the individual to the community level.

Similar to social workers, these professionals work to identify the needs of the group s they are working with in order to plan and provide appropriate programs. The education provided may be centered on nutrition, physical activity, disease prevention, or further specialized areas such as diabetes management. Public policy social workers typically work in government and non-profit organizations to promote social change through education, legislation, and other large-scale interventions. These professionals may also engage in international policy work for non-governmental organizations NGOs such as the World Health Organization.

Public policy social workers engage in policy analysis on issues such as public housing developments, zoning regulations, public service programs, and other large-scale projects.

Social Work: Practice, Policy and Research | edX

A public policy social worker may organize focus groups to analyze the perception of proposed or enacted changes or conduct needs assessments. They may also run and evaluate organizational training programs or manage logistics for large-scale social service programs. This level of practice is also referred to as social policy social work and can impact changes in public policy as well as government policy.


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Administrative social workers, also called management social workers, social work managers, or social work administrators, hold leadership roles in social and community service organizations including social welfare departments, schools, and hospitals. About this product Product Information "This book is well written and inclusive with a realistic approach to problems encountered in schools today. Practical and useable interventions are included which makes this text a valuable resource to the school social worker. Educational policy and legislation, community-based interventions, and prevention programs are also covered.

Complete with lists of Internet resources and other references at the end of each chapter, School Social Work is a valuable tool for students and a hands-on resource for school social workers, psychologists, counselors, and administrators. Additional Product Features Dewey Edition. Externalizing Behavior Problems. Internalizing Behavior Problems. Social Problems. Students with Disabilities. School-Based Prevention Programs.

Interventions on Behalf of Vulnerable Groups of Students. Involving Parents and the Community in Restructuring Schools. Evaluating Student-Focused Interventions. Evaluating System-Focused Interventions. Appendix: "School Survival Group" Curriculum. Author Index. Subject Index. Dupper's research of the literature for this book is outstanding. In the role of broker a social worker is a professional agent responsible for identifying, locating, and linking client systems to needed resources in a timely fashion.

In the role of broker the social worker is also concerned with the quality, quantity, and accessibility of services.


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  • A community change agent participates as part of a group or organization seeking to improve or restructure some aspect of community service provision. A change agent, working with others, uses a problem-solving model to identify the problem, solicit community input, and plan for change. A community change agent acts in a coordinated manner to achieve planned change at multiple levels that helps to shift the focus of institutional resources to meet identified goals.

    The role of the professional counselor focuses on improving social functioning.

    School Social Work Theory to Practice

    In the role of counselor, the social worker helps client systems articulate their needs, clarify their problems, explore resolution strategies, and applies intervention strategies to develop and expand the capacities of client systems to deal with their problems more effectively.

    A key function of this role is to empower people by affirming their personal strengths and their capacities to deal with their problems more effectively. When dispute resolution is needed in order to accomplish goals, the professional social worker will carry out the role of mediator.

    In the mediator role, the social worker intervenes in disputes between parties to help them find compromises, reconcile differences, and reach mutually satisfying agreements. The mediator takes a neutral stance among the involved parties. In the researcher role, a social worker evaluates practice interventions and with others evaluates program outcomes. The researcher seeks to critically analyze the literature on relevant topics of interest and uses this information to inform practice.

    A researcher extends and disseminates knowledge, and seeks to enhance the effectiveness of social work practice.

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