National School Social Work Week 2023 will be celebrated this year from March 5 to 11. This year’s theme is “We Rise.” School Social Workers rise up - supporting their students, families, and school communities. School Social Workers rise to share hope. They rise to listen and understand. They rise to challenge inequities. They rise to support all students.
School Social Workers are trained mental health professionals who focus on coordinating the efforts of schools, families, and communities toward helping students improve their academic achievement. Key to this work is a deep knowledge of social, emotional, and behavioral skills as well as sensitivity to how environments and students interact. School social workers are committed to equitable education opportunities; ensure that students are mentally, physically, and emotionally present in the classroom; and promote respect and dignity for all students and families.
SFUSD School Social Workers have Masters Degrees in Social Work and a Pupil Personnel Services Credential in School Social Work from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Many are also Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) with the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. SFUSD has School Social Workers located at school sites and at central offices.
In SFUSD, we have 40 site-based school social workers and four central school social workers who supervise and support social work and clinical mental health interns that are under the Student Internship Team program (SIT)! Our site-based school social workers triage mental health referrals to our interns and guide them in their professional growth and development. This year the SIT program has offered 25 training sessions to our interns and partnering CBO's so they have the skills and knowledge to support our students. This year our SIT program has served over 500 students in the district!
At the central office, the new Middle School Clinical team provides confidential, brief individual and group counseling services to middle school students in six schools. Students are identified by the site's Coordinated Care Team. Students who otherwise would not have access to mental health services are prioritized and receive 8-10 counseling and/or group sessions per semester. Students can be referred for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to: anxiety, depression, bullying, identity, trauma, anger management, stress management, body image, grief/loss, substance use, school/grade transitions, and relationships. We celebrate the great contribution that our MS Clinical team provides!
Creating Leadership Opportunities for Students
At SFUSD, School Social Workers support the creation of student leadership opportunities to build a strong sense of belonging. This fosters a safe and supportive school environment for students and allows them to practice and gain leadership skills. Some of these activities include but are not limited to Pride Clubs, Student Council, or Peer Mentoring opportunities.
At Malcolm X Academy, School Social Worker Sarah Aldama is leading the school’s first-ever Student Council. Their goal is to support students by creating opportunities of leadership, community, and representation. While piloting a K-5 student council in November 2022, they have been able to launch a 'Community Café'. Student leaders sell and deliver coffee, tea, and hot chocolate daily to teachers and staff, where funds directly support the end of year student council field trip! While learning how to work with a team, they simultaneously learn about communication skills, the importance of attendance, and delegating tasks amongst one another. Alongside the café, student leaders also emcee monthly school-wide assemblies.
At Paul Revere, one of the great features of a K-8 school is the opportunity for mentorship and connection between older and younger students. Hannah Epstein supports their Peer Mediation program which empowers a group of 8th grade students to mediate conflicts between younger students, typically grades 3-5. The Peer Mediators received training in conflict resolution at the beginning of the year, and follow a structure that involves listening to both sides of the story, identifying the problem, helping the participants find solutions, and creating an agreement. Hannah shares, “it is amazing to watch the connections that form during mediations, and to see how both the younger and older students benefit from this program.”
At John O'Connell High School, Lizbett Calleros brings fun and positivity to students while promoting messages of wellness, self-care and healthy love. She's had students play Wellness Bingo where they learn about coping strategies and healthy habits. Her recent Valentine's Day activity saw students eager to earn treats while practicing saying positive affirmations.
Fostering Hope and Resilience
School Social Workers serve students, families, and the school community. They often give hope to individuals who are feeling overwhelmed and nurture student and family resilience. School Social Workers recognize and celebrate strengths of students and families, and serve as a bridge between school, home and community resources.
Juliana Baptista, the School Social Worker at El Camino Alternativo, supports newcomer students who recently entered the country. Through the strong personal relationship she develops with each student, she is able to support their high school education while helping them secure basic needs for themselves and their families. Juliana works in collaboration with SFUSD's Focal Services Department to connect these students with city resources.
Identifying and Linking to Resources and Supports
School Social Work is a profession grounded in social justice. Many SFUSD students and families are faced with a variety of societal barriers like poverty, homelessness, mental health challenges, and lack of access to needed resources. Because of this, School Social Workers are often called upon to use their knowledge and skills to support students and families leverage resources, and help identify solutions or coping skills needed to navigate rough waters. In addition, they are often co-facilitators of Coordinated Care teams at school sites. These teams work to align and streamline school support systems so that students, staff and families are all working together to create an environment that nurtures and supports the successful education of each and every student.
School Social Workers throughout the district continue to do amazing things for their schools, and we will continue to highlight more of their work throughout the month on our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts. Thank you to all our SFUSD School Social Workers for all they do with our school communities!
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