School Social Workers: The Vital Link

School Social Workers: The Vital Link

Brielle Wilson, Author

In recent years, students’ mental health needs have increased while resources available to meet these needs have had to keep up. According to the American Psychological Association, the CDC states that those ages 12-17 were hospitalized for mental health related emergencies 31% more in 2020 compared to 2019. One of the primary resources available to meet the mental health needs of students in schools is school social workers.  

Mrs. Tracy D’Amico, school social worker at Bull Run Middle School, explains her personal experience with students’ mental health over the past several years. “I have been a school social worker since 1999. I can say with confidence and without question that the mental health needs of students have substantially increased.” This could lead one to wonder if the schools have enough social workers to meet the growing needs of students. 

Many students do not know what a typical day looks like for a school social worker, or even that their school has a social worker. When asked about this topic, John Choberka, a sophomore at Battlefield High School, said that he does not know nor understand what the job of a school social worker entails. 

Mary Houle, also a sophomore at Battlefield High School, states “My understanding of the role of social workers at our school is that they can help connect students with resources to better their home and school life.” 

Mrs. Maureen Romano, former social worker at Battlefield High School, describes her day-to-day role as the following. “Social workers do a variety of things including but not limited to; meeting with students who have IEP (Individualized Education Program) counseling, checking in on students for a variety of reasons, consulting with teachers and administration, intervention meetings, special education meetings, and mental health emergencies. Social workers also assist families that have housing and/or food insecurity.” Based off this description, it is evident that social workers in the schools cover a wide variety of duties throughout the day and that their area of expertise must be extremely specific in order to effectively serve their schools’ students and families.  

The National Association of Social Workers states, “School social work services should be provided at a ratio of one school social worker to each school building serving up to 250 general education students, or a ratio of 1:250 students.”  

However, the Hopeful Futures Campaign says that in Virginia the realistic ratio of social worker per students comes out to be one social worker to 2,067 students, 1,817 more students than the ratio provided by the NASW. School social workers are serving far more than the recommended number of students per school building, despite the needs of those students increasing.  

D’Amico states her opinion on adding more social workers to the school as follows, “It is detrimental and unethical to continue to ignore the need for more social workers in the schools,” She then continues to say, “If the goal of education is to support a student in reaching their highest potential, then it should be a priority that professionals equipped with the training and expertise to increase a student’s availability for learning are present in the school setting. Children are experiencing mental health concerns and crises at greater rates than ever before. It is our societal obligation to supply all necessary support so children can receive a free and proper education.” This generation is the future. If they do not get the help that they need and deserve, they cannot possibly live up to their full potential.