Schools and Social Work

September is back-to-school month. All of us are invested in the goal of teachers, students, administrators, and support staff being successful at school!  While the fields of education and social work may not always be viewed as interrelated, let’s take a closer look to see if they are:

Did you know that the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA-Part C) requires states to refer all children under age 3 involved in a substantiated case of child abuse/neglect to early intervention services?  About 3% of all children under age 3 in the U.S. are referred for these services.  The child is first assessed to determine if there are factors that would contribute to developmental delay. If so, a family assessment is completed along with a plan for appropriate services. Schools are involved in providing the services. For more detailed information on CAPTA-Part C visit

Did you know that there is a school targeted to the child welfare system?  Two-thirds of the students at Mott Haven Charter Academy in the Bronx are actively involved in the child welfare system.  There are two social workers available to meet the needs of both the student and the family. The Interdisciplinary Social Emotional Behavior Intervention Team assesses the potential causes of academic difficulty and then institutes an action plan for success.  In addition, the student/teacher ratio of 12:1, extra time devoted to reading and math, and after-school instruction all contribute to high proficiency in reading and math.  For more information, visit

Did you know that an estimated 15-20% of students have a clinically significant behavioral and/or emotional disorder?  So, in a classroom of 25 students, up to 5 of the students are struggling with barriers to learning that affect not only these students but other students and the teacher as well.  Best practice today is to address these issues with a multidisciplinary team that includes social workers.  A functional behavioral assessment is conducted and then an intervention plan is developed.  Specific interventions are targeted to teaching strategies that will produce desired behavior.  For example, pictures may be used to help students identify emotions and how to express and cope with them.  For excellent overviews of school behavior/emotional issues and effective programs, visit  and

Did you know that attendance in the first 20 days of an academic period serves as a good indicator for students who are likely to drop out or fail to graduate?  Research shows that the following contribute to reducing absenteeism:

  • Making home visits to families of chronically absent students;
  • Rewarding students for improved attendance;
  • Establishing a contact person at school for parents to work with;
  • Calling home when students are absent;
  • Conducting workshops for families about attendance;
  • Referring chronically absent students to counselors;
  • Offering after-school programs
  • Using a truant officer to work with problem students and families.

For an overview on prevention of truancy and absenteeism, visit

Did you notice from these examples that there is a lot of intersecting of social work with schools?  Another theme that has been repeated in the examples is assessment of students/families.  The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) is working to expand use of the NCFAS-G assessment tool into schools.  There are a number of schools nationwide that use the tool and there have been several evaluations on use of the tool in schools.  NFPN is seeking partners to conduct additional evaluations and to develop a protocol for use of the assessment tool in schools.  If you are currently using or plan to use the NCFAS-G with school programs, please contact NFPN.

Priscilla Martens, Executive Director




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