A timely referral for social work services from teachers and school counselors can ensure that problems outside of the classroom, in particular mental health concerns, parenting issues, or families lacking adequate food, housing, or other basic resources, can quickly be addressed. Using this team approach, teachers and school counselors can focus on academics, career planning, and other responsibilities falling under their unique purview.
However, only focusing on the role of social workers does little to help our community to understand the unique and overlapping knowledge, skills, and roles that support disciplines perform within the school setting. In the interest of public education, I encourage the The Free Press to do a more in-depth story of the support disciplines, including obtaining ISD 77 Superintendent Sheri Allen’s perspective on the roles within the district and her vision for the expansion of such services.
It may also be beneficial to examine how Specialized Instructional Student Support is configured in other regional school districts. Fiscal considerations may come into play regarding the compliment of Specialized Student Support Services.
For example, federal special education money can be used to offset some of the personnel cost for school psychologists and school social workers. Social workers who obtain the credentials of a licensed clinical social worker can have some of their services billed to third-party payers. While the process of third party billing is complex, it is still a viable option for school districts to consider.
The good news for our community is that at MSU we offer master’s level degrees in social work and in school counseling, and an applied doctorate in school psychology. Through these academic programs, school districts throughout our region benefit from high quality interns and advanced degreed professionals. More importantly, these degreed professionals, working as a team along with classroom teachers, make an important contribution to the academic success for all students!
Nancy Fitzsimons, Ph.D., MSW, is professor of social work at Minnesota State University.