School social workers are helping students and families more than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is the biggest mental health crisis our profession has seen,” said Molly Fox, a Mankato school social worker and president of the Minnesota School Social Workers Association. “The need for student support teams in schools is more than ever before.”
Fox has been spending her time reaching students however she can—phone conferences, Google meetings. She said she is helping meet students’ basic needs, but also making sure her student’s families have access to things like food and rent.
For Katie Ficker, Holdingford Middle School and High School social worker, distance learning has presented several new challenges, but also has brought forth a whole new array of resources and services for students and families to access on an online platform.
“My daily and weekly face-to-face meetings with students quickly moved to online Google classrooms, chats and meets,” said Ficker. “Several hundred emails have been exchanged as well as phone calls and home visits to families.”
Christy McCoy works at AGAPE High School in Saint Paul, which is an alternative school for pregnant and parenting teen moms.
“Many of our students are trying to balance parenting, doing school work and managing anxiety and triggers,” she said. “Many of our students have trauma histories and when you add the trauma of this pandemic, it can trigger responses.”
McCoy is facilitating groups with graduating seniors and Native American students to provide extra support.
School social workers are also providing support for their colleagues.
Some are hosting virtual staff lounges to connect. Others have office hours specifically for staff.
The MSSWA has been hosting webinars on topics such as trauma and self-care.
The group has numerous resources available on their website on topics such as community resources, activities for families and students, supporting student mental health needs, special education resources, healthy habits and self-care.
“School social workers from across the state have come together to share ideas and resources, supporting one another, so that we can continue to give our very best to each and every student and family, despite today’s current adversities,” said Ficker.
“We are leaders in trauma-informed practices and interventions, which is going to be of huge value as we go into the fall,” said McCoy. “We need to be supporting the teachers and understanding vicarious trauma and how it can affect them. How can we take care of our staff so they can take care of our students? The students need it and they need it in every school.”