School social workers are important professionals who help student development, particularly for students who are facing social challenges and academic delays. School social workers assist students and families of students who are referred to them due to problems like frequent absences, bullying, significant drops in academic performance, mental health issues and aggressive behavior.
Child, family and school social workers make up the most prevalent category of social workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Out of 713,200 social worker jobs in 2019, there were 342,500 child, family and school social workers. The BLS reports 90,700 new social worker jobs are expected to be added between 2019 and 2029. That’s a growth rate of 13%, which is much faster than average compared to all occupations.
Impact of School Social Workers
Social workers impact students at all educational levels. At any age, it’s the school social worker’s role to provide crisis intervention and assist students and their families by providing them with the right resources and intervention strategies.
For preschoolers and elementary school students, social workers help at-risk children and families get the help they need. Social workers also help children develop social and emotional skills. In elementary school, middle school and high school, social workers help students improve academic success. Social workers also provide conflict resolution and anger management techniques to students.
Early intervention can help a child stay on track with expected social, emotional and academic development as they age. In middle school and high school, a social worker can help students master the strategies they need to grow into capable adults.
As technology improves and research evolves, school social worker resources are improving as well. That’s why continued education is required for social workers to retain licensure, credentials and certifications. Keeping up-to-date on school social worker resources can help students who are learning how to become a social worker in master of social work programs, like online MSW programs. School social work resources may help social workers who are currently working and who want to advance their practice.
These social worker resources, including school social work organizations and school social work books, can help soon-to-be and current social workers stay up to date on the latest developments in school social work.
School Social Work Organizations
- School Social Work Association of America: The School Social Work Association of American (SSWAA) was formed in 1994 and is a national organization dedicated to promoting the school social work profession. The organization provides professional malpractice liability insurance, an electronic newsletter, legislative action alerts, school social worker resources and tools, the ability to participate in relevant field research and a national conference for members.
- American Council for School Social Work: The American Council for School Social Work (ACSSW) advocates for school social work practice through research, education and practice. ACSSW provides a national resource center, ethics and standards recommendations, national policy monitoring and public education on school social work. Members get access to a newsletter, webinars, research and professional learning opportunities.
- The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children: The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) was founded in 1986 as a nonprofit, national organization for professionals who work with maltreated children and their families. APSAC’s mission is to improve society’s response to the neglect and abuse of children. APSAC members get access to networking, education, publications and resources related to child maltreatment and related fields.
- National Association of Social Workers: The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world. NASW was founded in 1955 and has more than 120,000 members, who get access to professional development opportunities, social work research and conferences.
- Society for Social Work and Research: The Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) was founded in 1994 and is dedicated to the advancement of social work research. Members include social work faculty, research staff and students who pursue a master’s in social work, consisting of more than 1,800 members from more than 15 countries. Members get a free subscription to the “Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research,” plus a reduced registration fee for the SSWR Annual Conference.
School Social Work Books
- “The Bully Society: School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America’s Schools”: This book by Jessie Klein, who has worked as a school social worker and professor for two decades, details how childhood aggression and competitive behavior in schools relates to school shootings. It includes proposed techniques to transform communities with school bullies into ones that are more compassionate.
- “Childhood, Youth and Social Work in Transformation: Implications for Policy and Practice”: This book by Lynn M. Bell includes contributions from social work practitioners and scholars, as well as activists, who examine how politics, economics and cultural changes have affected youth experiences in the United States and the implications for social work.
- “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character”: Author Paul Tough examines research in neuroscience, psychology and economics to present qualities that help students succeed, including grit, optimism, curiosity and conscientiousness. Readers learn how to cultivate these qualities in students to help them thrive.
- “School Social Work: A Direct Practice Guide”: This book by JoAnn Jarolmen covers evidence-based interventions, best practice approaches and case studies in school social work. It includes activities that readers can apply to a variety of client populations.
- “The School Social Work Toolkit”: This workbook includes sections on how to define a social worker role, individual counseling activities, group counseling activities, workshops and school programs, teacher communication, parent communication and crisis intervention protocols and assessments.
- “Social and Emotional Skills Training for Children: The Fast Track Friendship Group Manual”: This book is geared toward children in grades K-2 and grades 3-5, providing reproducible group intervention materials that promote emotional understanding and social stressor coping.
- “Three Little Words: A Memoir”: This book by Ashley Rhodes-Courter, MSW, details the author’s experience in 14 different foster homes over nine years. The book provides insights into foster family abuse and what it’s like for children who are constantly moving between schools and caseworkers.
School Social Work Academic Articles
- “Academic Self-Efficacy Among African American Youths: Implications for School Social Work Practice”: This academic article by Melissa Jonson-Reid, Larry Davis, Jeanne Saunders, Trina Williams and James Herbert Williams is from 2005 and still has meaning today. The article focuses on how to promote academic self-efficacy among African American youths, including the importance of role models who promote education.
- “Does Capital at Home Matter More Than Capital at School? Social Capital Effects on Academic Achievement” (PDF, 768 KB): This 2013 study by Mikaela J. Dufur, Toby L. Parcel and Kelly P. Troutman examines the academic achievement effects from social capital at home and at school. The study explains how both social capital in the family and social capital at school contribute to student success.
- “Exploring Linkages between School Climate, Behavioral Norms, Social Supports and Academic Success” (PDF, 337 KB): In this academic article published in 2014, authors Laura M. Hopson, Kathryn S. Schiller and Hal A. Lawson examine the effects of school climate and how students perceive support and behavioral norms in homes, neighborhoods and schools on student grades and behavior. The multilevel data analysis primarily focused on low-income middle school students and found students who perceive more social support and safety in school and at home report better behavior and grades.
- “Peer Relationships and Adolescents’ Academic and Non-Academic Outcomes: Same-sex and Opposite-Sex Peer Effects and the Mediating Role of School Engagement” (PDF, 814 KB): This 2011 study by Gregory Arief D. Liem and Andrew J. Martin examined how the role of adolescents’ perceptions of their relationships with opposite-sex and same-sex peers predicted academic performance and self-esteem. The study found both types of relationships positively impact self-esteem and academic performance in distinct ways and concludes school engagement plays an important role in mediating the effects.
- “Social Competence at School: Relation Between Social Responsibility and Academic Achievement” (PDF, 5.2 MB): This literature review from 1991 is still oft-cited today for its findings on research on the value of social responsibility and how it facilitates learning and performance outcomes. This review finds social responsibility promotes positive interactions for students with peers and teachers and motivates students to achieve.
Self-Study Benefits Social Workers
In addition to continued learning requirements, self-study of school social worker resources can benefit both current school social workers and those who want to become a school social worker.
Joining school social work organizations can lead to networking opportunities and provide members with recent research and tools that help social workers in schools. Books and academic articles focused on school social work can shape intervention strategies and help more social workers find more success with the students they work with.
Information on this page was last retrieved in June 2021.