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College of Social Work

School Social Workers and Resources for Families During COVID-19

Dec. 9, 2020
Chris Woodley • 

School districts in South Carolina and the well-being of students have been greatly affected by COVID-19. While school social workers have always provided important services and resources to students and families, their need is critically essential during a pandemic, particularly as it relates to supporting schools and school districts in getting information out to families.

But what types of informational resources are being shared during this time of virtual learning? Associate Professor Aidyn Iachini and doctoral student Tasha Childs recently completed research on what type of information is being shared with families of students on South Carolina school district websites. 

Iachini and Childs research, “Resources for Families during COVID-19: A Content Analysis of Information Provided on School District Websites,” will be published in the journal Children and Schools. They found that 31% of South Carolina school district websites provided no information on COVID-19 or other resources for families. The pandemic has placed families at a heightened vulnerability, and district websites are an important component for disseminating information and resources.  

“It was surprising that South Carolina school district websites varied greatly regarding information on COVID-19 and other resources such as mental health, nutrition, and housing,” Iachini says. “While 53% of South Carolina school district websites provided information on COVID-19 and other resources, only 18 websites provided information related to mental health, such as telehealth and telemental health services. This was surprising since children’s mental health has been an ongoing, critical concern during the pandemic.”

Childs discovered that while 63% of South Carolina school district websites provided online learning resources, a much lower percentage of information and resources was available for specific vulnerable sub-groups of students.  

“Over half the districts provided English language learner resources such as translations and support for e-learning with online tools and phone lines to call for help, which is encouraging," Childs says. “Only 16 school district websites though provided specific resources for students with disabilities."

Iachini and Childs both agree that COVID-19 has raised public awareness of the importance of school social workers and their contributions to crisis efforts, mental health services, and supporting families in accessing resources.

“School social workers have always been essential, but COVID-19 has demonstrated their flexibility and innovativeness. They have adapted and tailored their services based on virtual and hybrid learning models,” Iachini says.

“Given the rising needs of families in communities, this pandemic may draw attention to the role of school social workers,” Childs says. “Social workers in districts that are fortunate to have them may be seen in a new light as they deliver direct practice services such as telehealth counseling and work to communicate parental and family resources available in schools and communities.”

Iachini and Childs research shows how important South Carolina school district websites can be to get information out to parents and families on resources and services available to them during distance learning. It is also encouraging to see information being provided on telehealth and telemental health services. According to Iachini, she expects this trend will continue in the future once the pandemic is over. 

“More than ever before, schools are recognizing the impact of mental health, trauma and stress on a student’s ability to learn,” Iachini says. “My hope is that they will continue to prioritize how to add more services, both in-person and via telehealth, to support these needs as the pandemic continues.”

“School social workers work across professional boundaries by connecting with teachers, administrators, and other school staff to ensure students’ needs are being addressed,” Childs says. “During the pandemic, school districts are better understanding the impact of non-academic barriers on student well-being and academic outcomes.”

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