By Parri O. Black, Courier & Press, August 11, 2015 –
Children, teachers, and other school staff are not the only ones going back to school this month. Youth First Social Workers are also back on the job and ready to assist students, families and educators.
Youth First Social Workers are embedded in over 50 schools in six counties in Southwestern Indiana, and a number of other schools in the Tri-State region also employ their own social workers.
School-based social workers provide a link between home, school, and community to make sure the social and emotional needs of children are met. They help students and their families overcome challenges by connecting them to community resources and developing critical life skills.
Any teacher will tell you that many of their students come to school with issues that create barriers to learning. One child may have basic needs (food, clothing or shelter), and another child may have behavioral concerns (depression, anxiety or substance abuse).
In simple terms, social workers assess needs, develop plans and provide services addressing those needs. Youth First Social Workers are equipped with a tool kit of proven strategies designed to build skills and prevent problems.
For example, they help students learn how to respond to stress using coping skills, how to successfully manage conflicts and solve problems and how to set and complete goals.
School-based social workers also make referrals to community resources; consult and collaborate with educators, parents and service providers and provide immediate assistance in crisis situations.
Anyone can refer a student or family to a Youth First Social Worker. Students can even refer themselves or their friends.
Some of the most common reasons for seeking assistance are depression, anxiety or anger issues, school behaviors, home life or parent/child concerns, peer relationships, divorce or grief adjustment or substance abuse concerns.
The sooner these problems are addressed, the more likely a child will be successful in school and eventually in life. Last year, Youth First Social Workers provided prevention education and skills development for over 17,000 students. Of those, nearly 3,000 received individual or small group support to overcome serious concerns or risky behaviors.
Social workers are another caring adult in a child’s life providing both encouragement and accountability. Whether it’s a simple case of low self-esteem or a complex life-threatening situation, they have the education and expertise to produce positive changes.
As the new academic year begins, please remember that Youth First Social Workers and others are just down the hall in many schools, equipped and eager to support students, families and educators.
To see if Youth First serves your school, visit youthfirstinc.org and go to “Find a Youth First Social Worker” to search by school, county or name.