Attention all School Social Workers,
Childhood bereavement is one of society's most pervasive phenomena, with the vast majority of children experiencing the loss of a family member or friend by the time they complete high school. We believe that schools have a critical role to play in easing the grief journey of children who have lost a loved one. Yet, research shows that few educators have access to the information and training they need to help the grieving students in their midst.
The School Social Work Association of America wants to help – and we want to invite you to join the effort. That is why I am writing to let you know that we are part of an exciting new collaboration, the Coalition to Support Grieving Students, which has brought together the nation's leading education organizations to help empower school communities across America in the ongoing support of their grieving students. Read more.
The Coalition was formally launched at an event in Washington, D.C., on January 13. At the event, we joined Coalition leaders to introduce a set of industry-endorsed, multimedia resources for educators, principals, school administrators, school support personnel and other school professionals who seek to make a difference for their students who have suffered a loss. See Press Release.
Grief often takes a heavy toll on children at school and can have a serious impact on learning. For example, in a survey of educators conducted in 2012 by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the New York Life Foundation, most teachers reported that they often witnessed a negative effect on academic performance and an uptick in behavioral issues when a student lost a parent or guardian.
In that same survey, nine of 10 educators agreed that childhood grief is a serious problem deserving more attention from schools. But at the same time, just 7 percent reported having had any amount of bereavement training.
By taking simple steps to express care and concern, educators have a tremendous opportunity to serve as a source of support and stability during a difficult time in their grieving students’ lives. In fact, they can often help the most by simply being present with and attentive to grieving students as they express their feelings.
The School Social Work Association of America – together with the other leading organizations comprising the Coalition – is committed to helping our members and other educators build the insights and knowledge they need to make school an even more caring and beneficial environment for bereaved students, their parents and caregivers.
SSWAA will be involved in the ongoing work of the Coalition through a range of website resources, articles, workshops, etc. throughout the next year. Dr. Thomas Demaria will be providing an afternoon workshop specifically designed for school social workers on April 16, 2015 in Nashville as part of the 18th National School Social Work Conferencesm. We encourage you to join us for his presentation.
In the meantime, SSWAA's liaison to the Coalition is Libby Nealis, and I invite you to contact her if you have questions or would like more information. Thank you, Libby, for all of your hard work on our behalf.
As always, I deeply appreciate your dedication to our profession and our organization – and I thank you in advance for your efforts on behalf of the vital mission of the Coalition to Support Grieving Students.
Your membership dollars at work!
Rebecca Kunkel, LMSW