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Advocating for the Use of the Title: “School Social Worker”

Social Work Practice has an interesting history within the school systems. What first started as Visiting Teachers has now morphed into the School Social Work profession. Social workers began being hired through schools in the 1930’s, when they were referred to as Visiting Teachers. The primary role during this time was to be the liaison between home and school and encourage attendance and address any needs of the family. At that time there was the National Association of School Social Workers, which about 40 years later, around the 1970s, dissolved to become both NASW and the School Social Work Association of America. In this 40-year period we see a shift and introduction of new models of school social work from primarily a casework model to include group work and system interventions. Also at that time, The Education for All Handicapped Children Act and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act became law and working with students with disabilities became another significant role for school social workers. During this time the number of school social work positions grew tremendously.

We now see tens of thousands of School Social Workers scattered across the nation. These mental health professionals increase their district’s ability to meet academic missions by providing, “evidence-based education, behavioral interventions and mental health services; promote a school climate and culture conducive to learning; and maximize access to school- and community-based resources through their unique training in connecting home, school, and community” (SSWAA, 2014).

While there has been significant progress in the field of School Social Work, a repeated concern among professionals has been the use (or lack thereof) of the title, School Social Worker. Some districts struggle to fill the positions titled School Social Worker, and hire instead School Counselors, individuals with degrees in child studies or other related professionals. On the other side of the spectrum, there are practicing School Social Workers whose title may be vastly different, such as attendance clerk, and therefore their roles may be inappropriately utilized and not cohesive with their educational and professional background. Furthermore, there is a growing concern of other campus non-teaching professionals declaring themselves as the Mental Health Professionals of their campus. This is significant because these professionals do not hold the same mental health background and training that is required of a Master’s level Social Worker.

Social Workers have fought and continue to fight for title protection. SSWAA has created a Resolution Statement to assist members and not-yet members in this advocacy effort to safeguard proper titles as well as ensure those who do not meet the credentials to be social workers are prohibited from use of that title. This resolution statement can be used in all levels of advocacy – from your school, your district, and up to your state legislation. SSWAA stands by ready to assist. For help advocating for title protection, use our resolution statement today, and don’t hesitate to reach out when you need support.



  • Alvarez, M., Anderson-Ketchmark, C., Avi Astor, R., Betman, B., Bye, L., Frey, A., . . . Weisner, C. (2012). NASW Standards for School Social Work Services. NASW. National Association of Social Workers.

  • SSWAA. (2014, July 19). Resolution Statement: Advocating for the Use of the Title: School Social Worker. US: SSWAA. Retrieved from SSWAA:

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This is AWESOME as I am a K-12 School Social Worker and I wear my title proudly. I took the place of the School Guidance Counselor after she left.

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How timely! I work in Maine and they just sent out guidelines this week for SSW and Guidance counselors. The bar is so low to become a school social worker here. I moved from Illinois where the bar is high to get certification to work in schools. And only those who have the education, pass the test in the specialty, and obtain certifction can use the tutle of SSW. I still hang onto my Type 73!

It is ironic that The Maine State's DOE has the SSWAA as a resource right on their page and they wont even recognize us with ceritification! Thank you for the article! We, who have fought hard to legitimize this profession apprection it!

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