By Christy McCoy, SSWAA President
The last few years have certainly stretched us all in ways we could not imagine. As we embark on the 2022-2023 school year, there is a recognition that our school communities will never be what they once were prior to the pandemic. The pandemic, racialized violence and social unrest of the past 2.5 years has shed light on longstanding social inequities impacting the wellbeing of our students, families, communities and honestly all of us. The reality facing our schools is the fundamental need to instill programming to address the enduring trauma and resulting mental health barriers to learning stemming from COVID, the impact of mass shootings nationwide, and racialized violence. However, we are in the midst of a polarized political climate where Critical Race Theory and Social Emotional Learning has been weaponized, policies have been enacted in various states that further marginalize our LGBTQIA+ students and hate filled rhetoric are further perpetuating fears and suffering.
School social workers have been and will continue to be instrumental in leading efforts to provide collective healing while also confronting the social injustices impacting all of us. Our strengths perspective combined with our commitment to advocacy and social justice is the foundation that sets our profession and interventions apart from any other field. As our school communities begin this new school year, school social workers are leaning into their ethical calling to bring forth systemic change within their schools as well as politically to ensure every person is treated with dignity and worth and has equitable access to support and services they deserve. As mental health professionals, school social workers' unique skill set is an asset to our school communities. More and more districts across the nation are seeking the services of school social workers as a result.
SSWAA along with your state school social work organizations are working tirelessly to provide professional development opportunities, resources and tools to enhance the practice of school social workers to not only meet the current moment but to extend well into the future and advocacy. “As the premiere national School Social Work organization, SSWAA believes that each of YOU will rise up - supporting your students, families, and school communities. We rise to share hope. We rise to listen and understand. We rise to challenge inequities. We rise to support all students.”
SSWAA stands with you as you seek professional development training to expand your knowledge of your role and best practice strategies. SSWAA is committed to assist you as you seek tools and resources to elevate your practice in the school setting. For example, SSWAA has a variety of position papers that can serve as tools to support your advocacy as well as the practice of school social workers in your state, district and school. Here are 4 position papers that may be essential to support your work this new school year:
Also, watch for a revised Position Paper titled Privacy of Minors in Ethical Decision Making which will be coming in the next 10 days. In addition, SSWAA has once again joined with NASW for a Back to School Campaign 2022. Take a moment to visit the SSWAA website for our 2022 Back to School Resources. In your electronic communications, make sure to use the hashtags #SSWAA #WeRise #BackToSchoolSW.
SSWAA is devoted to helping you engage with our profession, thus connecting you with a vast network of professionals. For example, SSWAA’s Practitioners of Color Advisory Committee meets the 3rd Tuesday of every month. As Elisa Meza, founding member of SSWAA’s Practitioners of Color Advisory Committee reflected, many practitioners have asked, “Why is it necessary for BIPOC spaces to exist?” I respond, “Because the institutions we work in were not built for our healing; we must create these spaces for ourselves” (Meza, 2022). As a result, the POC Advisory Committee meets monthly so that practitioners of color can come together to hold space for one another to share in their lived experiences. The goal is to offer time and space for collective healing and to prioritize best practices for dismantling racism in schools. For more information on this committee, please contact Dr. Blanca Sanchez McGee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Becoming a member of your national and state school social work organizations helps to advance our profession as a whole while also assuring our social work perspective is at the table when policies, programs and legislation is being developed. Thank you to all who are members and for those who have not yet joined SSWAA or your state association, I would encourage you to visit the SSWAA website to learn about the numerous benefits of SSWAA today as well as your state associations website! We hope to see many of you at our National Conference March 29 - April 1st in the beautiful resort town of Broomfield, Colorado a suburb of Denver. Wishing you a positive start to your 2022-2023 school year!