What brought you into the field of school social work, or social work?
My entire childhood I wanted to be a teacher. When I began college, I started majoring in elementary education. In one of my first classes I had to go to a school to complete some classroom observations. As I observed, I remember the exact moment I realized that public school teaching was not exactly what I wanted to do. I began meeting with professors in other programs and remember a social work professor telling me about social work, and that social workers can work in public school settings. I decided to pursue my major in social work. After working 8 years in health care, I was offered a position as a school social worker. I was the school social worker in one elementary school for 7 years, and enjoyed it so much that when I left the school district I ran for office and was elected to the school board. School social workers have so much opportunity to have long-term impact on the lives of students, and I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to serve as a school social worker and to bring that voice and lens to local school district policy-making decisions.
-- Summer Gainey Woodside, PhD, LCSW, LISW-CP, SSWAA University Representative
Social work called me from a very young age, but I refused to answer the first ring's call. In my youthful days, I loved to assist my friends, family, and church members by listening and helping to solve problems. However, as I matured, I noticed my affinity to the people who helped me reach my full potential, and I wanted to be that person for others. As a school social worker, my heart is full of the joy that students and families have brought to me, and I hope that I gave them a little piece of sunshine to brighten their paths.
-- Tish Brookins, EdD, MSSW, SSWAA Board Secretary
What is the long-term goal for SSWAA and SSW in the next decade?
For far too long, social workers in general, and school social workers, in particular have been struggling with a clearly defined and articulated professional identity. It seems that this struggle is both internal and external, and also within and outside of the professional ranks. My hope for the next decade is that SSWAA will continue to work very intentionally to establish and promote a successful professional identity for school social workers. I think emphasis and continuing work in the following areas is warranted, to get us to that goal:
National Practice Model (NPM) - revision and refinement and full national implementation of the NPM (added to SSW curriculum);
National Certification - accepted nationally as other professional groups, with the requisite added financial benefit;
Professional outfacing - promotion of the profession at highest national levels; collaboration with national professional groups, webinars, conference presentations etc.
It would be advantageous for the profession that a School Social Work specialization be offered in all social work programs and a shared curriculum be established, for consistency. Current SSWs may need to be “re-educated” on embracing all aspects of this professional identity such that the message is clear, shared with consistency, and spoken with “one voice!”
--- Dr. Laurel Thompson, PhD, LCSW, SSWAA Standards & Practice Representative
What brought me into the field of social work was personal experience with caregiving. Before pursuing my MSW, I assisted in caregiving for my father, who had Alzheimer’s and Dementia. During that time, I was introduced to the field of social work from a patient and family perspective. My family’s social worker was a graduate of the University of Illinois MSW program and the person who inspired me to enter the field of social work. I hope to emulate the example of compassion and strengths-based practice that my family received from her in my career as a school social worker!
-- Grace McClowry, MSW Student, University of Illinois, MSW Student Representative, SSWAA
What is your hope/goal for SSWAA and school social workers in the next decade?
When was the last time you saw a positive depiction of a social worker on tv? Usually social workers are portrayed only as child welfare workers harshly removing crying children from the arms of their parents. That stereotype is spread among all branches of social work and the stigma often creates a barrier between the worker and the family.
School social workers also suffer this stereotype, but that isn’t who school social workers are at all. We are mental health specialists, community resource experts, advocates for the those experiencing poverty and homelessness, consultants to teachers, and many other areas of specialty. However, based on several studies, the public and school staff know very little of how school social workers serve the neediest of children and their families. I want to change that.
I want administrators to know exactly what their school social workers do just as they know exactly what their school counselors and math teachers do. I want teachers to turn to a school social worker for their expertise regarding a student’s behavior, not just so they can acquire school supplies for a needy student. I want the public to cry outrage when a social worker’s position is placed up for a budget cut the same way they would for an art teacher. I want school social workers to come out from the shadows of their cloffices (closet-office) and tout their accomplishments to school boards and their administrators through data, caseloads, and evidence based interventions. My hope for the school social work profession is that everyone recognizes us as essential members of a student’s team.
-- Dr. Dee Stalnecker, DSW, LSW, SSWAA Northeast Regional Representative
About the SSWAA Board
The School Social Work Association of America is governed by a 10 member Board of Directors. The Board establishes the organization's goals and priorities, empowers the work of the association, and oversees the association personnel.
Each year, positions on the SSWAA Board of Directors are up for election. Elections are held by anonymous ballot and are decided by the majority of SSWAA members casting ballots.