By: Dr. Kiana Battle, LMSW
Youth living in rural communities face unique challenges, such as poverty, low educational attainment, lack of access to transportation, and limited access to health and behavioral health care services. As a former school social worker, and the only social worker for a district serving more than 2,700 students, I have viewed this firsthand. The needs of youth in rural communities must be considered in order for them to achieve both academic and personal success.
The geographic location of many rural communities combined with the lack of accessible resources and funding can make it very difficult for families to access and receive quality supportive services for their children. Approximately 97% of the landmass in the United States is classified as rural, and 19% of the country's total population lives in rural communities (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). Children in rural communities represent a quarter of the nation’s students (Aud et al., 2013). Although a quarter of the nation’s students live in rural communities, these communities often do not have access to quality supportive services.
Understanding the challenges faced by youth living in rural communities can provide an opportunity for collaborative models to support rural youth and the larger community through the implementation of comprehensive service delivery networks. Intentional collaborative efforts among schools, mental and behavioral health agencies, and other community stakeholders can enhance academic, social, and emotional success for youth in rural communities. Partnerships between rural communities and local community stakeholders can contribute to additional resources for rural youth which can help buffer the negative outcomes they face and increase opportunities for positive youth development and resilience.
School social workers can support this effort as they are uniquely trained to engage community stakeholders in support of community partnerships to ensure the success of youth in rural communities. Research indicates that effective collaboration efforts are key to building partnerships and providing coordinated, comprehensive service delivery systems. According to the School Social Work Association of America (2021) school social workers are equipped to facilitate integrative services for children through collaborative community efforts. “School social workers offer their unique training and expertise to link mental health, behavior, environmental factors (e.g., family, classroom, school, and community), instruction, and learning” (p.2). School social workers work with other community stakeholders to support integrated service delivery for students. This can contribute to greater access to needed supportive services for children in rural communities.
Collaborative models, prove to be critical to the overall success of youth in rural communities. Rural communities make up a large portion of many states, however, these communities are often overlooked and underfunded which can contribute to the lack of quality and availability of comprehensive supportive services for youth. With the support of school social workers and additional community stakeholders through collaborative partnerships, rural communities can receive the additional resources needed to increase positive outcomes for youth.
Aud, S., Wilkinson-Flicker, S., Kristapovich, P., Rathbun, A., Wang, X., & Zhang, J. (2013). The condition of education 2013. IES National Center for Education Statistics. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Education.
School Social Work Association of America, (2021). School Social Workers' Role in Addressing Students' Mental Health Needs and Increasing Academic Achievement. Retrieved 12/8/2021 from https://www.sswaa.org/school-social-work
United States Census Bureau. (2010). Urban and Rural Classification. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/geo/reference/ua/urbanrural-2010.html
Dr. Kiana Battle is a licensed master social worker with 19 years of social work practice experience. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and a Master of Social Work degree in Social Welfare from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She also earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Social Work Policy Planning and Administration from Clark Atlanta University.
Dr. Battle is a professional consultant Dr. Kiana Battle, LMSW, LLC and an assistant professor of social work at Chamberlain University. Dr. Battle also served as an assistant professor of social work at Middle Georgia State University and an assistant professor of sociology and human services at Gordon State College. Dr. Battle professionally focused on school social work, and she served as a school social worker for more than a decade in both New York and Georgia. Her passion for serving others through a trauma-informed approach is evident through both her professional and personal experiences.
Dr. Battle’s research includes grief counseling support groups for children and adolescents in the public-school setting and is the co-author of four published books, “Real Girls: Shifting Perceptions on Identity, Relationships, and the Media,” “Real Girls: Reflections”, “Grief, Why Me? Why Not Me? A Journey of Self-Discovery.”, and “Rules of Engagement: Grief & Loss Do People Really Care?” Dr. Battle has been a featured presenter at several national conferences, including the National Youth Advocacy and Resilience Conference, the North American Association of Christian Social Workers Conference, and the National Association of Social Workers Conference.
Dr. Battle is also very active and engaged in her community, as she serves with her husband in ministry. She enjoys the “small” things in life, which include spending quality time with her husband and family.