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How are Social Workers and Schools Recovering from COVID Trauma?

How are Social Workers and Schools Recovering from COVID Trauma?

On May 26, 2020, co-founder Dr. Michael Kelly announced the School Social Work Practice During a Pandemic survey project on this blog. Mike co-led that project with Ron Avi Astor of UCLA; Gordon Capp from California State University, Fullerton; Rami Benbenishty from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and me, Kate Watson from UCLA.

The project was blessed with tremendous support from you, SSWN readers! Due to your survey participation, we were able to capture your ideas, experiences, and recommendations in a technical report and policy brief that led to a Congressional briefing.

Congressional Briefing: Bringing the Power of Social Work to School - September 23, 2020
Congressional Briefing: Bringing the Power of Social Work to School – September 23, 2020

We shared your suggestions about educational policy during COVID from an on-the-ground school social worker perspective. Your voices were later incorporated into multiple policy proposals and eventual laws that advocated to increase the number of school social workers during and after the pandemic.

This was one of the very few national survey projects that highlighted a social work ecological community-school approach during COVID. We also shared your ideas with the academic world, which has traditionally focused primarily on the needs and views of teachers, through four peer-reviewed journal articles (see list with links below). We are so thankful for your partnership and enthusiasm during the difficult year that was 2020.

Policy brief resulting from our last survey

We now return to you with the goal of sustaining and growing social work services, supports, and capacity for years to come.

Please help spread the word about our new survey—so that your distinctive social work voices can continue to be amplified across multiple policy settings, from the local to state and national levels.

Documentation through research, and elevating your ideas and experiences is a powerful way to get a social work perspective on the national agenda. Thank you in advance.


What we learned from the previous survey

In the first survey, you very clearly told us about:

1. The severe disparities in access to such basic needs as food, shelter, health and mental health services, and technology among your students and their families, and how poverty and discrimination were compounding their pandemic experiences.

2. You shared your concerns about declining student engagement in social work services, and how you were adapting your practice to better meet the needs of your schools, students, and families.

3. Your voices highlighted how essential a comprehensive, cross-disciplinary campaign to address the unmet needs of our most under-resourced children, families, and communities is, and we called for that in our policy brief and Congressional briefing.

What the new survey is about

In this new survey we are interested in elevating your ideas and experiences about ways schools are responding to and recovering from the multiple COVID-related traumatic experiences during the 2021/2022 academic year. We want to know what you think should be done going forward.

We have all lived through unprecedented times. The toll on our collective well-being as school social workers and on the schools we serve has been significant, and the impact to our nation’s children and adolescents has been so severe that the American Academy of Pediatrics and partner organizations recently declared a state of emergency.

Your views as frontline service providers for our nation’s children and families need to be heard at the national level. This is our major aim for our partnership with you.

Our close friend, Dr. Kelly, was working with us on this follow-up survey until his untimely death last September. The remaining team members (Ron Avi Astor, Rami Benbenishty, Gordon Capp, and I) along with the leadership at SSWN (Scott Carchedi) are proud to continue this process so that your work with schools, students, and families is highlighted to policy makers and to the general public.

If you have questions about how survey data will be used or how we’ll keep your confidential information safe, please contact us at [email protected] or [email protected].

We will also be providing Twitter updates from several accounts: SSWN (@SchoolSocWork), Dr. Astor (@AstorAvi), and Kate Watson (@katewatson).

Please join in and support social work policy at the national level. Please also feel free to share this link with all of your school social work colleagues.

Thank you for all that you do every day for our nation’s students, families, and communities! On behalf of my colleagues and SSWN, with deep appreciation,



Prior Study-Related Publications & Presentations—reflecting your perspectives to the academic, news media, and policy worlds:

● Kelly, M.S., Astor, R.A., Benbenishty, R., Capp, G., & Watson, K.R. (2020a). Opening Schools Safely in the COVID-19 Era: School Social Workers’ Experiences and Recommendations [Technical Report].

● Kelly, M.S., Astor, R.A., Benbenishty, R., Capp, G., & Watson, K.R. (2020b). Opening Schools Safely in the COVID-19 Era: School Social Workers’ Experiences and Recommendations [Policy Brief].

â—Ź Astor, R. A. (2020, September 14). 4 things our nation should do to feed hungry students so they can learn. CNN.

â—Ź Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy (2020, September 23). Congressional briefing: Bringing the power of social work to schools [Video]. YouTube.

â—Ź Kelly, M. School Social Work Network. (2020, July 15). New research on opening schools safely in the COVID-19 era: SSW experiences and recommendations.

â—Ź Kelly, M.S., Capp, G., & Watson, K.R. (2020, August 17). Opening schools safely this fall: School social workers’ experiences & recommendations. The American Council for School Social Work.

â—Ź Capp, G., Watson, K., Astor, R. A., Kelly, M. S., & Benbenishty, R. (2021). School social worker voice during COVID-19 school disruptions: A national qualitative analysis. Children & Schools, 43(2), 79-88.

● Kelly, M. S., Benbenishty, R., Capp, G., Watson, K., & Astor, R. (2021). Practice in a pandemic: School social workers’ adaptations and experiences during the 2020 COVID-19 school disruptions. Families in Society, 102(3), 400-413.

â—Ź Watson, K. R., Astor, R. A., Benbenishty, R., Capp, G., & Kelly, M. S. (2022). Needs of children and families during spring 2020 COVID-19 school closures: Findings from a national survey. Social Work, 67(1), 17-27.

● Watson, K.R., Capp, G., Astor, R.A., Kelly, M.S., & Benbenishty, R. (2022). “We need to address the trauma”: School social workers’ views about student and staff mental health during COVID-19. School Mental Health.

About The Author

Kate Watson

Kate Watson is a doctoral student in Social Welfare at UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, where she researches systems-level responses to childhood trauma. She holds an MSW from UCLA and a B.S. in Business Administration from American University.

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