The Positive Impact Social Work Can Have on Public Education

Social workers aren’t always associated with public education. Their roles in social service delivery, legal arenas, and advocacy are often more readily recognized. However, social workers provide vital support within our education system and contribute meaningfully to helping countless children progress through primary and secondary education in the United States every year.

The Social Worker’s Role within the Education System

Social workers can hold a number of responsibilities within a school setting. They might work one on one with students or work with groups and deliver programming. They may also work in home settings with said students outside school hours to help them with homework or learning. However, their interventions are delivered, social workers are primarily concerned with students from disadvantaged backgrounds or with heightened needs. Social workers support their learning processes and make sure they receive the attention they need to be able to succeed in school.

When underprivileged students face difficulties or danger in their home or personal lives, they are far less likely to perform well in the classroom. Social workers’ responsibilities when working with school children that live in tenuous or unstable circumstances can extend past academic support and include monitoring their safety, the provision of their basic needs, and wellbeing of their caretakers. Social workers that are based in schools or academic settings often tend to needs that extend beyond the classroom. They can help provide comprehensive support for school-aged children to give them the best chance of graduating and having success later in life.

The History of Social Work and Its Purpose

The development of the social worker, and of social work in its current form in the United States, can help inform how social work fits into public education and complements the academic endeavors of the educational system. Social work’s origin was brought about by the unintended side effects of industrialization that resulted in high levels of unemployment, abandoned children, poverty, and chronic physical and mental illnesses.

By the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, organized charitable bodies were beginning to oversee social welfare projects and the occupation we know as social work came into existence. Along with hospitals and settlement houses, public schools were one of the primary arenas in which social workers served. From the very beginning, children’s welfare and development has been a primary concern for the social work field.

Since its inception, the realm of social work and services provision has morphed and changed.  Various presidential administrations adjusted Federal funding and support. Large-scale cultural phenomena presented unique challenges at various points over the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries. However, social work still adheres to one of its founding priorities – the support of children and especially those who are disadvantaged. Social workers’ role within the public education system is just as important as ever for providing support for countless children as they progress through their educational journeys.

How Social Work in Other Areas Can Also Benefit Public Education

Though some social workers work more directly with school children or within the academic setting than others, the effect of social work on society at large creates substantial benefits for public education. Social workers can be found in a wide variety of settings – from hospitals to homeless shelters, and from rehabilitation centers to nursing homes. Social workers impact people from all walks of life, and some may never come in contact with a school-aged child.

However, people don’t exist in a vacuum. The widespread nature of social work’s reach means that social workers impact individuals who are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, teachers, and more for children within public education. Their influence helps make society as a whole operate more smoothly, and that includes public education.

The impact of social work on our school system is hugely significant. Social workers provide support to countless individuals across the country, whether students in school themselves or those that support, teach, or care for them. Social work is an integral part of making the public education system successful.

BLM in Maternal Health: How to Fix the Mortality Rate for Expectant Mothers

Generally, when we think of healthcare, we think of an ever-progressing field that is often one of the first sectors to utilize new technologies and other means of improving patient care. These progressions ultimately enhance every part of our health-related lives. With this in mind, it comes as a large surprise to many that mortality rates during pregnancy increased 25% between 2000 and 2014 in the United States.

Furthermore, black mothers were three times more likely to die during childbirth than their white mother counterparts during this time. Taken over a 14-year period, it’s very safe to say those statistics were not flukes, and the systemic racism that affects much of our nation has not spared black mothers at the hospital, either.

Deep-Rooted Problems

A common misperception is that people have to be consciously or overtly racist to make decisions that wind up causing disparities like those black mothers face, but that is simply not true. Implicit biases exist in all of us, based on the things we see as we grow up. These exist in everyone and are not something that we should be ashamed of, but rather should be recognized and overcome. This is particularly critical when these biases affect the work someone does, and even more so when that work involves saving people’s lives.

Overt bias is saying something like “I prefer to hang out with white people,” and that is certainly much more of a rarity today than it was 50 years ago. But implicit bias would be walking into a room with five people of five different races and automatically thinking that you have a better chance of being friends with the one who looks the most like you. Though that feeling is normal, it is, when really thought about, pretty ridiculous to assume someone’s appearance will affect the way you interact with them.

In hospitals, this same feeling is what causes disparities like the ones seen in black women giving birth. White doctors talk longer to white patients and even that extra bit of conversation can make a difference in how much care is given to a patient, based on the short-yet-relevant “personal” relationship. It’s no different with black women and the disparities that exist when they give birth.

Cultural Competence

One way to correct this issue is by adding more focus on cultural competence in nursing, and throughout the healthcare space. Cultural competence is a broad term for acceptance and understanding of all races, ethnicities, genders, religions, etc. that one may come in contact with during the course of a given workweek. For healthcare professionals, being able to communicate with the same levels of efficiency to every patient is, in and of itself, a step in the direction needed to end racial disparities in healthcare.

Correcting Healthcare Disparities

A deeper issue, bluntly put, is that conscious racism still exists as well. Generally, healthcare professionals are intelligent enough to be above this, but certainly not always, just as with other occupations that involve disproportionate advantages to Caucasians. As fellow healthcare professionals, the only way to combat this is by being vocal when it is seen. Vetting processes for bigotry now exist across a very wide breadth of occupations, and in some areas, healthcare is following suit. Recommend that your locale does the same to further help minimize these glaring disparities.

The third large-scale issue related to racial disparities is locational “fairness” in healthcare. Places with high densities of black and Latino individuals also tend to have less funding in their public health options, meaning the care is simply not as good. This is not a case of conscious racism, either, and though technically it is a financial issue, the reasons behind those communities having less funding are, indeed, racially motivated. Fixing these disparities starts at the local voting booth, and fighting for legislation to make affordable care also be quality care is important in the overall battle.

Correcting these disparities will not be something that happens overnight, even if everyone magically jumped on board. They are deeply rooted, and only generational education can ensure that individuals who are responsible for the gaps in care today don’t exist tomorrow.

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