03.04.09

Whitehouse, Kennedy Bill Designates School Social Work Week

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) are working to honor the contributions of school social workers to our country’s young people by designating this week, the first week in March, as School Social Work Week.

“As Rhode Island’s Attorney General, I saw first-hand the enormous change that supportive, involved adults can make in students’ lives through the after-school and mentoring programs we built at Oliver Hazard Perry Middle School in Providence,” said Whitehouse, whose resolution on School Social Work Week passed the Senate last Friday. “School social workers and other educators deserve to be recognized for their dedication to our children.”

“A child’s mental and emotional state will certainly impact his or her ability to learn. It is imperative that students have access to timely and appropriate counseling and services. School social workers fill this critical role, working to make sure that children have to the tools and resources they need to succeed in the classroom,” said Kennedy, who introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives last week.

Though more than 17 million children are in need of mental health services, fewer than 1 in 5 receives adequate care. School mental health programs help identify and diagnose mental health problems early, and provide services to support young people.

According to the National Association of Social Workers, about 5 percent of the nation’s 600,000 professionally trained social workers work in public school settings. Approximately 140 school social workers work in Rhode Island’s public and private schools.

School social workers gather information about students’ social, emotional and behavioral adjustments to school and the community to help young people cope with issues and relationships in their everyday lives. School social workers provide services to students who face challenges with abuse, disability, addiction, and other barriers to learning. They can also help address truancy, another pervasive problem for schools across the country. Students who skip school are at an increased risk for substance abuse, delinquency, teen pregnancy, and school dropout. School social workers provide on-going intervention services when students develop chronic patterns of non-attendance.

The Whitehouse-Kennedy resolution encourages students, parents and communities across the nation to participate in ceremonies and activities that promote awareness of the vital role of school social workers in schools and in the community.

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