NASW/CT and the CT Alliance of School Social Workers, a network of NASW/CT calls upon the State Department of Education (SDE) to allocate a portion of the American Rescue Plan funds to expansion of school social work services. To read the comments sent to click on the headline.

Comments on the Connecticut State Department of Education Plan for the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund

May 21, 2021

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, Connecticut Chapter, representing over 2,400 members, and the Connecticut Alliance of School Social Workers, we submit these comments on the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary Relief Fund (). Our comments specifically relate to mental health services and the connection between schools, family and community.

Children today have more stress than ever before that place increasing numbers of children at risk. This was the case before Covid-19 and it’s exponentially more so since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. School social workers can help children learn ways of adapting to stressful situations before maladaptive coping skills are established. It has been shown that children with healthy adaptive coping skills to stress have higher attendance rates, decreased drop-out rates, higher test scores and higher self-esteem. School social workers are the one discipline in a school system that proactively addresses academic barriers within the child’s home, school and community. School social workers serve as a catalyst to bring people together to create an environment conducive to learning.

According to the National Mental Health Association, less than 1 in 5 of the 12.5 million children in need of mental health services actually receive them. Many of these children will not achieve academic success due to social, emotional and behavioral problems affecting school performance. School social workers can help these students through means of prevention, early identification, intervention, counseling and support. School social workers deal with bullying, crisis intervention, drug use, need for counseling, conflict resolution, issues of self-esteem, child neglect and abuse, working to connect students with needed services, and the list goes on. These are services that benefit the student, the student’s family, teachers, and administrators.

Focusing on students is a key aspect of school social work practice, however it is just one of several important roles played by school social workers. School social workers are pro-actively involved in working with parents to enhance parent involvement, assuring families have information and access to community services, and collaborating with outside agencies such as the Department of Children and Families all are part of a school social workers typical day. Teachers and school administrators also benefit, in multiple ways, from having available school social workers as a resource, including helping to explain how family dynamics are affecting academic performance, coordinating services, and assisting in developing individual educational goals and the means to help the student attain those goals. A teacher’s ability to teach is enhanced by the school social worker.

Schools do not function in a vacuum. When students cross that school door, in-person or virtually, they bring with them the life stresses of their family, impacts of trauma, fears of being bullied, and in this economy where so many families are struggling to get by those concerns press on the student’s mind. The pandemic has heightened all of these concerns and as students return to the classroom concerns as to safety will weigh on their minds. All of these factors are obstacles to learning. All of these obstacles are brought into the classroom, be it a physical classroom or home “classroom”.  School social workers break through these barriers by providing students with the coping skills and support necessary to allow learning to take place.

At a time when school safety and security is on all of our minds, please know that school social workers are part of the answer to secure schools. School social workers pro-actively identify children with mental health and social development needs and when school social workers are in elementary and middle schools such identification and referral to treatment can be made early on when intervention is most successful.

Now, take all of the points raised so far in this submission of comments and magnify them, because that is exactly what is happening now due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Students are experiencing the effects of isolation, anxiety of a life-threatening virus that cannot be seen with no clear beginning or clear end. Students are facing multiple losses such as missing graduation ceremonies, loss of friends and families who are hospitalized or died, and a loss of interaction with their community. These are all tremendous stressors that have negative impacts on children, and they are all issues that school social workers are trained to address. The State of Connecticut has identified social workers as essential workers and we urge the SDE to act accordingly by utilizing a portion of the ARPESRF to expand school social work services.

Covid-19 is creating a tsunami of mental health needs that Connecticut has just begun to see. Initial studies are finding that mental health concerns have dramatically risen since the outset of the pandemic. Based on much smaller community crisis, such as the September 11th terrorist attack, SARS outbreak in Toronto and the nuclear plant accident in Japan, the impact on individual’s mental health will be felt for many years post pandemic. Schools need to be prepared to address these rising mental problems by having sufficient school based mental health services available to students and families.

It is not just the social work profession that calls for additional school social work services. The Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut, the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission and the Keep the Promise Coalition all have endorsed expansion of school social work services to address the mental health needs of school children.

The National Association of Social Workers Standards for School Social Work calls for a ratio of 1 school social worker for every 250 students. Connecticut is a leader among states in coming close to meeting this standard in some school districts, while other districts fall far short of the standard. It is a goal that should be encouraged and worked toward by utilization of the ARPESRF.


  1. Expand school social work services with an emphasis on school districts with high populations of vulnerable students.
  2. Encourage school districts to employ school social workers who are licensed clinical social workers (LCSW). LCSWs can provide clinical therapy, which may be reimbursable through health insurance plans. ARPESRF can be used for pilot projects that create clinical school social work service positions in schools that do not have the clinical services of a school based health clinic.
  3. Assist school districts to have at least one school social worker available in each school and for every district to have school social work services.

Respectfully Submitted By:

Stephen A. Wanczyk-Karp, LMSW

Executive Director, NASW/CT

Jara Rijs, LCSW

Chairperson, CT Alliance of School Social Workers


  1. Social Workers are essential workers!

  2. Stefanie Rehm, LCSW says

    I am a current social worker in school setting split between two schools with btw 400-500 students with high special education numbers along with regular Ed students with behavioral issues. Full time social workers are needed especially in this state of affairs for our country.

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