During the month of March, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) will honor the efforts of the district’s 47 hard-working and dedicated school social workers for National Social Work Month, and specifically, National School Social Work Week (March 5-11, 2017). Please take this week as an opportunity to thank your social worker for all they do for your schools.
“Social workers are the bridge to the community for schools,” said APS Social Work Coordinator Dr. Jacqueline Anthony. “We remove barriers, including issues with mental health, medical concerns, and access to basic necessities, to ensure students’ educational needs are adequately met.”
A number of events and activities celebrating school social workers are scheduled for this month:
- The APS Social Work Department will be acknowledged at the monthly meeting of the Atlanta Board of Education, Monday, March 6.
- Also happening March 6, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal will honor the School Social Workers Association of Georgia (SSWAG) with a photo opportunity at 10 a.m., at the State Capitol. Several members of the APS social workers team are members of SSWAG and will be in attendance.
- Venecia Foster has been nominated as the APS Social Worker of the Year. A “Lunch and Learn” in her honor will be held Friday, March 17. (Ms. Foster will be featured in next week’s Inside APS.)
It has already been a busy and successful school year for APS’ team of social workers. Recently, they entered into a well-publicized partnership with Purposity, a centralized, online portal in APS to connect students who have specific practical needs with generous community members who can help meet those needs, including shoes, coats, backpacks and toiletries. Those local needs are published on www.purposity.com and then sent out through a weekly text message. With just a few clicks on a mobile phone, the need can be met.
Thus far, APS social workers have made 32 referrals to Purposity.com and every one of those needs has been met. Click here to watch WSB-TV’s coverage of the Purposity partnership announcement.
Other key collaborations executed this year include:
- A partnership they developed with the Atlanta Assistance League has provided 2,154 school uniforms, 419 coats, 500 hygiene kits, and 925 shoe vouchers for APS elementary and middle school students this school year.
- Another partnership with the Lions Club has provided free eye exams and glasses for 150 students.
- Partnerships with the Atlanta Police Department and MARTA Truancy Divisions has assisted with intervening on behalf of 772 students in the community who would have otherwise been absent from school.
- Through its Holiday Helpers Program APS social workers were able to provide gifts for 350 APS students during the holiday season, and the team also helped 20 or so additional students with gift cards and extra gifts. All told, the estimated total value of the gifts distributed to students is $35,000 with an average of $100 spent per child.
Additionally, the social workers team has helped district employees broaden their skills through a couple of professional development initiatives this school year:
- Youth Mental Health First Aid USA is an eight hour public education program that introduces participants to the risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents, builds understanding of the importance of early intervention, and teaches individuals how to select interventions and provide initial help. The curriculum is primarily focused on information participants may use to help adolescents ages 12-18. APS social workers have conducted two trainings for 68 APS staff at the Hollis Innovation Center (September 24, 2016 and February 25, 2017).
- Atlanta Public Schools has partnered with the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy to participate in Darkness To Light (D2L) trainings. D2L is an evidenced-based program that educates child-serving agencies and community members on how to prevent, recognize, and react to child sexual abuse. Participants should also gain a better understanding of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse. So far, APS social workers have provided training to teachers and staff in 17 schools.