New strategy may place more social workers in schools by September []


More than 20 additional social workers could be assigned to District schools this fall under proposals being discussed by District officials, Community Behavioral Health, the Department of Human Services, and Mayor Kenney's administration.

The discussions have been strongly encouraged by several City Council members and by the newest School Reform Commission member, Estelle Richman.

Under the program, the social workers would become part of school staff, helping educators recognize the effects that experiences such as trauma and hunger have on students and promoting a positive behavioral approach to discipline and classroom management.

According to some of those involved,  the social workers would be assigned to three high schools and 19 K-8 schools.

Officials from Community Behavioral Health and the District declined to comment on the discussions, and the District refused to provide any details about the current complement of CBH workers.

But in testimony in May before City Council, Karyn Lynch, the District's chief of student support services, said that “in the last five years at least, CBH has not added to the complement of services that exist within our schools, with the exception of a short pilot [that] existed for two years.”

Richman, who has served as the state secretary of welfare and as a top official in the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, said she saw the addition of full-time social workers in the schools as a key to mainstreaming more students out of private placements and into District schools.

The District is taking several steps to provide students who have behavioral challenges an education in regular school settings. In a separate move, the SRC just approved a $10 million contract with Catapult Learning to set up a program within the District that will serve students with emotional needs who were previously sent to private placements, including the now-closed Wordsworth Academy.

To read the full article by Paul Jablow, click here.

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Wow! Hallelujah for the goal of increased equity for trauma-impacted children, with "boots-on-the-ground" to support trauma-impacted students and teachers, and thus ALL students! It also sounds like the general goals of "greater voice in provider selection" (provider quality and accountability) and increased coordination at the Agency level (efficiency) are breaths of fresh air! Hallelujah!  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.


Unfortunately, it sounds like the understanding of the magnitude of the both the depth and breadth of the impacts of trauma are woefully lacking.  At the school level, simply throwing bodies at the challenge is not acceptable -- a superficial approach which dooms this “test” to fail.  Further, the perspective in the article above seems to be based in a deficit view and it seems mostly focused on Catapult students (so-called “disabled”) and “mainstreaming”.  What about the massive numbers of trauma-impacted kids in our “regular” schools?  What about all the other kids in the classroom who suffer because our trauma-impacted kids are not appropriately supported?  Experts have termed the impact of violence and trauma on children an “epidemic”, a “national crisis”. 


It affects ALL kids.  It affects ALL teachers. It affects the educational mission.  Assigning blame doesn’t help.  We can’t accomplish our mission while ignoring the epidemic.


So, back to this “test”:  when it comes to implementation, at the school level, the cart is coming before the horse if training and support and resources for classroom teachers are non-existent or "secondary.”  "Trauma-Informed" is primarily a paradigm shift, based in professional training, continuing training, and then about relationships and processes and support school-wide. School-wide coordination, support and commitment is essential to the paradigm. How will coordination happen at the school level, if the teachers are not trained and social workers are on some other page?  Dig slightly deeper. One support person per school? In other word a case-load of 15-50 classrooms, or 200 to 1000 kids per social worker in those test schools?  A test doomed to fail.   An embarrassing "Investment" of Twenty support-staff across 200,000 school children in Philadelphia? An embarrassing "commitment".  We can do better. In fact, with “equity” as the goal we must do better.