Social Workers Vital to Education in West Virginia

By Newcomb-Lews, Marie; Hickman, Sam | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), August 21, 2019 | Go to article overview

Social Workers Vital to Education in West Virginia


Newcomb-Lews, Marie, Hickman, Sam, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


School social workers often work behind the scenes, making it possible for children to overcome life's obstacles so they get the best possible education.

They are school social workers such as Shanna Smith, in McDowell County, who brought mental health services to the school system for the estimated 61 percent of low-income children and youth with mental and emotional issues. She also helped start the first elementary tennis team, and generally promotes social, emotional and behavioral well-being in school and society.

They are social workers such as Katie Ratcliffe and Patrick Williams, in Raleigh County.

Williams noticed several boys with repeated behavior issues and began having lunch with them. He served as a positive role model, taught life lessons and checked in with them at midday. As more students expressed interest, he formally created "Team Impact, a school club whose motto is: "Having a positive impact on others by modeling Respect, Integrity, Strength and Kindness. Students and their parents are asked to be role models. The entire school has benefited.

Ratcliffe helped two often-truant, homeless students find stable housing with their mother, corresponding through notes sent via backpack, because there was no phone service. Now, the kids don't miss school any longer. Mom and the kids are doing well, and they are happy.

They are social workers such as Samantha Hicks, in Cabell County, who takes a trauma-focused approach to address barriers to education, such as mental health, abuse, neglect, peer relationships, unmet medical needs or lack of basic necessities. She says, "We offer a safe, supportive atmosphere in which we build connections to facilitate change and positive outcomes.

These types of interventions help kids build a better future for themselves and others.

Our nation needs school social workers now, more than ever, whether schools are located in cities, suburbs or rural areas, in rich or poor neighborhoods.

More Americans - including young people - grapple with mental illness. Schools across the country are trying to address bullying and higher rates of suicide, the second-leading cause of death for teenagers. …

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