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WE Embrace Equity: BSD Social Workers

Acting out in class. Poor attendance. Anxiety about being in school. Some students struggle and it has absolutely nothing to do with academics. "It turns out there is a whole host of other things that are happening at home or in the student's life," says social worker Neha Hertzog.

Last year, the Beaverton School District added five social worker positions to help students and families work through these issues. If you don't think those positions were necessary, think again. Those five people handled 825 referrals from school counselors and psychologists. That is an average of 165 cases. To say they were busy is an understatement. "Often times, the school staff we work with are very aware of things that are going on for families, and they don't have the time to do the work that we do," says social worker Kaija Daniel-Hoffman. "It's nice to be able to augment all of the work that they do."

The social workers provide outreach to families, help them navigate mental health systems and insurance coverage, connect them to parenting and support classes, drug and alcohol treatment and coordinate referrals to community resources. "In particular, it's important for families who are falling through the cracks," says Kaija.

Families and students are most often referred by school counselors and psychologists. The social workers will them set up a time to talk with the family, wherever it is convenient for the family. That could mean at home, out in the community, in the school or even near work on their lunch break. Says Neha, "We just want to do whatever we can to connect them to resources, to address those underlying issues so that they are able to be at school, to be present and to access their education."

This year, the number of referrals is on track to surpass last year's number.