The Student to SSW Ratio & SW Interns
The recommended student to school social worker ratio is 800 to 1. That is, one full-time school social worker for every 800 students. This still sounds like a lot to some professionals! NASW actually recommends a ratio of 350 to 1 in the types of schools that most of us work in at LAUSD.
Most of the schools that can afford to invest in a full-time school social worker have thousands of students. Two social work interns, each working 20 hours a week, approximate one full-time social worker. School social workers can double their efforts and help to close the ratio gap with just two social work interns.
When I first did this at a 2,000-student elementary school in South Los Angeles, I went from a caseload of 60-80 students to supervising 5-8 social work interns. Each intern, in turn, had a caseload of 5-10 students. Better math lead to better school social work.
Math Quiz for SSWs: At a school with 3,000 students, how many interns would you need to reach the recommended ratios of 800 or even 350 to 1?
Working with Parents vs. Working with Students Individually
In a recent review of the effectiveness of family therapy for child-focused problems, it was noted that "behavioral parent training is far more effective than individual therapy." In a review of 30 behavioral parent training studies and 41 studies of individual therapy, the effect size was .45 for parent training and .23 for individual therapy -nearly double the difference in effect size. Social workers can double their effectiveness moving from individual therapy to behavioral parent training. Do you want to use an intervention that is a bigger bang for your buck or do you want to work doubly hard?
Working with Families and Attendance Rates
I had lunch recently with a former SW intern who is now a PSA counselor. She told me about her experiences at a high school in the Valley where she systematically reviewed weekly computerized reports listing students with attendance problems and conducted outreach to their parents to offer concrete help, support, home visits, parenting training and mental health services including biopsychosocial assessments and family therapy. At one point, her Principal came back from a local district meeting thrilled to announce that their high school had been singled out as having the highest attendance rate - 98%.