The Shocking Ways the Pandemic Has Changed School Social Work


I love my job as a social worker.

I have been a social worker since I graduated in 2012 with my bachelor’s degree. In 2014, I graduated with my master’s degree. Recently in 2018 I became a Clinical Supervisor. I want to start out by saying I love my job. I love the kids, the families, and my coworkers. Being a social worker fills my heart with happiness. Serving my community sets my soul on fire. Social work was and always will be my first career choice.

When COVID hit in March, it was a shock for families and our students. It was a shock for social workers too. We are used to fast-paced environments, and acting quickly is a part of our everyday work life. That being said, we had 2 hours’ notice to grab the supplies we may need, compile our caseloads, and gather whatever we could to best support our students and families. Nothing I have done academically and throughout my career could have prepared me for what has occurred since. So here it is, my open letter to my colleagues, clients, and community.

I just thought you should know.

The Shocking Ways the Pandemic Has Changed School Social Work, ABQ MomDear Clients, Colleagues, and Community,

It’s me, your school social worker. We haven’t seen each other for a while, and we may not see each other for a while more. I wanted to reach out to you today to make sure you all know how loved you are. Each and every one of you is important to me. I am grateful that you continue to allow me to serve and work with your children. Although you may not receive services or resources the same way, I am still here for all of you.

That being said, I need to be honest with all of you. COVID shut down our schools and changed the way all of us communicate, but it has also changed social work practice. We have all struggled with you to transition to telehealth. It has been heartbreaking knowing that the children you allow us to care for as you work hard at your jobs may be going without. It is even more painful to know that, through no fault of your own, you may be unable to reach out for help. When we hear the message on your cellphone stating that it is out of service, we are sick with worry for your family.

For almost six months social workers have watched our children lose connection. We have seen families lose precious resources and at the same time, watched our community come together in amazing ways to support one another. There have been GoFundMe’s for food and hygiene supplies. Amazing men and women have used their own resources to sew masks and deliver activities to children in need. There is no shortage of beauty nestled close to all of the hard truths we have had to face. Togetherness may be different now, but it is still present.

Grief is a language we all share.

The most prominent result of COVID has been a shared language of grief. It has developed in quiet conversations between coworkers who have run out of food boxes while deserving families stand in line, waiting for relief. Grief has been hushed whispers on our knees at night because we know that many of our families have lost jobs, homes, and one another. We want to help, but resources are depleted and there are some things in life that a resource cannot fix. The language of grief has been spoken loudly as we watch our city become divided and our communities become unsafe because regardless of the developments we have supposedly made as a country, we still have not learned how to love and respect one another.

We hear your grief.

Trust us when we say we have read all of your emails. We have taken all of the referrals that the warriors (we call our teachers) have sent us. I promise you we have spent weeks calling everyone in our network to find solutions for you. I know that it has taken us longer than usual to get back to you and many times we have come up empty-handed. Trust me when I say, we have not forgotten any of you.

Social work looks so different now. As a school social worker, I know I cannot meet all of your needs. I cannot find resources for all of my clients, colleagues, and community. As a part of many communities, I can grieve with you. When you call my extension, visit my office, or meet me on Zoom, I promise I will listen. Your pain, worry, and stress is important to me. While I may be unable to give you any type of immediate solution, I can promise to sit with you as you tell me about what you have lost and what has been taken from you.

You are not alone.

Your seniors who did not get a graduation are important to me. Your grief will be kept close as we plan to enter another virtual school year. I will drop food off at your door, knowing it may no longer be your door next week. I know there are many difficult decisions you have had to make. So, in those moments, I will respect your sadness. When the waitlists are too long to make a difference and you are overwhelmed and have nothing left, I will go into that feeling with you. You won’t have to be alone. As you march for your babies so their undeniable value can be known, I will stand in support of the love and respect they deserve.

COVID has taken so much from my clients, colleagues, and community, but there is one thing it cannot take. My resources are few, and the needs of those I serve are great. However, I became a social worker for just this reason. I am not afraid to face the grief of what we have lost with you. No matter what the circumstance, I will walk through it with you.

With Love,

Your School Social Worker

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