Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16599 The Military Social Work Fieldwork Placement: An Analysis of the Time and Activities Interns Provide Military-Connected Schools

Sunday, January 15, 2012: 9:45 AM
McPherson Square (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Hazel Atuel, PhD, Research Assistant Professor & Program Manager for Building Capacity Consortium, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Keren Malchi, PhD, Researcher, Bar-Ilan University Ramat Gan, Israel, Israel
Monica C. Esqueda, PhD Student, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Rami Benbenishty, PhD, Professor, Bar Ilan University & Haruv Institute, Ramat Gan, Israel
Ron Avi Astor, PhD, Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Background and Purpose: Civilian teachers, principals, and school support personnel have never been systematically trained to understand and appropriately respond to the intense experiences of children from military families. The USC Military Social Work Program (Military SW) is the first program in the United States to train and deploy a cadre of social workers focusing on the unique needs and circumstances facing military children and families. As part of the curriculum, student interns receive instruction that prepares them to deliver services including mental health counseling, family therapy, and disaster response/crisis intervention to families and individuals who have served in the military. Student interns simultaneously complete an academic year-long field placement in partner schools within the Building Capacity consortium. This study examined the Military SW interns' field placement activity report, with a special emphasis on the type of activities engaged in and issues addressed within the schools. Number of hours for each activity and issues related directly to military-connected students were also investigated. Protocols were developed by the research team and incorporated feedback from social work practitioners.

Methods: The sample comprised 30 Military SW student interns. Data were collected at the end of the fall and spring semesters of the 2010-2011 academic year via an online survey tool. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the Military SW student interns' professional activities during the academic year.

Results: Results show that Military SW interns engaged in diverse activities including individual and family counseling, planning and attending school events, and attending IEP and special education meetings. Military SW interns completed a total of 9,512 hours for all types of activities during the school year. The top five activities, in terms of number of hours spent on each activity, were meeting with individual students (5,446 hours), completing social and behavioral assessments (1,276 hours), meeting with student groups (1,038 hours), meeting with families (402 hours), and program development (316 hours). Similarly, Military SW interns addressed a range of issues including bullying, school connectedness/climate, parental supports, depression, and substance use. The top five topics, in terms of numbers of hours spent on each topic, were academic struggles (1,148 hours), bullying (576 hours), peer supports (510 hours), suspension/expulsion (504 hours), and school connectedness/climate (478 hours). In working with military-connected and non-military-connected students, Military SW interns reported issues unique to military-connected students. Compared to non-military-connected students, military-connected students were confronted with more military life issues, particularly deployment and reentry, as well as the Interstate Compact.

Conclusions and Implications: Overall, the findings suggest that Military SW interns are engaged in a variety of activities addressing issues that encompass both military-connected and non-military-connected students and families. In working with military-connected students and families on military-related issues within the school context, Military SW interns are providing the professional capacity lacking within the current public school system. Further research is required on how Military SW interns are increasing the school's awareness of military issues and transforming the school climate into a more military-supportive environment.