Friday, January 13, 2012: 11:00 AM
Penn Quarter A (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Abstract: Background and Purpose: This study explored the academic and mental health outcomes for elementary school children who received school social work services. Many children face problems including: poor academic performance (Eamon & Altshuler, 2004), absenteeism (Smink & Reimer, 2005), low self-esteem (Schmidt, 2004), inadequate social skills (Carnwell & Baker, 2007), anxiety (Barrett & Turner, 2001), depression (Hussey & Guo, 2003), aggression (Abell et al., 2001), bullying (Whitted & Dupper, 2005), and divorce (Sabatino et al., 2001); yet, there is an average of one school counselor per six elementary schools (Thompson, 2002). A federal grant provided funding for the enhancement of school social work services. The study's research questions were: (1) Would children's academic performance and attendance improve as a result of school social work services? It was hypothesized grades and attendance would improve. (2) Would children's well-being improve as a result of school social work services? It was hypothesized it would. Methods: A mixed methods design was used. The quantitative sample was 1,089 children (757 who received school social work services and 332 in the control group). Approximately half were members of ethnic minority groups and ages ranged from 8 to 12.The qualitative sample included 53 participants. The children received social group work and/or individual counseling. Children's grades and attendance were compared at two data points, prior to and after receiving school social work services. The children's well-being was also measured twice. The child's evaluation consisted of the Childhood Depression Inventory (CDI; Kovacs, 2003), the Braver Aggressiveness Dimension Scale (BADS; Braver et al., 1986), and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Instrument (BSE; Rosenberg, 1968). Teachers completed the Teacher-Child Rating Scale (T-CRS; Perkins & Hightower, 2002), and parents completed the Parent-Child Rating Scale (P-CRS). Descriptive statistics, dependent means t-tests, chi square, MANOVA and regression analyses were conducted. Thirty-minute in-person interviews were conducted with school administrators, teachers, parents and children about the services received. A structured interview guide was used. The qualitative interview transcriptions were coded for themes. Two raters reviewed and coded the data. Inter-rater reliability was 85%. Results: Academic performance as measured by grades and the T-CRS was better for the treatment group; but there was no significant difference in absenteeism partially confirming hypothesis one. All of the children's mental health measures indicated significant improvement from pre to post test. Effect sizes ranged from small to medium. The P-CRS also demonstrated improvement. Hypothesis Two was confirmed. The qualitative data indicated that the social work services improved the overall well being of children and decreased problematic behaviors such as bullying, aggression, and depressive symptoms. Conclusions and Implications: The results indicate that school social workers benefitted elementary school children's academic performance and mental health outcomes. The results suggest that school social workers need to be members of elementary school staff. In the current economic climate when schools are experiencing budget crises, school social workers are often the first to be laid off. This trend will negatively affect the academic success and overall well being of school aged children.
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