School social workers’ function in schools is multifaceted and complex, especially in New York City where the student body population is a cultural mosaic growing exponentially. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by the year 2050 the total Latino population in the United States will be 102.6 million, representing about a fourth of the total United States population (Sisneros & Alter, 2009). Now is the time to prepare more Latinx school social workers. Given the myriad of sociolinguistics, sociocultural, and sociopolitical issues that impact the educational experience of Latinx children, they will need much support. Limited studies have been done that focus on the Spanish speaking, Latinx practitioner. In this study, the professional experiences of bilingual, Latinx school social workers providing services in New York City Department of Education is examined using the following research questions:
- How do bilingual, Latinx school social workers in New York City schools understand their professional roles and how do they enact those roles?
- What role does language, racial and ethnic identity play in the professional experience of bilingual, Latinx school social workers in NYCDOE schools?
This research project utilized a narrative inquiry approach, using semi-structured interviews. There were 20 participants; 14 women and 6 men. Criterion sampling was employed to identify the 20 participants. Purposeful sampling was done to ensure that all stages of schooling were represented. The criteria were (1) self-identified Latinx, (2) self-identified Bilingual (3) New York City Department of Education School Social Worker. The qualitative phase will be analyzed using thematic analysis & constant comparison (coding) and classical content analysis to identify overarching themes.
All 20 participants discussed their role as cultural brokers as being critical to their role as school social workers. Every participant discussed the importance of their ability to identify and relate to the Latinx population in their school, including families. Bilingualism was a central theme that emerged as an asset to each participant that occasionally had to be protected based on the school’s population. Course work and professional development played a role in lack of preparation for their multifaceted roles.
Conclusions and Implications:
Implications for the Field:
- Administration has a major impact on how social workers can be effective.
- When social workers identify with the population via language and identity it decreases the stigma around mental health and therapeutic supports.
- Lack of support and preparation can lead to isolation and distrust, decreasing effectiveness.
- Supervision is necessary to help bilingual, Latinx school social workers cope with the complexity of their roles.
- Graduate schools have an opportunity to provide training specific to working within school settings.
- Universities can collaborate with school districts and systems to provide more support, especially to those who supervise social work students.