Methods: Data for this study come from a national survey of SSWs (N=1,275). Participants were recruited through national, state, and other social work organizations with requests to complete an online survey. In addition to quantitative responses, approximately 35% of participants, or 450 SSWs, responded to several open-ended questions. A second round of open-ended questions was sent to participants who volunteered their email addresses. This work presents combined findings from all qualitative responses received during June-July 2020. Data were analyzed using a deductive coding strategy. Analysis began with development of a consensus-based conceptual model for a trauma-informed school based on a review of the literature, which was then used to generate relevant codes. All participant responses were independently coded by two members of the research team.
Results: SSW responses supported our heuristic for a trauma-informed school. Themes included:
- Recognition of COVID-19 and 2020 social inequity, racism, and political strife as a unique period in history and potentially traumatic experience.
- A call for universal trauma training and additional MH resources, including those related to self-care and secondary traumatic stress, to respond to current events.
- The importance of addressing students’ social and emotional needs during and after the pandemic.
- The need for better integration of SSW voices in administrative decisions related to pandemic response, and expanded capacity to meet schools’ and students’ heightened MH and trauma needs.
- A requirement for new COVID-related and trauma-informed organizational policies and practice guidelines.
- The challenges of addressing all facets of safety (physical, emotional, and psychological) simultaneously during a pandemic.
- The essentiality and difficulty of maintaining school-based relationships during remote learning.
Conclusions and Implications: Results demonstrated that SSWs inherently understood key components of a trauma-informed approach in schools and were often trying to implement it during the pandemic. At the same time, SSWs reported many challenges. Whole-school, trauma-informed approaches require the support of a school’s administration and district leadership. Everyone—from principals to bus drivers—needs to be involved in the creation of a trauma-informed school and benefit from its existence. SSWs and other mental health professionals must partner with school leaders, teachers, and other stakeholders to create and sustain trauma-informed approaches.