Practice Guidelines for Delivery of School Social Work Services

Practice Guidelines for Delivery of School Social Work Services

Scope of Practice Addressing Barriers to Learning

In this section

Scope of Practice Overview

As implementers of behavioral health services, school social workers make unique contributions to a coordinated approach to school health through prevention, barrier identification, assessment and evaluation, and treatment and intervention services. They provide these services through collaboration, consultation and advocacy. As a consequence of their education, which focuses on the reciprocal interaction of person and environment, school social workers are particularly well suited to address and clarify barriers to learning. School social work encompasses a wide variety of services and approaches that correspond to the barriers to learning affecting the lives of students. The scope of practice includes the following: prevention; barrier identification; evaluation; intervention/treatment; collaboration/consultation; advocacy; and linkages to community resources. These procedures, actions and processes ensure for students, parents and educators that a holistic approach to student achievement is used.



Supporting Healthy Development

School social workers implement prevention programs to simultaneously support healthy growth and development for all children and provide early intervention services for students at risk. School social workers use multimodal strategies and approaches to foster student growth and development, including individual counseling; small group activities; focused group interventions; classroom-based activities; schoolwide initiatives; and parent education. While prevention programs may take many forms, evidence-based practice supports a resiliency perspective that links together school, home and community. Effective practices include:

  • promoting a positive school culture or environment that is characterized by positive relationships among faculty, staff and students, a sense of safety, honoring of diversity, and a respect for learning;
  • fostering resiliency by developing protective factors (e.g., social-emotional learning curricula that teach skills in self-awareness, social-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, and skills in building and maintaining relationships) (for an example, see;
  • minimizing risk factors through interventions across the student’s environments;
  • enhancing the school community system through education on such topics as cultural diversity, race, gender, the impact of poverty and disenfranchised/disengaged individuals and families;
  • ensuring that children have health insurance by providing appropriate application materials for the HUSKY insurance program and the Sustinet Health Partnership;
  • developing with district approval contractual relationships with outside agencies that can contribute to accommodating the needs of students and their families (e.g., the local youth service bureau to target extended learning opportunities and positive youth development);
  • establishing formal relationships with providers in the Community Collaborative System of Care; and
  • creating an annual list of licensed behavioral health service providers that includes information relating to the populations served, the application and intake process, types of services, etc.

The school social worker may assume a variety of roles to initiate, implement, and sustain appropriate prevention programs and develop and sustain a schoolwide climate of under ing and support. In districts where the need for prevention has not been established, a school social worker begins by working with administration to establish a rationale connecting students’ needs and the district’s mission. Further conversations with administrators and other support service providers address the development of policies and structures to support such programming. Regarding implementation, the school social worker is highly qualified to provide service delivery that is contextualized to the diverse needs of the specific student population. Finally, responsible practice includes program evaluation as a natural aspect of professional accountability.


Barrier Identification

School social workers identify nonacademic barriers to a student’s educational success. Historically, social work services in the schools grew out of concern for underprivileged students. In a 1966 amendment, Congress added Title VI (Aid to Handicapped Children) to the ESEA. As a result, funding was made available to school districts to provide staff training for teaching students with disabilities. With the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Education of the Handicapped Act of 1974, the educational rights of students with disabilities were first codified into law. These rights and the supports, services and legal protections available to children with disabilities were further delineated with the passage of the IDEA (2004) and the enactment of NCLB . Because of these statutory changes, all children, including children with disabilities and other barriers to learning, are entitled to a free appropriate public education and may be eligible for accommodations to meet their learning needs. School social workers, working as part of the multidisciplinary team, “bring unique knowledge and skills to the school system and the student services team” and are “hired by school districts to enhance the district’s ability to meet its academic mission, especially where home, school and community collaboration is key to achieving its mission” (SSWAA, 2003).

Presently, state and federal guidelines identify 13 specific handicapping conditions that make a student eligible for special education and related services as a child with a disability. These identified educational disabilities include: autism; deaf/blind; deafness; hearing impaired; intellectual disability; multiple disabilities; orthopedic impairment; serious emotional disturbance; specific learning disabilities; speech or language impairment; traumatic brain injury; visual impairment, including blindness; and other health impairment.As an identified special education student, a child with a disability is entitled to special education and related services, in addition to any modification or accommodations necessary to promote student learning and achievement.

In the event that a child with barriers to learning does not qualify for special education and related services, the supports and services available to special education students may be available through the provision of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In addition, school social workers are committed to providing services to students within the general population who exhibit need and may benefit from such services. A primary service in barrier identification is performing a comprehensive evaluation that includes planning with parents, academic and behavioral screening and assessment, and engaging other members of the student support service team to ensure coordinated and consistent service delivery. These efforts should be initiated at the earliest indications of poor academic adjustment, and consider the student’s social and emotional development, and cognitive or other peer-matched functional performance. These needs may be triggered by family, community or school-based issues, but will require support to ensure that the student remains able to access the educational program.



School social workers use evidence-based practices in evaluating student needs. Comprehensive evaluations provide a broad contextual perspective from which to view the students’ functioning and are essential for developing intervention/treatment plans that contribute to students’ success. School social workers perform evaluations that identify the existence, nature and extent of students’ problems, as well as their strengths and coping skills. Evaluations are used for all events and conditions that affect a student’s functioning in school, such as trauma, disabilities, mental health disorders, substance abuse or grief, among others. School social workers carefully explore variables affecting students’ performance that may not be readily apparent, known or understood by others. Essential elements of a thorough evaluation include assessment of the impact of multiple factors, such as family dynamics, socioeconomics, culture, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion and other factors. An effective student evaluation will include consideration and analysis of:reason for referral;

  • parents’ concerns;
  • school’s concerns;
  • current level of function — social, emotional, academic, familial, community;
  • school history;
  • family history;
  • developmental history;
  • medical/health history;
  • adaptive functioning; and
  • student’s view of self — strengths, difficulties.

Evaluation is a dynamic process that may involve the use of standardized and nonstandardized instruments. Assessment tools can augment the clinician’s professional training and expertise but should not be used in isolation from other measures to identify student needs or formulate clinical impressions and treatment plans. Assessment tools include:

1. Standardized Instruments

Standardized instruments may be used to collect information and enable the assessment of the student’s learning needs and contribute to the eligibility determination of children with special needs. Frequently, school social workers use standardized instruments to assess students’ social and emotional status in areas such as:

  • anxiety;
  • adaptive behavior;
  • depression;
  • aggression;
  • attention/hyperactivity/impulsivity; and
  • social competence.

Examples of standardized tests for which the school social worker is appropriately trained and certified to perform that might be used in the collection of data are:

  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Test;
  • Children’s Depression Scale;
  • Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, Adaptive Behavior Assessment System;
  • Conners Rating Scales-Revised;
  • Scale for Assessing Emotional Disturbance;
  • Behavior Rating Scales;
  • Motivation Assessment Scale;
  • Functional Assessment Screening Tool;
  • Behavior and Assessment System for Children, Second Edition;
  • Achenbach, Child Behavior Checklist;
  • Burks Behavior Rating Scale; and
  • Preschool Behavior Questionnaire, Preschool & Kindergarten Behavior Scale.

2. Nonstandardized Instruments

Nonstandardized information is another important element to develop effective student evaluations and social workers are often called upon to use information derived from:

School Records

Record reviews that include:

  • attendance and retention history;
  • number and type of schools attended;
  • standardized and curriculum based test scores/grades;
  • disciplinary actions;
  • Planning and Placement Team and Individualized Education Program reports;
  • parent conference notes;
  • previous evaluations and referrals;
  • regular education interventions and supports; and
  • cumulative health records (*check your district’s policy and procedures manual regarding access to health records).

Consultations (with)

  • school personnel;
  • community service providers;
  • school nurse;
  • physicians; and
  • family members.

Clinical interviews (with)

  • student; and
  • family/guardians.


  • across school settings (classroom, cafeteria, library/media center); and
  • home/community when appropriate.

3. Functional Behavioral Assessment

The Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) is a mechanism for determining the social or behavioral gains that a student obtains from the exhibition of problematic behavior. It includes:

  • problem identification/definition;
  • description of the target behavior;
  • problem analysis;
  • collecting baseline/academic information;
  • describing environment/demands;
  • determining the function of the target behavior;
  • direct and indirect assessment;
  • hypothesis formation (specific and global);
  • hypothesis testing through experimental design;
  • plan development (Behavioral/Intervention Plan Implementation);
  • evaluation/progress monitoring; and
  • follow-up/modifying the plan when necessary due to progress or continued problematic behavior.

School social work evaluations are an integral component of a multidisciplinary evaluation.


Measurement of Treatment

School social workers continuously measure and assess the effectiveness of their student evaluation and intervention practices. In school settings, the primary focus of data collection is student assessment. Additionally, school social workers will also need to evaluate the rigor and effectiveness of the services being provided to students. To measure the value of professional interventions, school social workers use a variety of formal and informal tools. These tools may include, but are not limited to:

Formal Tools Informal Tools

Pre & Post Test Measures Observations, Data Collection

Qualitative Research Design Charts of Progress

Teacher/Student/Parent Report


Scientific Research-based Interventions

School social workers assist the educational mission of their school and district through tiered interventions designed to meet the needs of all students. Scientific Research-based Interventions (SRBI) is the Connecticut framework for Response to Intervention (RTI) and is a comprehensive, multistep process that uses progress monitoring to determine how the student is responding to different types of services and instruction and provides tiered interventions of increasing intensity when necessary. While engaging the student with specific strategies and supports, SRBI is essentially a prevention model directed toward alleviating further academic failure for students requiring additional assistance. Through initial screening, universal supports and interventions proven to be successful through scientific inquiry, SRBI is the foundation for tracking and supporting student adjustment and achievement within the school setting. SRBI describes not only the use of evidence-based programs and interventions but also provides direction for the development and implementation of tiered instruction and student support services. Tier I describes those elements of school instruction and support that are universal in application and are provided for all students. Should a student or group of students continue to have needs in accessing their academics as a result of social-emotional or academic barriers to learning, the students receives Tier II interventions in addition to those already provided in Tier I. Throughout this period of intervention, ongoing evaluation is necessary to ensure the fidelity of intervention, measuring positive response to intervention and determining next steps. If a student continues to exhibit lagging performance in the desired goal area, Tier III interventions are then applied in addition to the Tier I and Tier II interventions. It is important that providing a support in higher tiers does not supplant those provided through earlier intervention, but is intended to be provided in addition to those supports already being provided. Determination for special education services can be made at any tier, and it is not necessary for a student to first be exposed to all three tiers if there is clear and compelling evidence that the student might qualify for services and protection under the IDEA. Special education services should continue to use a multistep process for meeting student needs that is consistent with SRBI.

Evidence-based practice is an attempt to respond to our need as a profession to implement best practices in our work. Evidence based practice is present in both of the fields of mental health and education (see What Works Clearinghouse). While school social workers must ensure the internal validity of the interventions that are used to address student needs, they should also monitor the impact that these interventions have on the school environment. One example of a measure for evaluating impact is the School Success Profile (SSP) (Bowen et al., 2005). It is a comprehensive tool for evaluating and monitoring the effects of interventions in school settings. Paula Allen-Meares describes other available measurements in Social Work in Schools, 5th Edition. Incorporating evaluation in the process of school social work verifies results for interventions not only to ourselves, but to the educational systems and clients we serve.

The CSDE has identified 10 underlying principles and critical features that should be included in the implementation of SRBI: 1) the assumption that scientific research should be used to inform educational practice as much as possible; 2) a belief in collective responsibility, accountability and the power of education; 3) a willingness to be transparent with a relentless focus on continuous improvement; 4) a focus on prevention and early intervention; 5) schoolwide or districtwide high-quality core curricula instruction and comprehensive social/behavioral supports; 6) monitoring fidelity of implementation; 7) culturally responsive teaching and service delivery; 8) a comprehensive assessment plan with universal common assessments and progress monitoring; 9) data analysis, not just data collection; and 10) data-driven decision making with clear decision rules.

For school social workers, behavioral assessment will be critical in their contributions to SRBI implementation within their schools and districts. Behavioral assessment should define the type of behavior being targeted and the function that the behavior serves in the student’s life. Assessment should include the influence of social, cultural, familial and ecological elements within the student’s environment and result in a clear plan for sensitive and responsive intervention to reduce the barriers in social and academic functioning resulting from the targeted behaviors. While behavioral assessment should be closely linked to the interventions, it provides additional benefits to the school environment, such as improved school climate and culture, maintaining students in the least restrictive environment, decreased identification of behavioral disorders, and the over identification of males and people of color. Benefits of providing services within an SRBI model include cost effectiveness and early identification of emerging behavioral and developmental problems that respond to intervention more robustly when addressed early. For additional guidance, see Addressing the Needs of the Whole Child: Social, Emotional, Behavioral, and Physical Health, as well as Academic Achievement, in Connecticut’s SRBI Process in appendix E.

Tier I activities includeexamining and tracking discipline referrals, understanding school climate/norms, identifying at-risk students and monitoring behavior patterns within the school. Identifying at risk students should include universal health screening, universal screening for social skill competencies/social behaviors, Systematic Screening for Behavior Disorders (SSBD) (Walker & Severson, 1992), classroom observations (through teacher or MH consultant), parent-reported child risk factors and student-reported risk indictors (Barnett et al., 2006). Some examples of universal interventions for behavioral health that benefit from the guidance and participation of the school social worker include positive behavioral supports, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, classroom programs, character education/curriculum, parenting programs, staff development (classroom management, noncompliant students), modification of school policy, schoolwide discipline procedures and reinforcements (weekly/monthly).

The Center for Mental Health in Schools has identified six defined aspects of components that enable the delivery of learning supports. School social workers, both by education and professional responsibility, are particularly well suited to reduce barriers to learning. Tier I interventions include:

  1. Classroom focused enabling. Social workers help enhance the ability of teachers both to motivate all students and to re-engage those students who have “tuned out” and become disengaged from classroom instruction. They can do this by providing comprehensive in-service training for teachers and other staff; helping develop the capacities of paraeducators and volunteers; and enhancing the classroom resources of the teachers to foster a caring context for learning, accommodating a wide range of individual differences, and preventing and addressing a wide range of problems.
  2. Family involvement in school and schooling. Social workers help develop strategies that foster student learning and support needs of the adults in the home (e.g., improving communication and connections between school and home, educating families about the important role parents play in their children’s education, and increasing parental understanding of school policies, procedures and practices).
  3. Support for transitions experienced by students and families. School social workers develop schoolwide activities to welcome new arrivals and provide ongoing social supports; provide ongoing support for students re-entering after out-placement or institutionalization; and facilitate support groups for students experiencing death or divorce, etc.
  4. Crisis assistance and prevention of violence, bullying and substance abuse. School social workers, in accordance with district policy, work as part of a crisis team educated in emergency response procedures. Social workers assist with the implementation of the emergency response plan at school or in the educational community at large. Social workers cultivate individual protective factors and help to minimize those risk factors that may contribute to violence, suicide and child abuse.
  5. Specialized student and family assistance. While students and families may need community-based services and supports, the school social worker works collaboratively with community providers to maximize social, emotional and academic growth. Social workers are knowledgeable about community resources and trained to help the family access, use and benefit from multisystemic services.
  6. Enhance community involvement in the school. Social workers are knowledgeable about community services and programs that can be brought into the schools to augment existing school-based services and provide services not addressed by school staff to better meet the educational and noneducational needs of students and their families. Community outreach enhances the resources available to school staff and students.

These enabling components are essential to a school’s ability to accomplish its instructional mission; they do not represent an agenda separate from that mission. School social work is the key profession for the development of programs that focus on reducing barriers to learning.

Tier II activities include detecting nonresponders at Tier I; addressing teacher needs through consultation, collecting baseline data of behavior and conducting initial assessment (e.g., teacher interview, behavior charting/frequency count, rating scales, direct observation, etc.); assessing the environment (observations of environmental factors, developing a checklist to assess classroom management plans); and assessing social skills, motivation and contingencies. Particularly when addressing behavioral and developmental needs at Tier II, the school social worker should use standardized social skills assessments to determine if it is a skill, knowledge or performance deficit. To answer this question, a brief FBA may provide direction in determining the most effective intervention.

Behavioral interventions based on functional assessment lead to more effective and strategic involvement. In most Tier II actions, school social workers will be targeting those social skills students need for school success, such as self-confidence, capacity to develop positive relationships, concentration/persistence with difficult tasks, ability to effectively communicate emotions, ability to listen to instructions and skills in solving social problems (Hemmeter et al., 2006).

Tier II interventions might also include social skills training (group/classroom); targeted group counseling (homogeneous); modifying the classroom program; consulting with teacher and associated environmental modifications; positive reinforcement for using skills; mentoring; modeling; structured play; after school clubs; parent/family contact; and the use of embedded interventions to provide additional opportunities to practice skills (Barnett et al., 2006).

Tier III provides the most intense level of interventionoutside the special education framework. This level is triggered when there is no or inadequate response to intervention on Tier II. Assessment at Tier III begins with reviewing the student’s records (discipline referrals); interviewing all teachers and the student (formal/structured); gathering a detailed family/social history from parents; use of standardized rating scales (specific/diagnostic) along with observations to gain understanding of the antecedents, behaviors and consequences contributing to the student’s continued problems; and putting together a formal FBA and developing individualized goals and interventions through a behavior intervention plan (BIP).

Tier III interventions might include: individual counseling (academic/behavioral at point of learning); individual behavior modification/positive reinforcement program at the point of learning; and use of direct and explicit instruction. In addition, Tier III interventions can include parent consultation; increased involvement of support staff; the promotion of the transferability of skills; behavioral contracting (goals, consequences and rewards); cognitive-behavioral interventions; self-management strategies; experimental analysis; and finalization of the FBA and the creation of a BIP.

School social workers are part of a larger system addressing the needs of young people in the community and, as such, need to collaborate with a broad network of educators, service providers, parents, administrators and others. Whether working with an individual student or advocating at a policy level, the school social worker aligns the intervention with the unique needs of the student and the situation. The school social worker provides services individually, in small groups or through classroom-based psycho-educational activities. These services are designed to foster the social emotional competencies of school-age children. The school social worker is available to classroom staff as a consultant for developmental norms and effective practices to meet student needs in the classroom setting. The school social worker collaborates with community-based service providers and mental health practitioners to coordinate intervention plans and other services. The school social worker educates families about students’ needs and assists families in accessing necessary services, thereby maximizing the potential for educational success.

Back to top


When preventative efforts provided through Tier I practices fail to meet student needs, school social workers use comprehensive and strategic interventions in providing Tier II and Tier III services. SRBI provides organization for developing and monitoring individual and group-based progress for students, but to ensure that social and developmental needs are being met social workers identify goals, objectives, methods and timeline, and these elements are incorporated into a treatment plan. The school social worker sets treatment goals and interventions after assessing a student’s strengths, weaknesses and social-emotional functioning. The school social worker employs a strengths-based, ecological perspective when developing treatment plans, which maximize the potential for successful outcomes. Within school settings, treatment plans should be developed with cognizance of the need to share related information with other educational staff. Unlike their counterparts in purely clinical settings, school social workers are part of an interdisciplinary team focused on addressing the educational needs of students. Those aspects of a student’s life that produce barriers to education are addressed through multiple interventions provided by individuals from varying professional training and perspective. While school social workers may use terms such as “treatment plan” to describe their activities in supporting student needs, school personnel are more familiar with the term “intervention plan.” Wherever possible, school social workers should use language consistent with the other professions operating in the school setting. Central to school social work intervention is respect for an individual’s strengths, dignity, uniqueness and capacity for growth.

The school social worker identifies the resources in the student’s environments when developing treatment plans. When the student is identified as having special education needs, all plans should be developed through the Individualized Education Program (IEP) and any associated planning, intervention and data collection should be provided for review by the Planning and Placement Team. The IEP drives the intervention plan. Some students who may be struggling academically but do not have special education supports in place may benefit from an early intervention program that provides specific structure and priorities that meet the individual student’s needs. Social work interventions should also be implemented as part of the early intervention plan for a general education student. Intervention plans are student focused and/or system-focused using the strengths perspective. Student-focused interventions include casework, group work and referral services for students and their families, with the goal of maximizing school success. One obstacle that may arise is that some of the information shared by the student while receiving services may be information protected by privacy and confidentiality laws. School social workers must protect student privacy and confidentiality, but must also understand that information pertinent to a student’s educational needs may be shared with other educational staff in the school. School personnel may recommend school social work services when students are exhibiting internalized or externalized behavior difficulties or social maladjustment, or demonstrating behaviors that indicate academic, psychological or social difficulty. Systems-focused interventions are provided in the environments in which the student is functioning and that are affecting his or her life. Such system-level intervention is typically directed toward the whole classroom, whole school, community level or a subgroup within the larger systems.



School social workers are part of the education team and engage in collaborative activities addressing student needs. As professionals specifically trained in interpersonal relationships, school social workers effectively function in a collaborative role because they are adept at supporting and recognizing the strengths and skills of other professionals. School social workers value the role that other team members, including the student’s family, can and must play to ensure successful outcomes.

School social workers use their skills in the collaboration process with staff, students and their families, and community providers. In collaborating with staff, school social workers share their skills and incorporate the skills of others in helping a student. Optimally, each team member is fully supported and respected, while the intervention plan is carried through by all members, each according to his or her assigned role. While team members might not agree on the best way to intervene, school social workers use their consensus-building skills to help the team work toward a common goal.

With their knowledge of family dynamics, school social workers engage the student and the family in the collaborative process. Using their eco-systemic focus, school social workers help other team members understand family situations and dynamics and treat the family as equal partners in developing educational plans and interventions. Having built a trusting relationship with families, school social workers are able to interpret the school policies and procedures for families so that families can communicate with school staff more effectively. The school social worker also brings an understanding and a respect for families’ culture, and these dispositions enable families and school staff to better understand and respect each other’s perspectives.

The school social worker is also highly qualified to collaborate with community resource professionals. The school social worker’s systems skills make outside professionals a part of the child success team by incorporating their assessments in planning for the student’s needs. Following the guidelines delineated within FERPA, the school social worker shares with the outside professionals the student’s functioning in school and assists him or her in understanding the school’s policies and procedures. Before sharing any information concerning student functioning, a release of information should be obtained from the parents to allow this communication.



School social workers provide education, guidance and assistance to other school staff, families and community agency staff. “Consultation has evolved into one of the most significant forms of intervention in school social work practice,” (Constable, et al., 2006). Friend and Cooke (2002) describe consultation as “a strategy in which a teacher requests another professional to assist in problem solving concerning specific student needs.” They further point out that “consultation might be used in a segregated school or a mainstreaming program, or to support students who are fully included and receive all services in the general education classroom.” Because school social workers have training and expertise in child behavior and behavior plans, family dynamics, mental health, multiculturalism, and micro- and macro-systems, they can provide school staff, families and community resource providers with the necessary consultation to arrive at a solution.

Since the school social worker is skilled in understanding and assessing the student’s school and home environment, he or she can tailor the style of consultation most likely to ensure success. Friend and Cooke delineate three styles of consultation: directive; collaborative and nondirective; and supportive or empathic (Friend and Cooke, 2002). The school social worker is sensitive to others’ perspectives as they consult with staff, families and outside professionals. As they consult, school social workers share in a collaborative way those skills and knowledge that can improve student progress. For example, when a teacher needs different strategies to manage a child’s behavior, the school social worker can help develop a behavior plan better suited to the student in light of his or her strengths, individual needs and family background (directive consultation). At other times, a teacher or parent may need support to implement an existing plan, build capacity and develop confidence in their efforts (supportive/empathic consultation).



School social workers advocate for their students and the mission of their school and district. Consistent with the overarching mission of social work, school social workers advocate for individual students whose needs are not being met in the school setting. Advocacy may be client-specific or system focused. Advocacy skills are vital to optimal professional outcomes for social workers and their clients. To effect system change to better meet the needs of the student, social workers need to understand and master organizational theory and concomitant practice strategies. As Carel Germain says, “political skills of influencing are needed, including persuasion, bargaining, mediation, negotiation and conflict resolution. Knowledge of a specialized kind is required in order to understand and to utilize the formal and informal systems within the school, its seats of power and decision making, channels of communication, its norms, customs, rules and policies” (Gitterman and Germain, 2002). Although this source addresses students with IEPs, it nonetheless offers solid practices that can be generalized to all students.


Linkages to Community

School social workers develop strong linkages with community agencies and staff. School social workers will be unable to address every emotional, developmental, psychological and behavioral need of the student body. Treatment dynamic and characteristics will necessitate collaboration with external social service agencies to meet all of the needs present within the student body. While obstacles exist, including the cost of services, waiting lists, and regional limitations for available resources, school social workers should develop, in consultation with the school and district administrations, memoranda of understanding (MOU) that help to clarify the means by which schools can facilitate referral for students to receive services through external agencies. The following link contains a sample template of what may be included in an MOU: MOU sample template (Word).

MOUs should be developed within the guidelines developed for both FERPA and HIPAA. They should include policies and procedures for referral; releases of information allowing disclosure of information between the school and the external agency; accelerated access to services when possible; and participation of external agency staff in student assistance or planning and placement teams addressing the student’s education and care plan. If there is a cost to the school, a memorandum of agreement (MOA) that describes costs, billing and payment schedules should be used instead. Special care should be taken for maintenance of records and associated referral information so that the student’s privacy is safeguarded and that personal health information is not stored with educational records.

Schools in general and school social workers in particular should maintain updated listings of local social service, child guidance and community health agencies that include information about costs, hours of operation, emergency access and treatment modalities. These listings can be made available to parents, as well as other school staff. School social workers should keep, at minimum, aggregated records of referrals, agency access (e.g., how long the student and his or her family had to wait to receive services), disaggregated and anonymous student data reflecting outcomes and other indicators that may assist schools in anticipating student need trends (e.g., an increase in students needing assistance to manage anxiety as the end of the school term draws near).

In Connecticut, a number of community agencies may contribute to the supports for students and their families who may benefit from targeted interventions. These agencies and their programs include:

  1. Youth Service Bureaus (YSBs) serve every community in Connecticut and have staff trained in providing extended learning opportunities and positive youth development supports to students with behavioral issues. A listing of the 100-plus Connecticut YSBs and their coverage areas can be found at
  2. System of Care is a consortium of the Department of Children and Families’ funded child guidance and family service clinics that provides psychological counseling for mental health issues. The clinics have the capacity to address more complex psychiatric issues with the support of medical staff. The Department of Children and Families maintains a listing of agencies participating in the System of Care, along with their respective service areas.
  3. Local Regional Action Councils or Local Prevention Councils have programs or activities available to assist schools and their students. These programs are funded through the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and serve every community in the state. The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services maintains a listing of Local Prevention Councils.
  4. Connecticut Infoline is a United Way program that provides referral, contact information and is an excellent source for finding answers to specific needs. Infolinecan be contacted on the Internet or by telephone by dialing 211.
  5. Connecticut Clearinghouse located at Wheeler Clinic in Plainville and supported through funding provided by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services has an excellent library of training and program resources available for loan. The available resources provide information about prevention and intervention strategies to address problems that children, youth and families face in confronting substance use and abuse, depression and suicide, and developing resiliency, among others. The clearinghouse can be contacted through or at 800-232-4424.