School Social Work Services

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School social work services are designed to address social, emotional, economic, and environmental barriers that may interfere with a student’s academic success. Through early identification, prevention, and intervention services, school social workers support the whole student -- his or her needs at home, in school, and in the community.

Roles and Responsibilities

School social workers are an integral part of the school community. As such, they may serve as the link between the home, school and community. Additionally, school social workers serve as advocates, liaisons, coordinators, case managers, counselors, and consultants for students, parents, school staff and community agency personnel. Schools can employ school social workers in a variety of ways; therefore, these practitioners must be flexible, creative and able to demonstrate competencies in a wide range of areas. The role and responsibilities of each school social worker will be influenced and impacted by both the expectations of the local school division, the community needs, as well as the personal competencies and preferences of the individual professional.

School social workers are trained mental health professionals who provide direct as well as indirect services to students, families, and school personnel. Some of the responsibilities and scope of services are described below.

Services to Students

  • Participate in special education and 504 evaluation teams, including preparing social or developmental history for a child with a disability and delivering counseling as a related service identified in Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).
  • Provide crisis interventions, including depression/suicide screening and interventions, abuse and neglect reporting, and alcohol and substance abuse screening and interventions.
  • Provide individual and group counseling to help children develop appropriate social emotional skills, understand and accept self and others, learn conflict resolution and anger management skills, coping with stressor, and address mental health or behavioral issues.
  • Advocate for equitable student access to school- and community-based services and instructions to address issues such as teen pregnancy and parenting, medical or mental health issues, chronic absenteeism, substance abuse, etc.

Services to Families

  • Facilitate school-based services and instructions through activities such as parent conferences and home visits.
  • Provide family education, counseling, and support in areas such as child development, child mental and behavioral health, and special education processes.
  • Provide advocacy and linkage to community-based services and resources to meet basic needs, meet medical or mental health needs, or access programs for children with special needs.
  • Coordinate and manage multi-agency services such as Children’s Services Act (CSA) meetings, Best Interest Determination Meetings, or treatment team meetings with Department of Social Services or mental health providers.

Services to School Personnel and Division

  • Participate in division and school-based Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports (VTSS) teams to address school-related concerns such as mental and behavioral health and attendance, including assisting with functional behavior assessments (FBA) for students.
  • Provide consultation and support to school personnel, including developing and delivering professional development for school personnel on topics such as child abuse and neglect, children’s mental and behavioral health, trauma-informed practices, etc.
  • Assist in development of programs, resources, and policies to support specific populations such as English Language Learners, LGBTQ students, homeless or unaccompanied youth, pregnant and teen parents, and students in foster care.
  • Assist in the development of programs, resources, and policies to support initiatives relating to safe and supportive school climates, harassment and bullying prevention, positive and preventative student conduct, human trafficking, etc.

Training & Licensure

School social work is a specialized area of practice within the broad field of the social work profession. Per Virginia regulations (8VAC20-23-700), school social workers must have a master’s of social work degree and must obtain a Virginia Board of Education (VDOE) Pupil Personnel Services License with an endorsement in School Social Work to practice in Virginia  public schools.

The VDOE Licensure webpage includes information about how to apply for a license. For specific questions about obtaining a license in Virginia, please contact the VDOE’s licensing office at 804-225-2022 or via email at

Professional Standards

School social workers are trained to use a wide range of evidence-based, professional strategies to enhance how students learn, as well as, ensure that students are physically and mentally ready to learn in the classroom. The School Social Work Association of America officially adopted the National School Social Work Practice Model (PDF) for the delivery of school social work services. This model provides a general framework and identifies the skills and services that can be expected from school social workers. Additional information regarding standards that define the scope of school social work services can also be found at NASW's Standards for School Social Work Services.

In addition to following school division policies and regulations, school social workers are guided by professional ethics, including the NASW Code of Ethics and the supplemental SSWAA Ethical Guidelines for School Social Work.


Professional Organizations

Information for School Social Work Practice