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On the Front Lines: School Social Workers
On the Front Lines: School Social Workers
Posted on 04/01/2020
School social workers are always on the front line of meeting student and family needs.Story and Photos By: Benjamin Rickert, BCS Communications

Angie Brock loads her car with supplies at Trinity of Fairview church.School social workers are always on the front line of meeting student and family needs. This has been particularly true as our community and world struggle to gain the upper hand in the fight against coronavirus. Each day, 27 tireless Buncombe County Schools social workers travel throughout our neighborhoods, forming links between those families in need of assistance and those able to assist.

“First, we help families to get their basic needs met, and then we assist with getting students what they need for learning,” said Angie Brock, School Social Worker at Fairview and Haw Creek elementary schools. “This is an especially difficult time and we’re working to bring them the supports they’ll need to get through it.”

On Wednesday morning, Brock was hard at work calling families and local community partners from her shared office in Fairview. She spent the day gathering and sorting donations from nonprofits and churches. In the morning, she sorted a tall pile of supplies from Angels of Fairview. Later, she travelled to Trinity of Fairview church’s supply closet to pick up food and items contributed by Manna Foodbank and Walmart. Trinity volunteer Yvonne Rutherford helped Brock load bags into her vehicle, then she personally delivered them to area homes.

Social distancing requires leaving food box deliveries outside the door.“We will look back on this and forever remember all of the kindness, encouragement, and support people have provided during this time,” she said.

Brock explained that it is a group effort to identify and respond to student needs. Families can always call her or the school to explain their situation, she said, but often it is a teacher or staff member who recognizes when a student needs help to succeed. For example, a transportation or health need might prevent a family from obtaining food or learning items from their school. A student may need assistance with internet connectivity while schools operate virtually. Whatever the need, BCS social workers collaborate to assess each unique situation and find the best solution.

“As we practice social distancing to prevent the spread of this virus, we are meeting with families safely outside their homes and at meal sites to assess for needs, answer questions, provide information, and provide emotional support,” Brock added. "We're also having a lot of these conversations on the phone or online through Zoom video meetings."

In addition to localized support, the BCS Family Resource Center now provides food and supplies to families countywide. This center provides a central location for community members to donate and a place for school social workers to organize their activities.

Brock said that when a family’s needs exceed the resources she can arrange, she refers families to call 2-1-1 or visit nc211.org. The 2-1-1 help line is maintained by the United Way of North Carolina and provides additional options for families experiencing hardships like loss of housing or financial emergencies, as well as expanded access to food pantries.

Volunteer Yvonne Rutherford stands inside Trinity of Fairview's food closet."My experience over the past couple of weeks has been that families need food, supplies, baby formula, diapers, and assistance with an internet connection," said Brock.

During a recent Buncombe County Government COVID-19 press conference, BCS Director of Student Services David Thompson highlighted the importance of promoting mental health during this crisis.

“BCS Counselors and social workers are providing telephone or video counseling to any student who needs that support. They are also posting social-emotional skill lessons and strategies that students and parents can use to help them better respond to the stress,” he said. “The skills we teach support the ability to be resilient or be able to bounce back from stressful and difficult experiences.”

Thompson encouraged families to reach out and share their challenges as everyone adjusts to this new and temporary setting.

“Please don’t be afraid to reach out - even if you don’t know exactly what to ask - we are in this together,” Thompson said.

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Visit Response.BuncombeSchools.org website for up-to-date COVID-19 school information such as meal locations, Virtual Days online classes, coronavirus prevention, and other resources.

Do you have a neighbor, friend, family member that are unable to get to our meal sites or bus locations due to lack of transportation? Do you need extra help with food boxes, school supplies, hygiene supplies, diapers, wipes, or laundry detergent, due to financial hardship? Please call our BCS Family Resource Center at 828-225-4768 to ask for assistance, between the hours of 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Learn more about our Family Resource Center in this recent Top Story.

    Buncombe County Schools is in the process of reviewing its website to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buncombe County Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs or activities and is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and federal regulations to not discriminate in such a manner. This requirement extends to admission and employment. Inquiries about the application of Title IX and its implementing federal regulations may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator and/or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The Title IX Coordinator's contact information is: Shanon Martin, shanon.martin@bcsemail.org, 828-255-5918, 175 Bingham Road, Asheville, NC 28806.

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