UK, FCPS Partnership to Help School Social Workers Address Unique Challenges

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This article was originally published by UKNow.

From social withdrawal to aggressive behaviors, school social workers are often called upon to help students, families and teachers address unique challenges.

They strive to strengthen students’ academic progress by removing barriers to learning and meeting basic physical and emotional needs. And now, more than ever, there is an increased need for school social workers to help prevent violence and support students in moments of crisis.

A new partnership between the University of Kentucky and Fayette County Public Schools (FCPS) will work to meet that need.

This summer, the College of Social Work (CoSW), in collaboration with UK Online and the College of Education, will offer a fully online program to help a cohort of FCPS social workers become certified School Social Workers.

“We are truly grateful to the University of Kentucky and Dean Jay Miller for providing this amazing opportunity that opens a path for our team members to obtain their certification in school social work,” Demetrus Liggins, Ph.D., FCPS superintendent, said. “As part of our commitment to serving the whole child, Fayette County Public Schools is actively seeking to build the number of employees who hold this endorsement.”

A new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) study, published in the American Medical Association’s journal JAMA Pediatrics, reports significant increases in the number of children diagnosed with mental health conditions.

The study, conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), finds from 2016-2020, the number of children ages 3-17 years diagnosed with anxiety grew by 29%, and those with depression grew by 27%. The findings also suggest troubling changes in child and family well-being after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The results also highlight that a sense of being cared for and supported at school — called “school connectedness” — had an important effect on students during a time of severe disruption.

The School Social Work Certificate focuses on a specialized field of practice designed to prepare social workers to better respond to the distinctive behavioral and mental health needs of elementary, middle and high school students. The graduate level program also meets the Kentucky mandated requirements for school social work certification.

“We are delighted to be able to engage with UK Online, the College of Education and FCPS to make this certification more accessible to practitioners working in our schools,” Jay Miller, Ph.D., dean of the College of Social Work, said. “Given the needs of students and families across Fayette County, I find solace in Dr. Liggins’ and Dean Julian Vasquez Heilig’s commitment to developing our education professionals in a way that is meaningful and impactful.”

“Partnering with the college is the cornerstone of our ‘grow your own’ program to advance the profession and expand the number of individuals in our district helping sustain a supportive, caring and nurturing learning environment where our students can thrive,” Liggins added.  

This online certification builds upon the COSW’s LifeLong Learning (L3) Initiative.  

Whether you’re in pursuit of an academic degree, in need of credentials for professional advancements or simply want to stimulate your intellectual curiosity, the university offers an array of learning experiences to meet students where they are.

Additionally, the initiative is strategically designed to be responsive to contemporary workforce demands. Through an array of online, virtual, hybrid and face-to-face offerings, the initiative helps to build the knowledge, skills and values necessary for personal and professional growth.  

Online education master’s programs in the College of Education are ranked No. 14 in the nation and No. 1 in Kentucky, excelling in student-instructor access, graduation rates and instructor credentials, among other key indicators of program quality. The college’s Professional Learning Series offers digital badges, as well as continuing education credit. And the college’s Center for Next Generation Leadership creates opportunities for students, teachers, leaders and communities committed to upgrading educational systems to reimagine the learner experience of every student.

“When employees reach a high level of professional competence and are fulfilled in their roles, they are more likely to stay in their careers long-term and leave a legacy,” Julian Vasquez Heilig, Ph.D., dean of the College of Education, said. “We are glad to work with partners across the university to help meet the educational needs of school professionals so they can be successful and make a difference.” 

You can learn more about the College of Social Work here, the College of Education here or UK Online here.

For over 85 years, the College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky has been a leader in education. Our mission is clear: Through rigorous research, excellence in instruction, and steadfast service, the CoSW works to improve the human condition. Always, in all ways.

As the state’s flagship university, our mission is actualized through our deeds. Our faculty are renowned academicians dedicated to fostering the development of high-quality practitioners and researchers. As a college, we promote community and individual well-being through translational research and scholarship, exemplary teaching, and vital community engagement. We are committed to the people and social institutions throughout Kentucky, the nation, and the world.