More than 20 social workers will be placed in School District of Philadelphia schools for the 2017-18 school year.
The social workers will help identify the needs of youth and families, help navigate involvement in social support systems, and provide referrals for behavioral health evaluation and treatment opportunities at 21 district schools and one charter.
“We have quite a few children in crises,” said Tangela McClam, principal of Lewis C. Cassidy Academics Plus School in West Philadelphia. “The cycle for which children are in crises and how they receive care is broken in various places.”
The schools chosen include some that are part of the Mayor’s Office of Education Community Schools and those within the West Philadelphia Promise Neighborhood Schools.
The cost of the initiative is approximately $1.2 million and is a partnership between the SDP, the City and the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) /Community Behavioral Health named the STEP Project.
In in the initial year of the program, the DBHIDS/Community Behavioral Health will fund the community schools and district identified schools using reinvestment dollars. Drexel University, which leads the West Philadelphia Promise Neighborhood Grant, will provide funding for the Promise Neighborhood Schools.
Mayor Jim Kenney said he meets with school principals monthly who relay concerns to him on how children can better learn.
“From several of those meetings, what I’ve heard over and over is that our children are struggling, not just academically, but struggling with behavioral issues as well,” he said. “Our teachers and school staff have asked for helping in meeting those needs.”
The program provides much-needed help, Kenney said. In the later phases of the program, social workers will be joined by a school behavior consultant, case manager and family peer specialists will be added to the pilot schools.
“Keeping our children out of crises is the most important thing that we can do and sometimes you cannot educate a child who is in crises or is experiencing trauma,” said School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Dr. William R. Hite. “This gives us the ability to do and provide support.”
In addition to Lewis Cassidy, the other schools included: William Cramp Elementary, Franklin S. Edmonds, Lewis Elkin Elementary, Frankford High School, Edward Gideon, Alain Locke, James Logan Elementary, Moron McMichael, General George C. Meade, Penrose School, Samuel Powel Elementary, Science Leadership Academy Middle School, Philip Sheridan Elementary, South Philadelphia High School, Southwark School, Allen M. Stearne, Edward T. Steel, William Tilden Middle, Martha Washington, West Philadelphia High School and Belmont Charter School.
“The purpose is to look at those who are at risk for behavioral challenges and to help those in need,” said David T. Jones, the commissioner for DBHIDS. “We are looking forward to this roll out coming this academic year.”