Ad Spot

Social workers address needs of BCS students, families

Starr Odom’s first year as a social worker with Beaufort County Schools has been anything but ordinary.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Odom and social work team members Laurel Miller and Belinda Cowell have had to take unusual measures to safely interact with students and families.

“It’s a lot of phone calls and standing out in their front yard, trying to talk with them that way, just so we can be as spaced out as possible,” Odom said.

Those methods are necessary but not always ideal.

“The biggest advantage to school social workers going to see families is being able to go and sit down in their living room and get comfortable with them,” said Miller, the school system’s mental health coordinator. “And then we’re able to talk with them about what’s going on.  Most of the time we can get a lot of good information that way, and it’s just not the same when you’re talking to people on their front porch.”

Home visits and check-ins represent a small portion of what school social workers do. They help students find resources and work through a wide range of issues. Sometimes they’re helping a family get internet access or find gadgets they need for remote learning. In other cases, they’re helping make arrangements with counselors or therapists for students who need those services. Through Bright Futures of Beaufort County and other partners, the social workers help families find things they need to help their children succeed — everything from school supplies to beds to appliances.

There are also long-term issues they deal with as well, such as helping families find utility bill assistance or finding solutions for truancy cases.

As of Thursday, approximately 150 students across the district’s 14 schools were actively receiving social work services.  To date, the social work team has dealt with about 330 cases throughout the 2020-21 school year.

MENTAL HEALTH
The social work team has seen an increase in mental health referrals stemming from the pandemic.

“We see a lot of kids now that, without the contact of their school family, they are struggling with issues of depression,” Miller said.

“We’ve seen more kids just become disengaged from education,” Cowell added. “A lot of kids need that one-on-one, that chance to connect with a teacher or a peer or whoever and they’re home alone or they’re home with their siblings. … It’s definitely taking a toll.”

Many students in the district have adapted well to remote learning, but others have not.  The social workers decide what services students need on a case-by-case basis.

“One thing I’ll say is if a child has a good relationship with their school, they can have that virtually (as well), Miller said. “I see teachers all the time who are doing a great job of checking on kids, who are connecting with them, even though it is just over a computer.”

COMMUNITY SUPPORT

The school system’s social workers say support from the community has been particularly crucial during the pandemic.

A lot of support continues to flow in through the local chapter of Bright Futures, which is a partnership between the school system and the Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce.

“A big part of our job is communication with outside agencies, and this year has been awesome — a lot of the community has stepped up and helped us in ways that we really needed,” Odom said.

“We couldn’t do what we do without the support of the community,” Miller said. “There’s no way we can meet all these needs if the people of Beaufort County weren’t so great about donating to us and supporting us.”

The social workers say meeting those needs is what makes the hard days worth it.

“You can see those little successes,” Cowell said, “and that’s what keeps you going.”

Beaufort County

School board to vote Thursday night on SRO contract

Coronavirus

Cooper plans to lift gathering, distancing limits by June 1

News

Outgoing Coast Guard station chief receives award

News

Ex-House finance chair defends actions over NC tax bill

News

National Weather Service to offer virtual weather spotter training

Pamlico Life

Underground Railroad hosts birthday celebration for Civil Rights pioneer

Beaufort County

County changes frequency of COVID-19 reports; metrics still updated daily

Beaufort County

Economic development projects involve investments, job creation at airport

News

Ex-cop guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd case

Hyde County

Ferry to resume normal schedule April 21

Beaufort County

Virtual fire safety course available through the Red Cross

History

History for Lunch to feature local author

Health

Health Department to conduct survey

Hyde County

Swan Quarter VFD to hold fundraiser

Arts

Art gallery welcomes new potter

News

ReLeaf Washington wraps up planting season

Coronavirus

Monroe Walgreens pharmacy distributes saline, not vaccine, to 22

Beaufort County

Board of Elections seeks new voting equipment

Beaufort County

WWII hero laid to rest

Beaufort County

Pamlico Sail & Power Squadron holds annual meeting, elects officers

Community Columns

Health Beat: A record-setting year for saving lives

Belhaven

Town manager completes LGFCU course

Agriculture

Annual 4-H show announces winners

Beaufort County

COVID-19 update: Beaufort County’s vaccination rate now 38%