1. What do School Social Workers do?
School Social Workers are employed by the Toronto District School Board. We work closely with parent/guardian(s), children, teachers and other professionals to help each child make the most of their school experience. This is done through a variety of means including counselling, linking families with community resources, and planning with school staff on how best to meet a child's social/emotional needs.
2. What kind of reports do School Social Workers write concerning a child?
We write a brief summary of our involvement and make recommendations regarding ways to help the child at school, now and in the future.
3. Who has access to these reports?
Generally, parent/guardian(s) have the right to control who has access to social work reports. Aside from school professionals working with the child, no one has access to these reports without written parental/guardian permission.
4. What are your guidelines concerning confidentiality?
Information given to school social workers either verbally or in writing is kept confidential, unless a parent/guardian explicitly requests that such information be shared with school personnel or others. When a child meets with a School Social Worker, he or she is assured that the conversation will remain private, within certain boundaries, listed below.
5. Are there specific limits to what information can be kept private or confidential?
Yes. Both legally, and ethically, there are limits to confidentiality. When students reveal information that puts either themselves or others at risk, we are obliged to consult with appropriate adults to discuss a plan of action to ensure their safety and well-being.
6. Will a School Social Worker be talking to parent/guardian(s) about their child's needs?
Yes. We feel that parent/guardian(s) are usually in the best position to help us understand what their child is experiencing. We therefore routinely contact parent/guardian(s) to get their perception of their child's needs.
7. Will a School Social Worker be talking to a child's teacher or other school staff regarding his or her situation?
We try to get a complete picture of how a child is functioning by speaking to people at school who know the child best. These conversations will not include confidential information without parental/guardian permission.
8. If they prefer, is there somewhere parent/guardian(s) can go for assistance with their child's difficulties away from the school environment?
Where parent/guardian(s) wish to go for help is entirely their decision. We can assist parent/guardian(s) in this regard by providing information on counselling services in the community.
9. Where do School Social Workers meet with parent/guardian(s)/children?
Schools provide counselling rooms that are available for the use of School Social Workers. We are also available to meet families and children in other locations upon request.
10. Will a child be "labelled" by being referred to a School Social Worker?
By the time a decision is made to suggest a school social work referral, the child is usually experiencing difficulty that is interfering with his or her learning. School Social Workers take a "solution-focused," positive approach to problems, helping both the student and school staff see the strengths and potential of the student.
11. What role do School Social Workers play in dealing with crises that occur in schools?
School Social Workers assume a lead role on the Crisis Response team available in each school. These teams are available to help school staff and students deal with a crisis or tragic event in a compassionate, sensitive manner.
12. How do parent/guardian(s) access service from a School Social Worker?
Most often, school personnel will contact a parent to discuss how a School Social Worker can be of assistance to the child. A written referral form, with signed permission by the parent for school social work involvement is then forwarded to the worker assigned to the child's school. The School Social Worker will then contact the parent when available to discuss the child's situation. This process may take a few weeks or more, but can be speeded up if the situation is urgent.
13. What is the law with respect to school attendance?
All children under the age of 18 and of normal school age must be in regular school attendance.
14. Whose responsibility is it to enforce school attendance?
This is a joint responsibility of the student's parents/guardians, the school and either the attendance counsellor or school social worker. For more details on the attendance protocol click here.
15. How can a parent/guardian find out the name and telephone number of the school social worker or attendance counsellor assigned to their child's school?
A parent/guardian can either ask the School Principal at their child's school, or phone the area offices: North East 416-396-3401, South East 416-396-7561, South West 416 394-3963, or North West 416-394-7416, to obtain that information. Parents are welcome, of course, to discuss their child's situation with the School Social Worker before deciding on giving consent for social work involvement.