School social workers certified to handle students’ needs

Published 11:00 am Friday, December 5, 2014

Social work in the public school system involves more than just the issues that make news elsewhere, such as teen pregnancy and single parent households.

In the Vicksburg Warren School District, it can mean helping parents of children find needed medical supplies and adequate medical care.

“We work with students from all walks of life,” school social worker Krista Guynes told the Vicksburg Lions Club on Wednesday. “We don’t just work with those stigmatized as poor students or needy students.”

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Guynes is one of four social workers in the district and handles cases for both Vicksburg and Warren Central high schools as well as Beechwood Elementary. She’s one of a handful in Mississippi who’s certified nationally with the National Association of Social Workers.

“In Mississippi, there are six nationally certified social workers,” Guynes said, also adding the state has about 150 social workers in the public schools — nearly equal to the number of districts, 151. “Our district has two, so we have a third of the nationally certified social workers in the state. We’re pretty proud of that here.”

Social workers in the district follow the biopsychosocial model of dealing with teen pregnancy, health-related issues, disruptive behaviors, substance abuse and various other cases that cross over into mental health, Guynes said. The generalized approach to illness and healing has its roots in clinical psychiatry. It states emotions and socioeconomic factors play large roles in disease or illness.

“I don’t provide specific therapy to students, but we receive referrals from administrators, teachers and counselors,” she said.

Some cases have delved deeply into medical issues, including students who’ve turned up with serious hearing or vision problems. Guynes said she’s helped 24 students get hearing aids in her 12 years with the district and has helped place a student in the state’s school for the blind in Jackson.

“It’s being there with a mother to help fill out paperwork, riding the tail of state agencies we have to deal with … that’s how school social workers do their thing,” she said.

Guynes said it remains to be seen how the Common Core standards, currently in place in the state’s public schools and under fire from politicians, will affect social work.

“It’s going to be a change,” she said. “It already has been. There’s not going to be a lot of time for teachers to look at what’s going on at home — that’s our job.”