Pivoting during a Pandemic: School Social Work Practice with Families during COVID-19

Ashley Marie H. Daftary, Erin P. Sugrue, Brian D. Gustman, Stephanie Lechuga-Peña

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 global pandemic led to the unprecedented shuttering of nearly all K-12 public education settings across the United States from March through June 2020. This article explores how school social workers' roles, responsibilities, and work tasks shifted during spring 2020 distance learning to address the continuing and changing needs of families and the larger school community. Interviews were conducted with 20 school social workers in K-12 public schools, across three states, to understand the primary needs of children and families during the pandemic and to learn how school social workers can be most effective in responding to these needs. The data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach. Study findings revealed that during spring 2020, school social workers consistently had increased contact and interaction with students' parents that centered around two major activities: (1) food assistance and referrals for families and (2) parent check-ins and coaching. The article discusses implications for the field of school social work during crises and beyond. Considerations include increased funding for schools that serve communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic and the reprioritization of school social workers' roles and responsibilities to include increased contact with parents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-78
Number of pages8
JournalChildren and Schools
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021


  • COVID-19
  • K-12 education
  • parent engagement
  • school social work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Education


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