School social workers: the silent warriors of the school system

Updated: Apr 9, 2019

March 26, 2019 - School social workers are the silent warriors of the school system – they work behind-the-scenes to assist families who need support with adequate housing, clothing, food and other non-academic needs, so students can be academically successful.

Team Duval News recently sat down with several school social workers and the supervisor of School Student Services, Laura Chiarello, to talk about the role they play in the school system.

Q: How many school social workers are available?

A: There are 28 school social workers spread across Duval County Schools. Each social worker may work at up to six different schools. In addition, we have school social workers in all alternative schools, homeless centers and foster care centers.

Q: What does a school social worker do?

A: Upon referral from a student’s school, school social workers can assist students and families with the following services:

  • Completing a “social history.” School social workers work with students and families to develop a portrait of the student’s life, family background and upbringing. This portrait is called a “social history.” Developing a social history is part of the process in getting a student an Individualized Education Plan – a unique academic plan for students who have trouble learning with mainstream tactics.

  • Providing clothing and school supplies. With assistance from community donations, school social workers maintain a clothing and school supplies closet. Our social workers tell us they get requests from their schools for new clothing nearly every week.

  • Conducting attendance checks. If a student has five unexcused absences in a calendar month, or 10 in a 90-day period, school social workers conduct an attendance check on that student and provide solutions to get the student back to school.

  • Responding to crises. School social workers are part of a special crisis-trained team that is dispatched in the event of a traumatic event, such as the passing of a student or staff member.

Q: What is the difference between a school social worker and a school counselor?

A: School counselors are not the same as school social workers, but both provide invaluable support to the student. School counselors provide academic support, while school social workers’ main goal is to help reduce barriers outside the classroom so students can be successful inside the classroom.

Q: How do I contact my school social worker?

A: Talk to your school counselor about meeting your school social worker. Schools will put in a referral to the school social worker if needed.

School social workers are always in need of donations for their clothing closet. If you are interested in donating clothing, school supplies or personal hygiene products, contact Laura Chiarello at

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