As a first-year school social worker, tracking all the documentation and different types of meetings can feel overwhelming. This “one-stop-shop” school social worker toolkit creates a central location for all information and helps to make life easier for new and experienced social workers alike!
What is a School Social Worker Toolkit?
There are two types of school social worker toolkits- one for documentation and “behind the scenes” school social work tools, and one for individual/ group lesson plans or resources to use while meeting with a student.
In this post, we will be discussing the “behind the scenes” version. Check out my Teachers Pay Teachers site soon for a toolkit with resources to use with kids!
Format for a School Social Worker Toolkit
The first important step is to figure out how you will want to organize all of your information. The easiest format for me is Google Drive and I just started a blank Google Document. You could also create a folder on your desktop and save everything in the folder.
Whichever format you chose, here are some important considerations:
- Hyperlinks: you will want a format that allows you to click on hyperlinks to easily get to district sites or electronic forms
- Single document versus multiple documents: for me, it’s easier to have a single “parent” document that links to several other documents. This helps for a search function, as well as having all the information in a singular place
- Hierarchy of information: A lot of the information I needed are processes that happen in a certain order or information on an umbrella topic with information under that umbrella. For this reason, I didn’t chose to go with a Google Spreadsheet.
- Information sharing: Considering who you will be sharing this information can help you decide what type of organization you’ll want. Sharing with my admin, any interns I have or other special service providers was important to me, and most of these people were already familiar with Google Docs.
Section 1: Important Links
I prefer to put all my “important links” or more general information at the top of my document. When I open the document, I have all the links right away. I may also link information again later on in my document but having it right away is nice.
This is also a great place to put any information that doesn’t “fit” into any of your other categories. In my important links section, I put any guidance documents from the district or national information about best practices in this section.
Here are some examples of resources I have linked to in this section:
- Guidance around homelessness and special education
- Disability categories and information from CDE
- Our school’s PBIS manual
- District-specific guidance pages around special education and mental health services
Section 2: Meeting Types and Information
When I originally started this document, it was an attempt to note what I should bring to each meeting. The first rendition was even called, “Bring Things.” As it evolved, it became more of a place for me to document all of the information I was learning as a first year school social worker.
The information I include in this section is about some of the meetings I attend regularly and that I’ve needed a “landing page” for information.
I use a subcategory for each of the following meeting types.
Special Education Meetings
In this section of my procedures document, I get pretty specific about the steps for evaluations. I outline who I will need to contact and what information I will need to request from them.
Depending on your specific role, school, district or state, you may be involved in a myriad of special education meetings. Here are some of the most frequent special education meetings.
Social workers are often part of a multi-disciplinary team that participates in an initial evaluation for special education. For more information on the social worker’s role in initial evaluations, check out this post.
I have two hyperlinks in this section- one for assessment templates and one for various social history questionnaires I can select from. I also document how to request copies of assessments or gain electronic access.
In Colorado, social workers are often charged with monitoring social emotional goals. I use a rubric, and in this section I put example goals, progress monitoring tools and any other tips that help me keep on top of monitoring goals.
Here are some of my top considerations when I am writing IEP goals.
Re-evaluation and Other Special Education Meetings
As I mentioned, the social worker’s role may vary even from school to school. For me, every time I moved schools I needed to update this section especially.
In this section, I listed out all of my procedures and timelines for the following types of meetings:
- Initial evaluations or re-evaluations
- Manifestation Determinations
- Change of placement meetings
- Transition meetings
I also have hyperlinks in this section for various forms or databases I use. This is a great toolkit for all things FBA and BIP that I refer to often.
General Education or Other Meetings
Similarly to the special education meetings and forms, there are several different meetings that social workers may be involved in for students who are not in special education.
A previous school I was in required that we send out an e-mail before a student returned from suspension or hospitalization. I had the templates ready to go in this section so I could easily copy, paste and personalize.
WISE Tip: If you are using e-mail templates, make sure to highlight names/ pronouns to be changed! For longer texts, the “find and replace” function is a great tool to make sure you don’t miss anything.
In my current role, I’m not required to attend most 504 meetings or threat assessments, however, I have general information about who to contact and how I’ve participated in the past with both types of meetings.
This also the place in my school social worker toolkit where I note any helpful tips/ tools about restorative conversations/ practices.
Section 3: Professional Development
Social workers wear many hats, and attending or coordinating “adult” meetings to advocate for students is one of those hats.
Here are some of the professional meetings I attend, which I outline in this section of my social worker toolkit:
- Dean (or admin) & mental health meetings
- Attendance team meetings
- Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) meetings
- Equity team meetings
- Mental health team or subcommittee meetings
- Social committee/ scheduling committee- or other special committees I participate in
Section 4: Documentation
In this section I will include district/ school specific information about how to document my day-to-day work. Some examples of procedures I outline here are:
- Suicide/ self-harm risk assessments
- Child Protective Services reports
- District Medicaid reimbursement
- Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI)- i.e. holds/ seclusion procedures
- How to access my caseload of students on IEPs
Section 5: E-mail Templates
Similar to section 2, this section is where all my e-mail templates are stored. As I mentioned, we were required to send an e-mail after students returned from an extended absence. I also have e-mail templates for IEP evaluation requests and for students who have “pressure passes”.
It’s important to include who to send these e-mails to in this section, as the goal of the document is to make life as easy as possible.
Section 6: Contact Lists
The last section of my procedures document is dedicated to any people or groups I frequently contact. For me, these lists include:
- Building level contacts
- District contacts
- Other mental health contact lists
- Technology help
Putting Together the School Social Worker Toolkit
However you chose to organize the information- and there is no doubt a lot of information!- the ultimate goal of a school social worker toolkit is that it makes life easier. Personalizing the toolkit and making it work for your needs is the most important part!
Having a single place to search for what you need is handy in the busy lives of school social workers!