Friday, December 23, 2011

Tis the Season of Giving

I love working for Partnership with Children—especially during the holidays.  Each year we host an Annual Holiday Gift Drive and Wrap-A-Thon, and this year is no different!  Starting in early November, we reach out to dozens of companies to participate in our gift drive.  Then in early December, the gifts just keep on coming.  This year we collected over 15,000 gifts!

After the gifts arrive, all of the school’s social workers (including me!) get to “shop” Partnership’s assembled gift store.  We shop for the neediest students we work with as well as their entire families.  It’s a chaotic mess, but so much fun!  Partnership also hosts a 4 day Wrap-A-Thon where board members, junior board members and corporate volunteers come to wrap the piles and piles of gifts!  The gifts are then picked up by us and distributed just before Christmas.

It’s such a warm feeling to know that in addition to our in-school work, we can help our families in so many other ways.  For many families living in poverty, knowing where their next meal is coming from can be a struggle, let alone putting presents under the tree. Many of these families wouldn’t have anything to give to their children during Christmas if it wasn’t for our help. We’re able to provide gifts for those families in need and make their holiday season just a little brighter. It really is the season of giving!

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Watching Success

If you see the same thing happen over and over again, you expect the same thing to continue and it’s easy to assume that it will, rather than having an open mind. Sometimes it’s hard for people to accept change, even when it’s positive.

Last week there was a fight in Ryan’s class. Ryan didn’t start the fight and wasn’t even a participant, but in his efforts to get out of the way he jumped out of his seat quickly and caused a table to hit another student. Ryan’s teacher automatically assumed the table was thrown on purpose. Ryan was reprimanded and sent to the principal’s office for disruptive behavior. Luckily, one of our interns was in the classroom and saw the entire incident happen. She vouched for Ryan’s good behavior and the entire situation being an accident. Ryan’s name was cleared.

What was even more astounding was Ryan’s reaction and maturity in the situation. He knew he did not cause the chair to fall on purpose, yet he was still very concerned for the other student and regretful that she was injured. Ryan has progressed a lot, thanks to Partnership with Children’s help. From a disruptive child who refused to engage with other students, he has now gained empathy and matured and became a respectful, caring young man. It is breakthroughs like this that makes me love being a social worker.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Keeping Everyone in the Loop

At the beginning of the school year, I talked about our process for selecting students.  We work directly with the school administration, teachers and faculty to determine who is most in need and would benefit from our services.  We introduce ourselves to the faculty and staff through a Welcome Breakfast and make sure everyone understands Partnership with Children’s program and how improving student’s social, emotional and behavioral skills can increase academic success and improve classroom productivity.

Let me assure you, our interaction with the school’s staff does not stop there.  We work with teachers and faculty to keep up with how students are functioning when not in their weekly group or individual sessions.  One of the things that make Partnership with Children’s program so successful is that we connect EVERYONE in a student’s life. 

Every month we hold a PPT (Pupil Personnel Team) meeting to evaluate our program.  The PPT is a large group that engages a number of resources beneficial to the students.  I am in the group, along with the principal, the assistant principal, two speech teachers, the after school tutoring coordinator, a family social worker, the school’s social worker and a social worker from an external facility (in case we determine the student or family needs additional counseling beyond our scope of work).  Each month’s agenda consists of specific student cases that need to be addressed.  For instance, even though Partnership is helping Jack focus more in class, he is still struggling with math and might benefit from some after-school tutoring.  Or Megan seems to have trouble in English—maybe a speech screening is in order.

Partnership with Children doesn’t just focus on the emotional well-being of the student—we focus on the WHOLE student.  Sometimes there are other factors that our social workers might not be aware of.  In order to best serve the student, we work with all constituents in his life—teachers, administrators and families.  By integrating ourselves into the student’s life and keeping everyone in the loop, we’re able understand the root of behavioral issues, resolve the problems and help the student succeed personally and academically.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Students Helping Students

Our Boys Group has a great mix of students this year.  Some boys in the group are shy and introverted, while the rest are outgoing and very confident. Participants in the Boys and Girls groups get very close and the students work hard to support each other.  They learn important life skills from one another such as public speaking, confidence, when to speak and when not to interrupt others. Since the Boys Group is all boys, the group also provides a safe space to discuss issues that only they as boys may face in school, at home and in the community.

One of my fourth grade students, Adam, is particularly struggling because he feels conflicted culturally.  His home life is extremely challenging.  He lives with his mother and siblings, but his father has two wives and has chosen to live with the other wife rather than his mother.  While his father is not around all the time, he still makes a point in enforce his rigid culture.  The father is seen as the dominant head of the household, while the mother and children are expected to be submissive and not express their emotions.  For Adam, it’s like having to be two people at once.  He is expected conform to his culture at home, limiting his emotions and actions, but in school he has much more freedom and is encouraged to be more confident and participatory.  As a result, he bottles up all his repressed emotions from his home life and acts out in class by talking out of turn, being disruptive in class and bullying other students.

He was placed in the Boys Group because we felt being surrounded by other male students might impact his behavior in a positive way.  As he embraces his culture at school and how students are “supposed to” act, he will understand the extent and consequences of his actions and be influenced to change.

Next week we’ll be talking about cultural differences and I see this as a way to discuss Adam’s challenges in the group without singling him out.  Other students might have similar struggles and by discussing the issues as a group it reinforces positive change and brings the group closer together.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Thanksgiving Feast

For the second year in a row, we’re working with our local Rotary Club to ensure our students and their families can enjoy a happy (and filling!) Thanksgiving. We’ve submitted 10-15 families to the Club. The Rotary Club will then contact the families to confirm their address and other delivery details. Tomorrow, two days before Thanksgiving, members of the Rotary Club will personally deliver baskets filled with a complete Thanksgiving Dinner!

The basket of food is uncooked, so the families are responsible for preparing their own meals, but dinner and all the trimmings will be there—mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, vegetables and of course, what would Thanksgiving be without a tasty roasting turkey!

The holidays are one of my favorite times of year, but they can be extremely stressful for families living in poverty. With concerns of how they can afford food and clothes on a weekly basis, the extra expenses of holidays only increases the stress. I love how Partnership with Children not only supports students in school, but aids their families as well, especially during the holidays. In just a few weeks we’ll also be distributing toys and gifts to Partnership with Children families across all our schools through our Annual Gift Drive. Regardless of wealth, everyone should be able to enjoy the holidays. It’s a time of family and togetherness—something that we’re able to make possible.