Working together, school counselors, school nurses, and school-based family advocates support the school system's mission of providing comprehensive educational opportunities in a caring and nurturing environment. Through a multi-discipline approach, these team members focus on the emotional/ behavioral, social, and physical domains to address barriers to school success. Each of our six elementary schools, two middle schools, and two high schools provides school counseling services, family advocacy, and school nursing services via school-based staff. In addition to the school-level personnel, the social worker provides support for the work of the team and the director coordinates the program.
Counselors Assist with Emotional/Behavioral Issues Sometimes children do not succeed in school because of emotional or behavioral issues. School counselors are trained to provide prevention and intervention services for students. School counseling programs consist of the following activities: individual and group counseling services, classroom guidance activities, and consultation with parents, staff, and community resources. The counselor is the school's referral link to the Department of Family and Children's Services as well as clinical liaison to public and private mental health providers.
Nurses Deal with Medical Issues Students whose health issues present acute or persistent barriers to school success may need the assistance of the school nurse. School nurses provide direct and indirect medical services through clinic services, parent and staff consultation, wellness promotion through education and screenings, disease surveillance, development and implementation of health-related accommodation plans, and immunization administration and record compliance monitoring.
Advocates Help with Basic Physical Needs Many at-risk students come from family situations that do not foster school success. In some instances, a child's caretakers lack the resources needed to provide for the basic needs of their children. In other cases, caretakers may not be supportive of the efforts of the school because they were not successful as students. To such families the advocate provides a less intimidating link to the school. The advocate serves as a conduit to a vast array of community resources for families. Through case management, family needs are assessed, goals are established, and strategies are developed and implemented to eliminate barriers to school success and family self-sufficiency.
What Are the Results?
Since the student services teams were fully implemented in the Gordon County School System in 1996, a number of accomplishments have been realized:
Student absenteeism has been reduced by 20%.
Abuse and neglect referrals to Gordon County DFCS have been cut in half.
Confirmed abuse cases have been reduced by one-third.
Immunization rates are approaching the 100% mark for school-aged Gordon County children.
Before and after school programs serve the working poor with DFCS assistance.
Collaboration and blended funding have increased fiscal efficiency.
Many gaps in resources have been filled including the Emergency Dental Program and the Marguerite Faw Children's Medical Fund that can be accessed for uninsured children with acute dental or medical needs.