Many of the people who read this article will be completely unaware that Cosby does, in fact, have a social worker, and her name is Anna Hebb.
“A lot of times when you say social worker, you think child protective services, or the department of social work, social services,” says Hebb, but in-school social workers are hired by the school systems. Hebb serves three schools in the county and that allows her to focus on what she calls “social work intervention.”
However, an in-school social worker’s main job is to create a social history for the special education process. “My first role is providing the social history, which looks at the parent voice. So, let’s say a parent or student comes to the school, and says, ‘School’s hard for me, I can’t focus, or math is a challenge, but in English I’m doing great,’ so we listen and say, ‘Wow, that’s a red flag, let’s see what we need to do to help you.’”
Hebb says, “If we decide to evaluate the student, they’re going have a school psychologist look at how they learn, their intelligence, their processing, and then the social worker is the parent voice.” Hebb meets with the parent or guardian, and asks about concerns they have for their child, then she goes over a detailed medical history, and asks about the family dynamics: who’s living in the home, any trauma in the child’s life, or any significant changes that would impact them at school.
If a student’s adaptive skills aren’t developed, social workers use a standardized interview with the parent as an adaptive measurement, gathering a standard score in the student’s communication, daily living skills, socialization and motor skills. “And that allows us to to say ‘Ok, can they do the things that typical children their age can do, or is there a delay and how can we help them?’ So that’s the main thing with special education,” says Hebb.
Hebb also explains that in-school social workers also work to help students elsewhere in their lives; if a student’s family can’t afford new shoes or school supplies, social workers try to meet that basic need to ensure a student’s academic success. Other issues social workers help with are more serious, such as a student struggling with depression or self harm, or problems with substance abuse. “We can help them individually if they are referred to us at school… but really we direct them to the resources they need.”
And directing students to those resources is the key to many students getting through high school. “Anything that is impacting a student at school, or a resource that a family needs to make sure that the family unit is functioning in a positive way, we try to support families of students so they can get their high school diploma, move on, and be all they can be as an adult, give back to the community,” says Hebb.
Hebb describes the differences between school counselors and social workers: “I work with the school counselors, in fact I love school counselors, because they know how the school operates.” For example, if a student comes to Hebb and says, ‘I’m struggling in my math class,’ and it’s discovered that they have a learning disability, and that it’s not the right environment, Hebb then works with the school counselor to say, ‘Can they switch? How many credits do they have, how are they doing on SOLs?’ School counselors know the ins-and-outs of the school and how the system works, so counselors and social workers go back and forth help each other to solve problems.
But there is a degree of difficulty getting in contact with most school social workers; “It’s really hard,” says Hebb. Social workers often have duties to multiple schools, and Hebb has three; she has other responsibilities from the county as well, travelling to give presentations on trauma informed care. These extra duties are added to the requirement of being in each of Hebb’s three schools at least one day a week. That only gives her Monday and Friday to get the social history completed or to work with a family. Her office is at Cosby, and the best way to get in touch with her is to know her schedule: Hebb is at Cosby on Tuesdays, and if she isn’t there, students can get in touch through teachers or the school counselors, or even by slipping a note under her door.
And for students who are thinking about becoming in-school social workers, Hebb says, “If you want to be a school social worker, you have to have to have your masters, so you’re trained in the discipline of social work. But when you were in your master’s program, you need 9 extra credit hours in school education type classes so that gives you pupil personnel license with your masters.” In order to become a school social worker, it seems that a person’s work ethic must be equal to their desire to help others; this is certainly demonstrated by Cosby’s social worker.
Hebb’s favorite part of being a social worker is not surprising; with a warm smile, she says, “The people and the connection. Everyday is different, although it is difficult to have your office in the car…but within that, I love all the people I meet. And when you connect a resource to a student and their family that’s successful? Wow. That’s just win-win. You feel like you really helped them and the growth in that, it’s just awesome.”