School social work service delivery : models for future practice.
The focus of this study was to develop an indigenous, relevant model of school social work for future practice in South Africa. This was accomplished by surveying policies governing school social work services, researching the nature and severity of problems experienced in schools, examining the scope of current school social work in addressing these problems/needs and finally producing a model on which future school social work practice could be based. The research methodology was chosen on the basis of progressing beyond the acquisition of knowledge, to application of this knowledge to the practice of school social work. The developmental research design as discussed by Thomas (1985a:488; 1985b:50) was viewed as serving the purposes of the study. In accord with this design, the study was divided into several phases - the analysis, development and evaluation phases. Two further phases are outlined by Thomas (1985a), viz. the diffusion and adoption phases, which would follow once the developed social technology has been further field tested and the results disseminated for adoption. During the analysis phase, current policies and school social work services in the various departments of education were examined. Problems in different schools in these department were also surveyed to gauge the effectiveness of services in dealing with these problems. Results revealed that current school social work practice and policies do not meet the needs of schools. During the development phase, a changed emphasis in service provision was advocated through the adoption of service methods to complement a casework focus. In this regard, community school, school change and social interaction functions were advocated. An ecological model, derived from ecological and systems theories, was recommended as offering scope for a changed emphasis to ensure that services were comprehensive and relevant. This emphasis focused on achieving a goodness of fit between the individual and the environment by intervening at different systemic levels, depending on where deficits or dysfunction existed. Thereby, intervention could be directed at micro, mezzo, exo or macro systemic levels. In a feasibility study, conducted during the analysis phase of the study, this model was found to be appropriate and practical for future use. If school social workers practise an ecological model, then their services would be cost effective since both a preventive and therapeutic bias would be accommodated. Children would also be assured of support services that prevent problems, that facilitate the role of the educator in comprehensive education and that intervene timeously in respect of problems and needs. Recommendations in respect of accommodating a changed focus of intervention included changes in policies to promote the use of the ecological model, the education and training of social workers in acquiring knowledge and skills congruent with the use of an ecological paradigm, training of educationists to include knowledge of the service to facilitate teamwork and referral, preliminary tasks to be undertaken prior to service provision, a unitary education department to serve all children equally irrespective of colour or creed, and research to be undertaken with education personnel as a joint endeavour to encourage the establishment of the service.