School Social Worker

This research explores the backgrounds of poverty, investigated data, differences between social classes, the effects poverty has on children, aspects of high poverty schools and implications for school advisors, counselors and teachers that are effective and important. Introduction The effects poverty has on children both mentally and physically is uneasy. To expect children to deal with the harsh realities of poverty and properly function in school without assistance is unrealistic.

Therefore school counselors, with the help of other school officials, must continuously search ways to intervene so they can take on life changing roles and make a difference in our low socioeconomic school systems. A difference can be made. That difference will take dedicated and motivated individuals that are up to the challenge of changing minds that will then lead to changing lives. Being a counselor alone, as discussed in class, takes courage; one has to selflessly advocate for their clients at all times.

There are many tough realities that both teachers and school counselors face in the school system. By far, it is consistently found in research that one of the hardest is working in a high poverty school system. Poverty is increasing in the United States. Being a school counselor in a high poverty school district is more than just counseling disadvantaged children; it is finding a way to learn their backgrounds, learn their homes and as we learn in class, finding a way to indiscernibly counsel their parents. BACKGROUND OF POVERTY There is a difference between low Supplemental Educational Services (SES) and overty; we will be referring to both low SES and poverty throughout this ppaper. However, there is a major difference between the two. 2 types of poverty: generational and situational (Payne, 1996) •Generational: having been in poverty for at least 2 generations •Situational: a lack of resources due to a particular event (death, illness, divorce, recession) Poverty is the extent to which an individual does without resources. The following are considered resources: financial, emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, support systems, and relationship/role models.

The ability to leave poverty is more dependent upon those listed resources than it is upon financial resources (Payne, 1996). Amatea & West-Olatunji (2007) globally defined poverty as “a condition that extends beyond the lack of income and goes hand in hand with lack of power, humiliation and a sense of exclusion” (p. 1). Baytops, Day-Vines & Patton (2003), found in the 2000 Census Bureau report that the “average poverty threshold for a family of three was $13,738 and $17,603 for a family of four” (p. 2).

Because these poverty guidelines are rather strict, as far as the African American population, more than one third can be considered middle class. Middle class is then broken down from lower middle and upper middle to the elite social class (Baytops, Day-Vines & Patton, 2003). Families with incomes below this level are referred to as low income (U. S. Bureau Census): •$40,000 for a family of 4 •$33,200 for a family of 3 •$26,400 for a family of 2 Federal Poverty Level (2006) (U. S. Bureau Census): •$20,000 for a family of 4 •$16,600 for a family of 3 $13,200 for a family of 2 •It is found that families need twice this income to be able to meet their most basic needs. STATISTICS Unfortunately, national data has found that the amount of children living in poverty here in the United States has risen over the last 5 years. There were 7. 6 million poor families (10%) in 2003, up from 6. 4 million (6. 7%) in 2000 (U. S. Bureau of the Census). “In terms of raw numbers, more than 13 million children in the United States were reported to live in poverty in 2004, an increase of 12. % from the number of children in poverty reported in 2000. As a result, in 2004 more than one out of every six American children was poor” (Amatea & West-Olatunji, 2007, p. 1). Poor inner-city youths are seven times more likely to be the victims of child abuse or neglect than the children of high social and economic status (Renchlet, 1993). Oppressed communities have high volumes of crimes, drug abuse, and unemployment rates. There is poor access to food and health facilities and a lack of empathy and representation from politicians and fellow Americans.

Living in this type of environment corrupts the mindset and psychological conditions of our children. Children living in oppressed and marginalized communities, especially children of color, suffer from low self esteem brought on by harmful messages from society and peers (Hipolito-Degaldo & Lee, 2007). “Students from marginalized communities are taught from an ethnocentric, monocultural perspective that may cause them to question their ability and worth of their culture” (Hipolito-Degaldo & Lee, p. ). Because of this, I would imagine some of the harmful messages to be visual as in the distribution and usage of illegal substances; and verbally I would imagine words of negativity as in “you are a product of your environment” or “you cannot make it further in life than where we are right now. ” Distress and lack thereof, causes these children to have higher levels of anxiety, depression, behavioral problems and lower test scores (Amata & West-Olatunji, 2007). COMPARE/CONTRAST THEORY

Because poverty in itself is a culture that is not only individualized but environmentally influenced as well; Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory seemed to be the best fit since it refers to the child and external factors that influence development and decisions that are made by the child/student. According to Bronfenbrenner, the environment affects the child and the child also effects the environment. A child is molded by several systems, that in relation to poverty, the main elements are parents/family and community.

Hipolito-Degaldo & Lee has found that the community of poverty makes students question their worth; and Amatea & West-Olatunji found that the lack of confidence and anger these children have because of their community and state of poverty, causes distress, lower test scores, depression and so much more. In comparison to what Bronfenbrenner believes, yes, the choices that people make can intensely affect their development almost to the extent that they control the path their life takes.

In agreement with Hipolito-Degaldo & Lee and Amatea & West-Olatunji, the negative internal locus of control, external influences, and lack of parental involvement that these children consume are continuously harmful. Without positive reinforcement, interventions, and revised implications from counselors and teachers, the better choices that Bronfenbrenner suggests can be made are not going to be made (Pressley & McCormick, 2007). Children and even adults from oppressed communities can make better decisions but the opportunities in life are still not as prevalent as they are for more fortunate students.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE Lynn Olson wrote an article in the popular magazine Education Week, enlightening readers on the effects of poverty, the vast amount of children that enter schools under in this status and how it is very hard on teachers. Not only is poverty hard on teachers, it is very hard on schools because they cannot hire more qualified staff because the more experienced teachers do not want to work in high poverty schools. “Today, the poverty rate for young children remains far higher than for any other age group.

Research has found that extreme poverty, especially in early childhood, is associated with risk factors that can threaten early brain development, including malnutrition, exposure to toxins and violence, maternal depression, and very low-quality child care” (Olson, 2007, p1). An effective school counselor could utilize existentialism. Existentialism addresses the environmental issues that impacts a person’s life and helps individuals discover new options to make better choices.

In our high poverty schools the goal is to replace the bad social results of poverty as in negativity, aggression, depression and violence with good social behaviors. The effective school counselor is expected to act as mediator to these children that are affected by the issues of poverty and understand life beyond their past (Carlson, 2003). “Research shows that removing behavior symptoms is not enough, school counselors must also understand the context and underpinnings so that underlying factors [as in anxiety, depression, violence], do not manifest differently in the future” (Carlson, 2003, p. ). An effective counselor must strive to understand a student’s complete life situation and experience (Carlson, 2003). It is very important for school counselors to be culturally responsive. This practice requires caring and understanding so counselors are able to build relationships with their students; to know someone you must know where they are from (Day-Vines, Payton, & Baytops, 2003). Day-Vines, Patton, and Baytops’s (2003), feelings towards effective counselors mirror Carl Roger’s views, a counselor must possess genuineness, empathy, congruence and an unconditional positive regard.

Counseling in general, but especially culturally responsive counseling, requires counselors to put themselves in the client’s shoes; “[c]ulturally responsive school counselors should recognize that social class standing can shield youngsters from concerns about economic well-being” (Day-Vines, Patton and Baytops, 2003, p. 2). After school counselors discover where their children are from, they must promote personal and community empowerment by engaging in activism for their students.

As explained, impoverished children are easily discouraged and many are depressed, these children need encouragement. To initiate this positive and empowering change, school counselors must help their students to develop a critical consciousness helping them to realize what they need to do to gain a better life and gain a positive identity so they are encouraged set and accomplish goals (Hipolito-Degaldo & Lee, 2007). It is very important that an effective school counselor is not the only person in high poverty schools promoting self awareness and empowerment; they need assistance from teachers.

Because school counselors have received proper multicultural training and understand the importance of having an alternative view of life, they can help teachers understand problems that poverty puts on a child and his or her family (Amatea & West-Olatunji, 2007). Teachers tend to pass judgment on parents as being uninterested and not caring for their children when they do not show up for parent teacher conferences. As a result, the teacher would possibly not help the student out as much due to lack of support from home.

An effective school counselor would recognize the teacher is blaming the parent and discover ways to help the teacher understand the child’s home, help the parent get more involved and help the teacher put herself in her student’s shoes (Amatea & West-Olatunji, 2007). Working together as a team, the teachers can explain issues, and the counselor without judgment, can offer solutions so that difference can be made in our high poverty schools. The desires to care about these children and why they are the way they are is the first step for change.

Personally, as a teacher I feel that school counselors have too many job duties that are not about the children and more of the logistics. The days of school counselors sitting in their office simply handing out college applications, making schedule changes for students who want to drop a class or meeting with the troublemakers in the school is extinct. Today’s school counselors are important members of the education team. Many school counselors are in care of over 200 students depending on enrollment and all the children needs are not met thoroughly. The focus should be on the social health of the child.

The effects poverty has on children both mentally and physically is uneasy. To expect children to deal with the harsh realities of poverty and properly function in school without intervention and familial assistance is unrealistic. Therefore we as sociologist and those working with youth (schools, mental health facilities, etc), must continuously search ways to intervene so youth can take on life changing roles and make a difference in our low socioeconomic communities. Even though poverty is increasing and poverty is more so generational, a difference can be made.

That difference will take dedicated and motivated individuals that are up to the challenge of figuring out the challenges society and the environment puts on individuals, beginning with our youth. Children living in poverty are a lot to handle for today’s educators and counseling professionals. These children are more likely than children from middle class homes to have higher levels of anxiety and depression, behavioral problems, and less positive experiences and relationships in school and this could be a problem for those individuals lacking diversity.

They demonstrate a repeated school failures, developmental hardships and problems, lower test scores and graduation rates, higher tardiness, truancy, and drop out rates than middle class children (Amata ; West-Olatunji, 2007). In conclusion, I have gathered that in high poverty schools, social and behavioral problems are more extreme and it is hard to persuade these students that they can make better choices so they can live better lives. The decisions these children make are modes of survival in their eyes.

Being an effective counselor in high poverty schools is a challenge because almost every student’s reality and life is harsh. To effectively counsel, regardless of what social class and status, based on this research and teachings from class, I understand the importance of knowing the demographics of your clients. If you do not know who you are helping a significant difference cannot be made. The repeated cycle of poverty, oppression, depression and school violence without positive interventions must end and I look forward to the challenge. REFERENCE Amatea, Ellen S. ; West-Olatunji, Cirecie A. 2007, December). “Joining the conversation about educating or poorest children: emerging leadership roles for school counselors in high-poverty schools. (Report). ” Professional School Counseling 11(2): 81(9). Academic Search Complete. Virginia Commonwealth University. Retrieved 29 September 2008, from Joining the Conversation about Educating Our Poorest Children: Emerging Leadership Roles for School Counselors in High-Poverty Schools. Carlson, Lauri A. (2003, June). “Existential theory: Helping school counselors attend to youth at risk for violence. ” Professional School Counseling, 6(5): 310(6).

Academic Search Complete. Virginia Commonwealth University. Retrieved 29 September 2008, from Existential Theory: Helping School Counselors Attend to Youth at Risk for Violence. Day-Vines, Norma L. , Patton, James M. , ; Baytops, Joy L. (2003, October). “Counseling African American adolescents: the impact of race, culture, a middle class status. ” Professional School Counseling, 7(1): 40(12). Academic Search Complete. Virginia Commonwealth University. Retrieved 30 September 2008, from Counseling African American Adolescents: The Impact of Race, Culture, and Middle Class Status.

Hipolito-Degaldo, Carolos P. ; Lee, Courtland C. (2007 April). “Empowerment theory for the professional school counselor: A manifesto for what really matters (EXTENDED DISCUSSION). ” Professional School Counseling, 10(4): 327(6). Academic Search Complete. Virginia Commonwealth University. Retrieved 29 September 2008, from Empowerment Theory for the Professional School Counselor: A Manifesto for What Really Matters. Olson, Lynn (2000). “High poverty among young makes schools’ job harder. ” Education Week, 20(4). Academic Search Complete. Virginia Commonwealth University.

Retrieved 17 November 2008 from, http://web. ebscohost. com. proxy. library. vcu. edu/ehost/detail? vid=5&hid=106&sid=a6f389b1-5909-4ad3-aa30-62065b411fb1%40sessionmgr109&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlPWlwLHVybCxjb29raWUsdWlkJnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl Payne, Ruby R. Ph. D. (1996). A Framework for Understanding Poverty, 4th ed. Highlands, TX: aha! Process, Inc. Pressley, M. & McCormick, C. B. (2007). Child and Adolescent Development for Educators. New York: Guilford Press. U. S. Bureau Census. Retrieved November 3, 2008 from http://www. census. gov/