School Social Work
School Social Work: A Direct Practice Guide, by JoAnn Jarolmen, SAGE Publications, Inc., 2014, 438 pages, $75.00.
Jarolmen’s book is comprehensive and includes an exciting array of subjects. Some of the topics seem at first glance misplaced in a practice textbook. The subtitle may misdirect the reader to wonder whether the intended audience is social work students or practicing social workers. The lack of a preface or foreword reinforces the ambiguity of the intended audience. Jarolmen seems to tackle the issue by striving to address both micro and macro issues.
The beginning chapters focus on setting a theoretical foundation, establishing the experience of actual social workers in the school setting, and providing a basic overview of educational stakeholders. It is at chapter six that the shift begins and widens to a macro system approach. The remaining chapters identify social issues in society that have a direct impact on children in schools. These issues include homelessness and poverty. Inclusion of such a breadth of topics is intriguing and expands the practice relevance. However, one glaring omission is the subject of foster children. Since all foster children are required to attend school, they bring specific challenges and may need the services of a school social worker.
It was especially refreshing to read the chapter on cultural competence and inclusion of race, gender, religion, and socioeconomics as the foundation for the discussion on diversity. The chapter on global issues in schools is fascinating, but may not be of much use to the school social worker in an urban school setting, and is unrelated to the subtitle of direct practice. The macro perspective allows school social workers to intellectualize issues not directly related to their individual practice and offers a respite from their routine issues of concern. As a social work educator with a current focus on global issues of concern to children, I view this chapter as dynamic but with little appeal and no practicality to new or experienced school social workers in the field.
Six appendices constitute approximately 25% of the book and cover nearly 100 pages. The information is included for its pragmatism. It is here that Jarolmen’s contribution to evidence-based practice is evident. For example, these appendices are templates for group formation, conflict resolution, and at-risk assessment. The level of detail in the appendices is highly proscriptive but can be somewhat confusing and difficult to follow. The references are robust, and a sampling of the first 50 citations revealed that Jarolmen’s research met the 15-10 rule, with 25 of the first 50 sources having been published within the last 10 years.
Case studies and analyses are included in many chapters, along with a summary of the key concepts. The class discussion questions stimulate critical thinking and problem solving. The practice aspect is reinforced by activities and self-reflection questions. Since the book is anchored with the theoretical overview, it seems most appropriate for use with future school social workers.
Reviewed by Vanessa Brooks Herd, Ed.D., LMSW, ACSW, former school social worker, Associate Professor and Project Manager for Youth in Transition Program, Department of Social Work, Saginaw Valley State University, Saginaw, Michigan.