February 10, 2021 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Students in King’s School of Social Work have an exciting new opportunity for direct practice experience. King’s has entered into a new community partnership with the Thames Valley District School Board to develop a direct practice program called Support and Aid for Families Electronically (S.A.F.E.). This program is possible thanks to the generous support of the London Community Foundation and their COVID-19 Response Fund. It is a virtual and remote service, which is staffed by Social Work students, to assist parents struggling because of COVID-19. The program is part of a solution to the significant stressors currently placed on families as they continue to navigate the many issues resulting from COVID-19 and the barriers to overloaded community services.

The project began in January 2021 and will continue to June, during which six King’s Master of Social Work students and two Bachelor of Social Work students are involved. They help to provide support for parenting strategies and tips regarding a range of issues including: behavioural improvement in children, addiction and domestic violence, suicidal ideation, mental health, and helping clients navigate to community services if warranted.

The program will provide “a rich learning experience full of relevant and meaningful social work knowledge acquisition,” for the students, says M.K. Arundel, Coordinator of Field Education for King’s School of Social Work.

The King’s students are helping and also learning from this experience, including the value of virtual service delivery, confidentiality in a remote context, as well as reflective practice skills to help improve their practice and aptitude for self-awareness. The students experience a team-based and collaborative approach, a skillset and requirement of social work practice in the field. While there is a research component to this program, students are learning about applying the various aspects from their courses in a field setting.

“They will increase their knowledge base of intervention approaches for various clinical issues. They will learn how to take an idea and vision for a project and create the infrastructure such as policies, protocols and necessary tools to successfully deliver the service – this is program development. They will experience the realities of parents and caregivers in a crisis context and further develop their skills around empathy, creativity in problem-solving, flexibility and comfort with ambiguity and change,” says Arundel.

Despite excellent community services already in place and the presence of social workers in every school, there remain barriers for some people such as wait times and lack of remote delivery. With the program in place, it is hoped the community will be served by not having to wait for support. Because there is no cost, those who otherwise might not qualify for such services will be able to access the program. The program is available to all families with a child in elementary school within the Thames Valley District School Board.  Any family interested in the service should connect with their school’s social worker.

The remote service, supervised by a registered clinical social worker, will take place Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., although those hours may be adjusted to accommodate the needs of service users.

Given there is no cap on service delivery, “Issues can be more fully explored and subsequently managed, resulting in improved quality of life. It is hoped that the community as a whole will benefit from initiatives such as this as a response to the needs of our families while modelling an entrepreneurial spirit to address community need,” say Arundel.

This program is possible thanks to the generous support of the London Community Foundation and their COVID-19 Response Fund.

Arundel emphasizes “it takes a village to roll out such an idea and as such, seeing this project come to life is the result of a collaborative effort of our community partners, our faculty and students and our service users willing to engage and participate.”