New Paper Analyzes Impact of School Closures on Families

Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor and doctoral student Kate Watson collaborated on a new paper highlighting the needs of children and families during school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The paper, published in Social Work, analyzed responses to a nationwide survey of 1,275 school social workers who reported on their clients, including schools, children and families, during the COVID-19 school closures in spring 2020. While other reports have focused on academic challenges facing students during the pandemic as well as the effects of online learning on academic success, the authors identified a knowledge gap in understanding the needs and difficulties of K-12 students and their families from a social work perspective. In their responses to the survey, school social workers indicated that the children and families they served had significant unmet basic needs, including for food, health care and housing. “Poverty and mental health compounded pandemic difficulties, which were associated with the sociodemographic makeup of schools,” wrote Watson, the paper’s lead author, with co-authors Astor and colleagues from Hebrew University, Cal State Fullerton and Loyola University Chicago. Based on the survey results, the authors identified several policy and practice implications for the future. They highlighted the need for “additional services for students and families, a plan to address structural inequities in our schools and communities, coordinated outreach to reengage missing students, and recognition of the strong work being done by school staff coupled with a need for additional supports and resources to combat persistent inequality.” — Zoe Day


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