Study explores how COVID-19 changed family engagement with school social workers

Published March 23, 2023


Annahita Ball

Annahita Ball.

Congratulations to Annahita Ball, PhD, associate professor in the UB School of Social Work, and her colleagues on the publication of their study, "Family engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic: Opportunities and challenges for school social work," in Child and Family Social Work.


The COVID-19 pandemic brought dramatic changes in schooling in the United States and across the world, including abrupt shifts to remote learning, immediate cessation of social contact, intensive family engagement in education and diminished school capacity for social-emotional supports. While the initial national lockdown was temporary, the long-lasting effects of the pandemic on society are still being revealed.

This study contributes to a growing body of research exploring and documenting shifts in school social work practice in the United States during the COVID era. We used qualitative methods to explore how school social workers practiced family engagement during the pandemic and their perceptions of the benefits and challenges of increased family engagement. Analysis of interviews with 20 school social workers from Colorado, Minnesota and Nevada revealed five primary themes: reasons for family engagement, ways of engaging with families, frequency of family contact, challenges in engaging families and social workers' attitudes and perceptions about family engagement.

Results indicated a need for a comprehensive, organized and strategic family engagement plan in schools as we move into the post-acute phases of the pandemic. Future research should explore how school social workers may serve as leaders in the development of such plans and how interprofessional practice might advance this agenda further.