Counselling and Attendance
Who are we?
All members of the Counselling and Attendance Department are Social Workers trained at the Masters level and registered with the Ontario College. Each Social Worker is assigned to one or two high schools where they have an office. They also provide some support to the family of elementary schools that feed into their high school(s).
Who are the students the Counselling and Attendance staff work with?
The Social Workers in the Counselling and Attendance Department work closely with the school team, parents, and community partners (e.g., Local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) when students are struggling with social, behaviour, or mental health concerns at school. The Social Worker provides consultation to teachers and administrators and counselling to students in order to help them succeed in high school.
Students may present with the following problems:
- School attendance issues
- Mental Health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and trauma
- Behavioural problems
- Substance use/abuse
- Social difficulties
How can a student receive Counselling and Attendance services?
Referrals can be made directly to the Social Worker by a teacher or an administrator. Often, but not always, referrals are made following a meeting with the In-School Team or the Consultant Support Team. If the student is 12 years of age or older, the student can self-refer for counselling. If a student is in crisis, they can immediately be seen by the Social Worker who will then contact family and other support services if needed. Informed consent is obtained as soon as the Social Worker begins to work with a student. The Social Worker also has the responsibility to follow up referrals for attendance made by the school. Consent is not required for the Social Worker to become involved in attendance referrals, as this is a service that is mandated.
Parents, teachers, and students are supported by the Counselling and Attendance department in the following ways:
- Individual Counselling: At 12 years of age a student can self-refer or parents can request counselling. The goal of counselling is to help students cope with the social, emotional, and academic demands of school, as well as address mental health issues and encourage students to seek appropriate mental health services in the community. Counselling sessions are confidential with the exception being the ‘Limits of Confidentiality’, which are explained to the student and or parents, prior to beginning counselling.
- Consultation and Support: Social Workers provide consultation to teachers and administrators regarding student mental health needs and effective ways to address those needs in a school setting. The Social Worker may also work with parents to address their concerns and provide them with appropriate ways to support their son or daughter.
- Attendance: As this is a mandated service, consent for the involvement of the social worker is not required. When a teacher or administrator is concerned about the ‘Prolonged Absence’ of a student, a referral is made to the Social Worker, as lengthy absences jeopardize the academic success of the student. The Counselling and Attendance department recognize that attendance issues are a symptom, and therefore seek to address underlying concerns, such as learning difficulties, emotional or mental health concerns, addiction, family system issues, and health problems, to mention a few. Collaboration with local mental health services is sought when appropriate. A standard letter informs parents when their adolescent has been away 15, 30, 45 and 60 consecutive days from school, at which point the student is removed from the register and alternative programming considered.
- Supervised Alternative Learning (SAL): If a student has not been successful at a traditional high school program, the Social Worker, in consultation with the school team, will contact the student’s family and complete the necessary paperwork to present the teenager to the SAL Committee, at which time alternative learning environments, such as a supervised work setting, are considered and approved by the SAL Committee in which both a Community Member and a Superintendent are involved.
- Violent Risk Threat Assessment (VTRA): Members of the Psychology and Counselling Attendance Departments work with School Administrators, as well as community partners (i.e., Police, Children’s Aid Society, Children’s Mental Health Agencies) to properly assess and intervene when a high risk or threatening situation occurs at school. Kevin Cameron has trained all staff in the implementation of this VRTA model.
- Crisis Response Team (CRT): Members of the Psychology and Counselling and Attendance Depart- ments respond to crisis events occurring in the schools. They support the schools through the provi- sion of grief counselling, consultation, support, and appropriate resources for teachers, students and parents. Many members of both departments carry the Crisis Response Phone and alert the appropri- ate members of the team when a crisis occurs, so that an immediate response can be provided to the schools.
As school-based resources, the Social Workers are frequently asked to provide in-service to teachers at their schools on a variety of mental health issues. They are also involved in a system-based training in topics such as Collaborative Problem Solving, Adolescent Depression and Suicide Prevention, to name a few.