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COVID-19 Brings New Meaning to Working Collaboratively with Families

This profile was written with contributions from UNC student, Carly Chandler. Look for more profile collaborations with UNC students in future Updates.

After 12 years as a school social worker at Morris Grove Elementary School (MGES), Angela Snider has supported students and their families through a wide range of situations, but COVID-19 has brought new and unimagined challenges to her job. With schools closed and almost all interaction taking place online or on the phone, Snider says thinking outside the box and collaborating with others is key.

As a school social worker, Snider serves students and their parents by strengthening links between school, home and community, but the global concerns of a pandemic are unfamiliar to all student support staff. Connecting parents and caregivers with resources from community agencies to mental health services, Snider calls on a wide network of colleagues and other professionals to help lessen families’ financial, medical and academic difficulties.

Prior to COVID-19, Snider provided support and consultation to MGES students and families mainly in person. Throughout her career, she has relied on that direct contact to do her job with care and compassion. Snider has always thrived in the school setting, offering face-to-face engagement with students and collaborating with other staff members throughout each day. Building and strengthening relationships not only brings her joy, but motivates her to perform her job at the highest level she can.

“It has been a challenge to do all of this remotely – I am used to working directly with children and their families,” Snider said in an email. Now, Snider spends her days reaching out to families via email, text, and phone calls and meeting with school staff over email or Google Chat. Once or twice a week, she visits sites where food is distributed to children, so she can check in with some of the MGES families. 

Snider has prioritized serving as an easily accessible resource to families as they adjust to a "new normal." This pandemic brings so much uncertainty to children and adults alike, and for many, it also brings a high level of anxiety. Some families are struggling to fill basic needs. Many students have needed assistance and materials related to online instruction. 

Joining forces with others has been key in overcoming the challenges brought by COVID-19, Snider said. Brainstorming and problem-solving with other CHCCS social workers, as well as her own colleagues at MGES has been a huge help, she says.

She meets online with MGES staff and district interpreters to address language barriers to make sure all families have access to the information and resources they need to accommodate students’ academic progress and social-emotional welfare.

“We have found new ways to connect and ensure that we are working together to identify and do our best to meet the needs of our students and families during this unprecedented time. Although this time has been extremely challenging, I value these connections and appreciate the way we have all come together to think outside the box as we problem solve," Snider said.