QUINCY -- A statewide shortage of social workers has Quincy Public Schools working with the University of Illinois to spread the word about job opportunities to meet the growing need for mental health services for children and adolescents.
A brief presentation and question/answer session will be provided Tuesday by the U of I's School of Social Work and QPS social workers. The session begins 6 p.m. at the QPS Board of Education, 1416 Maine.
"Obviously, our wish is to get more school social workers, but we also partner with all the mental health agencies, so the effort to bring in the U of I is going to help us out overall," QPS social worker and mental health coordinator Sharon Bearden said. "We need agencies to be full staff. We rely on that to help serve our kids and families."
But recruiting candidates for Quincy jobs has been a challenge.
"When there's a lot of competition in communities closer to bigger cities or more desirable locations, it makes it more difficult," Bearden said. "We decided we need to recruit from within our community, encourage people to seek out the higher ed, or, especially if they have a master's in social work, to get a professional educator's license."
The university's iMSW Hybrid Program allows students to take online and blended (online/face-to-face) courses to complete a Master of Social Work degree. Face-to-face components meet four or fewer weekends per semester on the Urbana campus or the Illini Center in Chicago.
"It allows people to keep their day job and gradually work on courses and complete their MSW," Bearden said.
People with a MSW seeking to specialize in school social work must earn an Illinois Professional Educators License School Social Work Endorsement.
U of I also has "set up an system where the two courses needed for the professional educator's license can be done in one semester, going over to campus on a handful of Saturdays. You can still work, take courses and do a semester internship," Bearden said. "We have an opening for a social worker now. Applicants who have a master's in social work but not a professional educator's license aren't able to apply for that job."
A career in social work, Bearden said, is both challenging and satisfying.
"No matter where you're working, we're working with those with the greatest challenges," she said. "It's not like social workers have a magic wand or all the answers. It takes problem solving, assessing and reassessing, going back to the drawing board and relying on a team."
The work, ultimately, can help students succeed.
"Kids need to come to school ready to learn, but so many factors can impact that," Bearden said. "What's going on at home, what's going on inside their bodies, the worries, can impact their readiness to learn in the classroom."
More information about Tuesday night's University of Illinois School of Social Work presentation is available by contacting Sharon Bearden at firstname.lastname@example.org.