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Social work during a pandemic: addressing social issues

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By Roxanne Rhoden

The COIVD-19 pandemic has exposed many social issues within our system. As a social worker, we want to always bring awareness to social problems such as domestic violence, poverty, food insecurity, and lack of education. Social work essentially aims to increase the overall wellbeing of all individuals while addressing social and community problems. Even before the pandemic, domestic violence has been a major issue for people in this country who have, many times, become silent victims. According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, “On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States — more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year.” These numbers are staggering, and it raises concern that during social isolation victims are trapped at home with their perpetrators with possibly no outlet to escape. Most people who are safely in their homes might not normally be aware of this issue, but it is imperative to know the signs of abuse and have access to local resources to provide help to anyone in need.
Children have also been greatly impacted by the pandemic in many aspects.
All children across America have been dismissed from school almost three months earlier than normal due to coronavirus. Parents are under extreme stress during these uncertain times. Many have been desperately scrambling to find childcare and other necessary services. Children who are living in poverty or disadvantaged families may not have access to food. Schools may have been their source of safety if their family life is far from “ideal”, with abuse a very real possibility in their homes. USDA economic research statistics show “14.3 million households are food insecure at anytime during the year and 6 million are children.” Studies indicate many children in low income families are in danger of going without food; the pandemic has only amplified this situation. It is important for families to know where their local food banks are located and for all school systems to participate in handing out food to children and families who are in need.
Children have been quickly thrown into online home school programs which families have been forced to learn to navigate in a very short time. Low income households are again most at risk, as some students may not be able to afford internet access or do not own computers or laptops to log onto their online lessons; and even then, only if online lessons have been provided. The National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) released this information, “While virtual or remote instruction can replace in-person instruction, it is important to note the limitations of this practice. Many students lack access to the technology needed to learn remotely. A study from the Associated Press found that 17 percent of U.S. students do not have computers in the home and 18 percent of students lack access to high-speed internet.” This creates concern that many students may “fall behind or in between the cracks” and not be adequately prepared to come back to school this fall. Many students will have missed important academic objectives; this likely will place extreme challenges on teachers when students do return. It is essential, that families to reach out to their children’s teachers during this time if they need assistance obtaining “traditional packet work” from their school district, to ensure their child is ready to return and has mastered important educational requirements for their respective grade level.
Rhoden, formerly of Chester County, is a Spring 2020 Social Work/Psychology graduate from the University of Mississippi.

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