Needs of Children and Families during Spring 2020 COVID-19 School Closures: Findings from a National Survey

Kate R. Watson, Ron Avi Astor, Rami Benbenishty, Gordon Capp, Michael S. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Despite extensive reports during the COVID-19 pandemic of the academic challenges facing students, and the effects of online learning on academic achievements, we have little information regarding the needs and difficulties of K-12 students and their families from a social work perspective. The present article shares findings from a nationwide survey of 1,275 school social workers (SSWs) reporting on their clients - schools, children, and families - during the spring 2020 COVID-19 school closures. SSWs indicated that the children and families they served had significant unmet basic needs, including for food, healthcare, and housing. Poverty and mental health compounded pandemic difficulties, which were associated with the sociodemographic makeup of schools. Student engagement in social work services during the closures was significantly lower than prepandemic levels, generally due to unmet material needs. Several policy and practice implications arise from these findings, including a need for additional services for students and families, a plan to address structural inequities in our schools and communities, coordinated outreach to reengage missing students, and recognition of the strong work being done by school staff coupled with a need for additional supports and resources to combat persistent inequality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-27
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Work
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 National Association of Social Workers.


  • COVID-19
  • basic needs
  • inequality
  • schools
  • social work


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