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School social workers take on complex situations
With only five full-time social workers to serve 12,600 students in the Glynn County School System, it's almost a sure bet that they stay busy.

For Greg Jaudon, lead social worker and homeless coordinator, and his colleagues Arnetia Maasha, Jody Fraser, Marcyline Bailey and Ann Fisher, it's all in a day's work.

"One has to have a combination of care, compassion and the ability to find individual and/or family strength in this field of work," Jaudon said. .

There's always a need, said Jaudon, who spends a lot of his time dealing with what the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act defines as a "homeless" child in the school system.

"The majority of these children are doubled up with other family members due to economic reasons," Jaudon said. "Secondly, children in one of the two shelters (Amity House or Safe Harbor Children's Center) are in transition and may be in the temporary custody of the state."

The recession hasn't helped matters any.

"Due to the economy, evictions and foreclosures cause many families to temporarily or even extendedly stay in a hotel/motel," he said.

Life can tough enough for displaced students without them having to worry about adapting to a new school environment. Social workers try to prevent that from happening.

"We attempt to offer them some form of stability - to be able to stay in their school of origin regardless of their zone if at all possible," Jaudon said.

Through collaboration with the school transportation department and other areas of the school system, Jaudon is able to help these children.

Social workers also make sure these students receive free lunches and some school supplies.

Students are not the only ones who receive help.

Oftentimes it is necessary to assist the family in order to be able to help the student.

"School social workers may assist families in applying for public assistance, refer for employment opportunities or other resources, and assist them in gaining necessary documents - for example, a birth certificate, immunizations, etc.," he said.

Other members of the school staff consider social workers among the most dedicated. That dedication was recognized this past week during National School Social Work Week.

Jim Weidhaas, spokesman for the school system, says the observance highlighted the important role social workers play in some of the toughest situations.

"These social workers do such an amazing job," he said. "They're highly involved children's situations that run from everything to non-existent parents, those going through a divorce, financial issues, sometimes even aiding in the purchase of needed things like eyeglasses.

"We've had several children's family homes burn down over the years and they're right there to help."

* Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and other local topics. Contact her at slundgren@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 322.



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