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The Multi-System Breakdown of Covid - Social Workology

The Multi-System Breakdown of Covid

Covid! I say it with the biggest eye roll because I hear it over and over again every day. This pandemic has highlighted the major interdependence of our way of life on so many different systems. Sadly, the current system continues to fail children and families because this pandemic has created a crisis for families. The Ecological Perspective tells us that all systems are interconnected and nothing has become clearer in the midst of this the Covid crisis. These systems push and pull on each other and has caused a ripple effect throughout all other areas of their lives.

School Systems

I’m going to preface this with the section with my sympathies to the school systems right now, most are doing their best to meet the needs of children/families, while trying navigating the tumultuous, ever-changing demands of Covid prevention. They are in a lose/lose situation.

Children need school for so many reasons: a formal education, social interaction with peers and adults, a place to learn soft skills, life skills, food assistance, healthcare services through school-based clinics, special education support, mental health services, and free childcare away from home for nearly 40 hours a week. All of these services are so important to a kids and parents. Schools are also a huge part of the child abuse prevention and identification systems to keep children safe and get families the resources they need. Children need school, it’s as entwined into our culture as fundamental pillar from August-May each year… except in 2020.

How did it all fall apart?

Many parents count on our schools to provide those important things to our kids, so what’s the problem? Schools are the perfect place! We know kids will be at school, we rely on it. From 8-4, from the ages of 5-18ish that this just where they go…. until the pandemic hit. At a basic level, school is where our kids go while we are at work but so much more happens there. They receive a ton of other benefits too. Since March 2020 (depending on the state you live), students and families haven’t been receiving these benefits in a way that allows all the interconnected systems to run smoothly.

Full-time Everything

Without school, parents aren’t able to work the way they need; they can’t meet all the demands of a full-time job and full-time parent, full-time teacher, full-time school social worker, full-time school psychologist, full-time counselor, full-time nurse, full-time doctor, full-time playmates, and all the other thing we may count on our schools to provide. No one person or even one family can do all these things and yet that is what we have asked. Our reliance and undervaluing of the services schools provide us has created a system not equipt to handle this kind of disruption.

Covid has disproportionately effected middle and low income families. Families that have to work to keep their heads above water. Effecting both families that have the ability to work from home and the families who need to leave the house to work for essential jobs. Without work, there is no food or housing which is a basic survival type of stress. With food and housing insecurity, there is an increase in parental stress and increased risk for abuse and neglect. Our multi-systems have created a lose/lose for literally everyone involved because a few pieces have broken down.


As schools start back on with their perspective plans to try to meet everyone’s needs in the midst of a pandemic, I can’t help but say to those going in-person, “but what is the plan when we see a rise in cases”. What about the students, teachers, parents, and families when they have to cancel in-person school, again?

Facebook post after post, show parents excited to ship their kiddos back to school for the 20-21 school year, with So much variance and they way districts are moving forward. Parents are counting on schools to stay in session, so they can work and not be the 100 full-time positions that we have asked of them since March. Too many of these schools have created an unsustainable plan with no back-up plan to help families plan the inevitable shutdown. Families should have the knowledge of plan A, B, and C so they are able to prepare and aren’t blindsided.

Just a couple way to help…

Parent’s and Families

  1. Have a family conversation about creating a plan A, B, and C for this school year.
  2. Ask children and youth about their needs and wants for this year.
  3. Create a designated work space for children and parents.
  4. Clearing display an age-appropriate schedule and expectations around school work, breaks, meals, snacks, check-ins, tv time, really anything that you think could help or might be an area of concern.
  5. Come up with different ways to combat anxiety and depression: reading, music, yoga, walking the dog, deep breathing, ect.
  6. Keep communication open between school, children, and families.
  7. Leave room for grace, we are all doing out best here.


  1. Talk with families about creating a plan A, B, and C for this school year.
  2. Ask children and youth about their needs and wants for this year.
  3. Clearing display an age-appropriate schedule and expectations and work in plenty of movement breaks.
  4. Keep communication open between school, children, and families.
  5. Leave room for grace, we are all doing out best here.
  6. Understand that every family has different strengths and weaknesses.

Social Workers

  1. Stay informed on all the systems you’re interacting with.
  2. Advocate for students, families, and systemic change.
  3. Have resources for your students and families in need: mental health, food, rental assistance, free internet ect.
  4. Support school staff and teachers over this next year with education and training around self-care and family needs.


As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I often view the world through this lens. Social work shapes how I interact and understand every part of my life. Through social justice, policy, and even my own parenting, I am guided to view the world as a social worker.

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