Opening Letter to CASC Members

As schools across the nation are in varying stages in offering school counseling services, and as for the look of things, preparing for a long shutdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak, a group of school counseling leaders have come together to support you at this time.
The Covid-19 School Counseling Emergency Task Force (C19-SCETF) is a joint multi-state, multi-regional effort to address the prevailing Pre-K-12th grade student needs resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. This group's aim is to provide accurate and timely information and resources for school counseling transitioning to a virtual counseling platform.

Our unpredictable future impacts all of us, but in particular, our students have unique considerations academically, socially, emotionally, and in preparation to transition from high school to college or career. How do we help calm their fears, when reassurance is difficult, and the future is so uncertain? Ben Chida, senior adviser to Governor Newsom and liaison with schools on the coronavirus, recently gave educators advice: "As facts change on the ground, keep in mind that our north star is to do what calls you to this work, and we will have your back." Our "North Star" is our students mental and academic wellbeing, which extends to those students in the last few years of high school as they prepare for post-secondary college and career pursuits. My heart goes out to those students who are pondering whether or not they will have a prom, graduation ceremonies, and other hopes and dreams related to their lives as students.

CASC is driven by the desire to provide leadership for school counselors in these rapidly changing times. Constructing a website is our first step and will serve as a platform for other supports in the weeks and months to come. While we don't have all the answers, we do have the desire to investigate, collaborate and put our best foot forward to help those who are helping students and to be the leaders in the areas we are experts in.

Shifting to online counseling services for school-based mental health providers during this time of school closures brings a unique challenge to practitioners. The legal, ethical, and technological factors alone are cause for pause and caution, Yet, thousands of students are out of school and need vital services immediately. If you are like me, I am overwhelmed with trying to decipher best practices from the postings and emails that offer suggestions, free resources and questions. The taskforce will have a web domain secured by the end of the week and we will come together early next week to begin to organize a "one-stop" online place to go for school counselors, as well as caregivers and other mental health service providers.

In conclusion, with uncertainty as to the length of time schools will actually be closed due to Covid-19 concerns, and with few state or national recommendations to guide us, rest assured, school counseling leaders are working together to support all of us in following our North Star.

What has CASC done so far:
  • Hosted emergency meeting of CASC Executive Council
  • Met with ASCA and other state school counseling leaders to share resources and concerns
  • Secured a website dedicated to Covid-19 concerns related to school counseling (TBA)
  • Designed a needs assessment to be distributed later this week to school counselors
  • Organized an Emergency Covid-19 Task Force in partnership with Wisconsin school counselor organization
What to tell the public, your administrators and others: School counseling services are services that are needed more than ever. We urge education leaders and government officials to take all measures possible to minimize the impact on their communities and, in particular, proactively support our most vulnerable and under-resourced students. All of us are feeling the trauma, and unfortunately many families are now financially insecure – a place they may never have believed possible a week ago. Medical and financial trauma on families can be incapacitating. We concur with leading organizations in calling for schools to continue to make school counseling resources available to students, particularly in light of the current mental health crisis. When schools close, caregivers are tasked with making unexpected arrangements for childcare, students lose instructional time, and families lose access to other essential services their schools traditionally provide. It is essential that we support students and families at this time. Schools need to take a lead in helping families navigate social-service systems including finding resources related to basic-need and mental health issues.