Characteristics and Outcomes of School Social Work Services: A Scoping Review of Published Evidence 2000–June 2022

Xiao Ding, Estilla Lightfoot, Ruth Berkowitz, Samantha Guz, Cynthia Franklin, Diana M. DiNitto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


School social workers are integral to the school mental health workforce and the leading social service providers in educational settings. In recent decades, school social work practice has been largely influenced by the multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) approach, ecological systems views, and the promotion of evidence-based practice. However, none of the existing school social work reviews have examined the latest characteristics and outcomes of school social work services. This scoping review analyzed and synthesized the focuses and functions of school social workers and the state-of-the-art social and mental/behavioral health services they provide. Findings showed that in the past two decades, school social workers in different parts of the world shared a common understanding of practice models and interests. Most school social work interventions and services targeted high-needs students to improve their social, mental/behavioral health, and academic outcomes, followed by primary and secondary prevention activities to promote school climate, school culture, teacher, student, and parent interactions, and parents’ wellbeing. The synthesis also supports the multiple roles of school social workers and their collaborative, cross-systems approach to serving students, families, and staff in education settings. Implications and directions for future school social work research are discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)787-811
Number of pages25
JournalSchool Mental Health
Issue number3
Early online date16 May 2023
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • Interdisciplinary collaboration
  • MTSS
  • School mental health
  • School social work
  • School social work practice model

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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