Social workers tackle pandemic pressure

National Youth Advocate Program finds creative ways to bring virtual mental health services
Social workers find creative ways to keep at-risk youth engaged and supported
Published: Feb. 15, 2021 at 5:28 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The pandemic has taken a major toll on our schools and teachers, but also at-risk youth who are having an even harder time with the lack of in-person support.

Mental health is a challenge in it of itself, but when you add mental health services with at-risk youth - through computer screens - the pressures on social workers and therapists are at an all-time high right now.

“To not be able to be in the environments and see what’s going on, it was kind of scary and unfortunate really, because there was a lot of kids that counted on us and just doing it over computer is not quite the same thing,” says Danielle Greiner, Director of Program Development for Mental Health and School-Based Services, National Youth Advocate Program.

Before the pandemic, each student would get a minimum of one hour each week with their therapist or counselor, but with the decline in engagement, Danielle says they’ve had to do a lot of “creative scrambling.”

“I think the biggest struggle when you’re working in mental health is that you rely so much on the non-verbal stuff - body language, facial expressions - even when you’re sitting across from someone when they have a mask on, it leaves off 50% of what we see on their face,” Greiner explains.

Calls were flooding in from students begging to do in-person sessions. One of the most challenging age groups K-5.

After long virtual school days the therapists pull out all the stops to keep the kids engaged - virtual therapy corners, online feelings games - and in warmer seasons - therapy through their front glass doors.

“Especially with the little ones - being really animated, using songs, dancing - I know the kids love the TikToks, maybe doing a TikTok with a kid,” explains social worker Summer Curcio.

Curcio found costumes to be one of her go-to outlets for the little ones.

She holds up an emoji shirt and says, “This shirt is kind of just to engage the kids a little bit more. It’s kind of fun to get them excited to join the telehealth session. This is just one of the few ways we keep it fun, keep it exciting!”

To get more information on mental health services or foster care through NYAP, go to

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