USC school to work with military kids

The USC School of Social Work, in conjunction with the Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families, has begun using a $7.6 million four-year grant it received in July.

The school will send 30 Master of Social Work interns to eight local school districts to work with military families and discover ways to address the issues related to deployed parents.

“The kids [at the schools] run into all sorts of trouble in regards to graduating on time. It creates such a negative feeling,” USC professor of social work Ron Astor said.

These USC students will primarily work with school districts near military bases where more than 10,000 students — or 10 percent of the school population — are from military families.

The four-year project intends to help the 149 public schools in the USC area become more supportive environments for children whose parents typically have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

“First thing we’re working on is the data on what is the issue that the kids are reporting as the biggest issue in their school,” Astor said.

All of the funding going toward this project comes from a grant from the Department of Defense Education Activity.

Astor, the principal investigator, will work with co-principal investigators Anthony Hassan, director of CIR, Marleen Wong, clinical professor of social work, and Rami Benbenishty, a professor at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Although only 30 students are currently involved, organizers anticipate increasing the number next year and partnering with San Diego State University and UC San Diego to reach more schools in the future.

Districts around San Diego have one of the highest percentages of students from military families.

According to Astor, the students have typically gone to “nine to 10 schools” throughout their K-12 education, which can create social and academic issues. At times teachers can be unaware of the causes of these problems and make things harder on the child.

“When children go to civilian schools, outside of the post, camp, there seems to be a lack of awareness of the school systems to meet the needs of these children,” Hassan said.