Robert Ayasse is retiring at the end of the semester after nearly 20 years as field consultant and lecturer and 10 years as co-chair of the Pupil Personnel Services Credential (PPSC) program for work as a school social worker in California K-12 public schools.
What led you to focus on social work in schools?
I have had a long interest in working with children, particularly adolescents. My first job out of graduate school was with an agency that provides school-based counseling for high school students referred for substance abuse problems. Later, I worked as one of the first social workers serving foster youth in schools. Over time, I recognized the importance of working systemically with schools to help children experiencing social and emotional difficulties. Schools are small communities and provide many opportunities to practice social work on multiple levels.
What are you proudest of in your career?
I have worked with a lot of individual clients, families, and group work and always enjoyed it. When I think back on that, there were three boys referred to me through the Foster Youth Program at Mt Diablo USD who were at the point of being expelled from school. I worked with each of them through their Middle and High School years, and two of them successfully graduated from high school. The third student left the district, but had not been suspended again. Also at MDUSD, I helped establish a school-based and school-linked internship program and wrote the initial grants for social work services that continue to this day.
At the School of Social Welfare as co-chair of the PPSC program, I developed curriculum and recruited field placements that have helped to grow the program from awarding the credential to about 10 students per year to about 30 per year. This grows to over 40 students if we include those in the Post-MSW PPSC program – which was developed on my initiative. I also developed a BBS-approved Law and Ethics In Schools training that has allowed hundreds of LCSWs working in schools to earn their required CEUs with material most relevant to their field of practice.
Recently, I helped to write the new School Social Work Standards and Performance Expectations for the CA CTC that govern the PPSC program. These standards are closely linked to the CSWE EPAS and provide a progressive, clear, and cohesive framework for school social work services. I think they are a model for the rest of the country to the extent that California has the most comprehensive school social work credential requirements of any state.
I did this work in collaboration with a lot of other creative, compassionate, and dedicated social workers and educators. I am most proud to have been associated with them and pleased to have had the opportunity to have them as colleagues.
Any words of wisdom for students or colleagues?
I have always found it important to have a clear idea about where I want to go and to link up and collaborate with others to go there together. Doing things collaboratively is slower and sometimes frustrating in the short term, but more rewarding and sustainable in the long run.