College can be a stressful time for students, and sometimes they may need extra help. Student of Concern teams (SOCTs) are a valuable resource for students who are struggling academically, mentally, or behaviorally and are one way that colleges and universities provide support for their institutional communities. When I was an RA, graduate hall director, and full-time hall director I would occasionally need to submit a report to a supervisor or higher up regarding a student who was exhibiting concerning behavior. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I joined a team dedicated to reviewing these cases that I had a chance to see “behind the curtain” and better understand how the reports and information shared were utilized for follow-up, triage, and outreach.
On my campus, I serve as the co-chair of our SOCT team which we refer to as our CARE team, or Consultation, Assessment, Referral, and Education team. For the remainder of this blog I’ll refer to such teams as CARE teams but please know that each campus may use different acronyms and that the scope of services may differ from team to team.
CARE teams are typically made up of representatives from various departments on campus, such as student affairs, counseling, campus safety, campus and residential life, and academic support. They work together to assess students’ needs and develop a plan to help them succeed. CARE teams can provide a variety of services, such as:
- Academic support: CARE teams can help students with their coursework, connect them with tutoring resources, or develop a plan to catch up on missed classes.
- Mental and emotional health support: CARE teams can connect students with counseling services, provide support groups, or help students develop coping mechanisms.
- Behavioral support: CARE teams can help students develop healthy behaviors, manage their stress, or learn how to resolve conflicts peacefully.
In addition to providing direct services, CARE teams also play an important role in educating the campus community about student concerns. They work with faculty and staff to help them identify students who may be struggling, and they provide training on how to respond to student concerns in a supportive and private way. On my campus, we work to educate our campus community on common flag indicators for a student who may be struggling and benefit from a little extra support and resourcing. Common indicators include a sudden lack of engagement or isolation, difficulty managing time and stress, and unexplained absences. This, of course, is by no means an exhaustive list.
Many teams, like the one I oversee, employ a risk matrix/rubric to help provide guidance and classification for various student concern matters. In our case, we utilize the NaBITA (National Association of Behavioral Intervention and Threat Assessment) Risk Rubric. This rubric allows us to rank the severity of an individual student situation informed by evidence from referral(s) and report(s) received from campus partners.
- Assessment: CARE teams can help to assess the needs of students who are struggling. This may involve gathering information from the student, their professors, and other campus staff.
- Intervention: CARE teams can develop and implement interventions to help students who are struggling. This may involve providing counseling, connecting students with resources, or making changes to the student’s academic schedule.
- Monitoring: CARE teams can monitor the progress of students who are receiving support. This helps to ensure that the interventions are effective and that the student is making progress.
Following evaluation and rating, the CARE team can help determine the next steps through resourcing, outreach, and intervention in a variety of ways. These include, but are not limited to:
- Helping students get the help they need quickly and efficiently.
- Providing a coordinated approach to helping students, with input from multiple departments on campus.
- Helping students avoid academic probation or dismissal.
- Assisting students in developing healthy coping mechanisms and preventing future problems.
Each semester our team works to identify patterns and themes in our intake data to help us better prepare for future semesters through education and outreach with our campus partners. Sometimes CARE teams may be looking for additional representatives and serving on such groups can be challenging, but also extremely rewarding. It is likely that even if you aren’t at the table you are helping serve in some capacity for groups like this on your campus just by providing detailed information and timely reporting for students under your care.
By better understanding how this information is utilized and employed, we can all help create a culture of care and concern for our campus communities and the students we serve each day.
Resources for students or community members who may be struggling:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
- The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386
- The Jed Foundation: https://www.jedfoundation.org/
- The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: https://afsp.org/
Remember, you are not alone. There are people who care about you and want to help. Please reach out for help if you need it.