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Nicole Brown's picture

Courage to Change Child & Youth Lives

 “CYCWs play soccer with children at the Safe ParkMy dream has always been to work with children,” said Siphiwe Sikhasa, between playing at the soccer field at the Safe Park in Grabouw, South Africa. Just 45 minutes outside of cosmopolitan Cape Town, the small town with dirt roads looks like a world away.

Sikhasa is a coordinator of the Safe Park, a space where children of all ages can safely play, receive homework help, discuss issues burdening young minds, learn valuable skills and oftentimes receive a hot meal. His passion for helping children is apparent as he runs the field and freely gives hugs and high fives. On this particular overcast, drizzling June winter day, there are approximately 20 children playing soccer and 110 children at the Safe Park. Most days there are nearly 200 children.

The Safe Parks are a component of the 309 Isibindi programs established in 161 communities throughout South Africa by the National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW). Meaning “courage” in IsiZulu, Isibindi is serving more than 200,000 vulnerable children nationwide, including those who are living in grandparent-headed households; child-headed households; have a disability, HIV/AIDS or other disease; are caring for ailing family members; are victims of abuse; face struggles at school or home; or are affected by a number of other factors that could lead to unsafe situations.

In addition to working at the Safe Park, Sikhasa and other trained and supervised Child and Youth Care Workers (CYCWs) continue to help families in their immediate communities by going door-to-door to assess needs and offer support to those who need it. Each worker aids up to 48 children, monitoring a child’s progress, acting as their confidant and providing support in various areas as needed in a child’s life. CYCWs build relationships with children through interaction in typical daily routines- cooking together, reading, household chores and life skills.

Granny Nghonyama opens the door to the CYCWThe Nghonyama* family is one of the thousands visited an average of 3-5 times a week by a CYCW. Since 2011, Edwina is the CYCW who has been working with the family’s five children, currently ages 5-17, and the grandmother caring for the children. Three of the children lost both parents to AIDS, one child was abused by his step-father and one was abandoned by her parents. In all cases, Granny Nghonyama stepped in. Some are her biological grandchildren, some she calls her grandchildren. “It doesn’t matter whose child it is, I just have a deep love for children.” Budgeting, homework and overcoming the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS haven’t been easy for this blended family, but have been made easier with the help of Edwina. She has helped to link the family with additional services, including a social worker and government subsidies.

Isibindi is in the second year of a five-year scale up and is being funded by PEPFAR through USAID. With a goal of training 10,000 CYCWs, to date 4,402 CYCWs have been trained.

The Isibindi model has helped formalize child and youth care work as a profession. The program trains unemployed people selected by their communities in a child and youth care accredited training program. Two universities in South Africa now offer a CYCW degree and more than 6,000 workers have been formally registered with the South African Council for Social Service Professions under a new statutory regulation championed by the NACCW.

The Para Professional Interest Group of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance has drawn from the expertise of NACCW and many others to develop a competency framework for para professionals that includes a section on functions and competencies specific to auxiliary child and youth care workers. The framework is being tested and a first edition will be released later this year. The competencies build upon the Alliance’s global efforts to help plan, develop and support all levels of workers who make up the social service workforce.

In South Africa, the program has been embraced by the government as a best-practice model. Several other countries have recently expressed interest in developing new cadres of CYCWs and are receiving support from NACCW to do so. Ministers from the county government of Kisumu, one of 47 county governments in Kenya, recently visited the Grabouw Safe Park and met families benefiting from the support of CYCWs. “We have engaged the South African network to advise us and help us launch the Safe Park model. I want to…learn how to implement this program,” said Jennipher Atieno Kere, Executive Member for Education, Youth, Culture, Gender and Sports. The Safe Park model is also being replicated within South Africa by more than 20 other organizations and in Zambia.

“While the NACCW developed this program, we’re happy to share it with the world. These child and youth care workers are impacting one life, one family and one community at time, leading to real change here in South Africa, and eventually around the world,” said Zenuella Thumbadoo, Deputy Director, NACCW.

As Sikhasa continues to develop his skills as a CYCW, he prides himself on being a positive male role model to the young lives he influences. “I have younger siblings who have always looked up to me, and I want to continue to be a model for them, and all kids.”

(*names changed to protect the identity of the family)

Colin Liebtag's picture

Social Work Day at the United Nations - Advocating for the Dignity and Worth of All People

Social Work Day at the UN meeting roomFrom the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 to the most recent annual gathering of social workers on March 23, 2015, the United Nations has brought people together along the premise of a fundamentally unifying principle: we’re all connected, and we all matter.

At Social Work Day, this point was poignantly articulated by Ramu Damodaran, Deputy Director for Partnership and Public Engagement in the United Nations Department of Public Information’s Outreach Division and chief of the UN’s Academic Impact Initiatives. Mr. Damodaran shared a vision that demonstrates the innate linkages we all share as he articulated the following cyclical concept: an individual has a duty to her/his family; families have a duty to their communities; communities have a duty to their nations; nations have a duty the world; and the world has a duty to each individual.

One may call this karma, another may call it the “golden rule”, Bob Marley might cry “one love!”, and yet another may simply call it logical. However, many social workers may unassumingly just call this their profession. Whether through work on micro, mezzo, or macro levels of intervention, social workers advocates for dignity and worth that some individuals and communities do not even know they have…perhaps, that’s the greatest manifestation of where core social work values really begin.

Yet, truly we must tap into knowing our own worth to put this into genuine practice…thinking, feeling, and acting with dignity as it relates to ourselves. When we know dignity and feel dignity just like we know our reflection in the mirror then we can act it out in our relationships with others. We see ourselves reflected in the smile that an encouraging word brings to someone else, because then we know it’s more than just a smile—we recognize it as a validation as we identify with the other along the most basic of human lines—a confirmation of self worth, a heart-warming reminder that we all matter.

The 32nd annual event at the United Nations in New York City was organized and supported by the International Federation of Social Workers, Council on Social Work Education, International Council on Social Welfare, the U.S. National Association of Social Workers and the International Association of Schools of Social Work. More than 500 social workers, educators, students and United Nations officials attended. The event capped a week of events in celebration of World Social Work Day.


This blog was prepared by Colin Liebtag, MSW Student, Rutgers University and Intern, Global Social Service Workforce Alliance.

Nicole Brown's picture

Celebrating World Social Work Day

“The social service workforce plays a critical role in our [UNAIDS] mission of zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero AIDS-related stigma and discrimination,” said David Chipanta, Senior Advisor Social Protection, UNAIDS, during his opening remarks of the “World Social Work Day Webinar: Celebrating Success in Social Service Workforce Strengthening.

The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance hosted the webinar with PEPFAR, USAID and UNAIDs, and it’s the 19th webinar in a series in collaboration with IntraHealth International and the 4Children Project. Presenters from USAID Ethiopia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe shared key factors and best practices from their experiences of strengthening the social service workforce and improving outcomes of HIV-affected children and families. The three presenters shared their approaches for increasing training, building collaboration with the government and other organizations, and improving HIV treatment access and adherence through development of the social service workforce. Participants of the webinar were from a range of organizations around the world. A recording and summary of the webinar is available on the Alliance’s website.

The webinar was one of many activities taking place globally in celebration of the 2015 World Social Work Day on March 17. Participants from around the world attended conferences, joined webinars, shared messages via social media and held advocacy events with local governments. The day was an occasion to share the 2015 theme: ‘Promoting the Dignity and Worth of Peoples,’ which relates to the second pillar of the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development. The theme focuses on the joint work of The International Federation of Social Workers, The International Association of Schools of Social Work and The International Council on Social Welfare.

In Geneva, UNAIDS hosted a conference to join UNAIDS with social work organizations in an effort to achieve the goal zero AIDS by 2030. “Ending AIDS, Promoting Dignity and Respect for All” celebrated the achievements thus far and further explored methods for collaborating on inclusion of vulnerable, marginalized and excluded populations.

“People living with HIV and people most affected by HIV have multiple and often intractable needs that no one sector can provide effectively. The social work profession and social protection programmes connect people to services and make services work for people,” said Mariângela Simão, Director, Rights, Gender, Prevention and Community Mobilization, UNAIDS.

More than 110 attendees gathered in Geneva and participated via the live webcast. A summary of the event is available on UNAIDs website. PEPFAR has also launched a webpage about the social service workforce.

In Washington, D.C., students, academia, organizations and social workers came together for an event titled "Engaging Congress in the Pursuit of Social Justice." Sponsored by the National Association of Social Work (U.S.) and the U.S. Social Work Congressional Caucus and the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy, the event was held to advocate to the U.S. government in support of a current proposed law in support of social workers.

In Bujumbura, Burundi, students from across the country gathered for a conference hosted by the Social Work and Community Department of Hope Africa University.

Additional news from the 2015 World Social Work Day can be found at #socialworkday.

Anonymous's picture

Roundtable Discussion on Faculty Recruitment and Retention on September 23

Roundtable Discussion on Faculty Recruitment and Retention

Social Service Workforce Strengthening Webinar Series

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

8:30 AM – 10:00 AM (Washington), 2:30 – 4:00 PM (South Africa), 7:30 – 9:00 PM (Indonesia) 

The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, in partnership with the Monmouth University School of Social Work and through funding from the US-based National Association of Deans and Directors, has conducted a review of challenges and promising practices associated with social work faculty recruitment and retention. Engaging and retaining high quality faculty is a key workforce topic that spans schools of social work across the globe.  This will be an informal discussion held with social work deans, directors and faculty from multiple countries. We anticipate a lively conversation rather than long presentations and we invite you to listen in and participate by offering your questions, ideas and opinions. 

Discussants include:

  • Mr. Charles Kalinganire, Lecturer, Social Work, Department of Social Sciences, School of Social, Political and Administrative Sciences, University of Rwanda
  • Dr. Abu Mvungi, Rector, Institute of Social Work, Tanzania
  • Dr. Kanya Eka Santi, Head of Bandung College of Social Welfare, West Java, Indonesia
  • Dr. Vishanthie Sewpaul, Professor, School of Applied Human Sciences, University of KwaZulu Natal; President, Association of Schools of Social Work in Africa; Vice-President, IASSW
  • Dr. Karen Sowers, Dean and Professor, College of Social Work, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

The discussion will be moderated by:

  • Dr. Robin Mama, Dean, School of Social Work, Monmouth University
  • Dr. Jim McCaffery, CapacityPlus, TRG, and Chairperson of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance Steering Committee

Please use this link to access the webinar any time after 8:15am EDT on Sept 23:

Please note that after completing the short registration form, you will need to click on or copy a link from the page and paste it in your browser window to access the webinar.

To calculate what time the webinar will be held in your part of the world, use this link:

To learn more about this webinar series and to access the series’ archives, please visit:

This webinar series is supported by:

Amy Bess's picture

Social Service Workers Address Ebola’s Widespread Social Impacts

By Amy Bess, Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, and Alex Collins, IntraHealth International

Social Impacts of Ebola on West Africa becoming more evident

Social Workers in Sierra Leone help in the fight against EbolaThe number of confirmed cases of Ebola is quickly climbing past 6,200. On September 20, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the historic U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), underscoring how a comprehensive, multisectoral response will be ever more critical as Ebola’s far-reaching health, security, political, economic, and social impacts on West Africa become more evident.

For every person infected, many others are affected—family members lose loved ones, children lose their parents, students lose teachers, employers lose key staff and scores of responders have witnessed extreme suffering and work in exceedingly stressful environments.

Who is addressing the social impacts of Ebola?

Fortunately, skilled social service workers are helping prevent the spread of the disease and addressing its wide-ranging social impacts.

Social service workers are those who contribute to the care, support, promotion of rights, and empowerment of vulnerable populations. All functional levels of this workforce have vital roles to play in West Africa’s Ebola response, including:

  •  Those who provide direct care and services to children and families, such as social workers, para-social workers, community caregivers, child and youth care workers, and child protection committee members
  • Those who mobilize communities, organizations, or groups, and facilitate connections between government systems of care and community-based systems of care, such as community development officers, child protection officers, and district social welfare workers
  • Those who engage at a more macro level, setting policies, standards, and guidelines and carrying out research and evaluation. This includes positions such as directors of children’s affairs, ministers of social welfare, professional association leaders and university staff.

Importance of the social service workforce in awareness raising and child protection

Social service workers are trained community mobilizers and trusted community members. They help to build awareness and combat myths about Ebola in an intense environment of fear and stigma. They recognize that stigma further isolates people and blocks access to care and support, which in turn contributes to the continued spread of the disease.

For example, social workers from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and nongovernmental organization staff in Liberia have been trained by the International Committee of the Red Crossand are carrying out awareness-raising and sensitization campaigns in communities, marketplaces, and homes. Others are organizing educational dramas, carrying out home visits, and staffing hotlines with responders trained in psychosocial support.

In Sierra Leone, Social Workers Sierra Leone is working among homeless youth in Freetown, a population not included in the government’s home-to-home Ebola education campaign during the country’s three-day lockdown. They also visited other marginalized communities that would otherwise not receive basic care and information.

And in neighboring Guinea, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is working with the Red Cross Society of Guinea, the Ministry of Health, World Health Organization, and Medecins Sans Frontiers to manage the epidemic, raise community awareness, and provide psychosocial support to affected families.

Social service workers also help to ensure that children made vulnerable by Ebola are protected from further harm. According to UNICEF, when parents die of Ebola, their children are sometimes found roaming the streets without parental care, proper shelter, health care, or nutrition. This can be a result of stigma and rejection, as the children are seen in their communities as sources of infection. Typical systems of care are interrupted and those who would typically take children in refuse to care for them due to fear of contamination.

Social service workers are part of a rapid child protection response including identification of and care for separated and unaccompanied children, family tracing and reunification. UNICEF is also supporting alternative forms of care such as safe or half-way homes staffed by social service workers. Community mobilization and sensitization campaigns also serve an important role in preventing family separation.

Social service workers charged with addressing mental health and psychosocial support

Ebola brings with it not only physical suffering for those infected, but also feelings of panic, shock, loss, grief, shame, suspicion, and anger to both victims and survivors. Increased challenges and stressors faced during such an emergency--such as food insecurity, loss of family income, interruptions in schooling and access to health care—make matters worse.

Mental health and psychosocial support have long been key components of coordinated emergency response. For example, the Inter Agency Standing Committee Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) in Emergency Settings, were developed in 2007 to establish a set of minimum multisectoral responses to protect, support, and improve mental health and psychosocial wellbeing in the midst of emergencies.

To assist social service workers responding to the Ebola crisis, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ briefing note on Psychosocial support during an outbreak of Ebola virus disease provides targeted information on psychosocial issues related to Ebola, key messages, and recommendations for providing psychosocial support. And the World Health Organization has adapted a handbook on psychosocial first aid to focus on the Ebola crisis.

In Liberia, UNICEF is sending mental health specialists to Ebola treatment units and holding centers to provide psychosocial support to patients and their families.

Specially trained social service workers help Ebola responders—including health workers, body removal teams, volunteers, and government and NGO staff—manage stress, self-care, grief, and loss.

The unsung heroes of the Ebola epidemic

Social service workers are some of the unsung heroes of the Ebola epidemic. They work around the clock to help prevent the spread of the disease and address its widespread social consequences. As more and more countries commit the support of their trained health professionals to treat an increasing number of patients, so too must we recognize the importance of social service workers and the many roles they are playing—from raising community awareness to providing social support to patients and survivors—in the midst of this epidemic.

Anonymous's picture

Join us for a webinar on July 30: The Role of Local Government Staff in Coordinating and Overseeing Social Services

 WEBINAR: The Role of Local Government Staff in Coordinating and Overseeing Social Services


Wednesday, July 30, 2014 8:30am – 10:00am, Washington DC

2:30pm Harare, 3:30pm Kampala

This webinar will explore the role of government workers, particularly those at the district or sub-national levels, who play a key role in supporting community systems to enhance the delivery of quality services and support to vulnerable children and families. Speakers will address the way in which the social service system as a whole can be strengthened by reinforcing the technical and leadership skills of local government staff to coordinate, lead, monitor and evaluate services and support in their region. Experiences from the Bantwana Initiative in Zimbabwe and the SUNRISE-OVC Project in Uganda will be used to illustrate the key involvement of government staff in these countries. Speakers will also address the results and impact of having strong staff at the sub-national level. They will discuss inputs that have led to increased coordination with community structures, better workforce planning and skills development, strengthened referral systems and case management systems, stronger monitoring and evaluation systems, improved annual planning and budgeting for social services, and ultimately, stronger services for children and families.  During the webinar, participants will also have the opportunity to discuss the implications of this type of work in their countries.


Ms. Patience Ndlovu, Zimbabwe Country Director, World Education/Bantwana Initiative  

With a Master’s in Policy Studies, Ms. Ndlovu has worked for over 17 years in development and emergency relief efforts largely focused on assisting vulnerable children and addressing women’s protection and rights issues. She is currently the Country Director for WEI/Bantwana in Zimbabwe providing technical and management oversight and leadership for 3 large national programs - the Vana Bantwana project offering comprehensive support for vulnerable children and their families affected by the HIV epidemic funded through USAID; an innovative systems strengthening program with the Department of Social Welfare that has developed a national case management program supported by UNICEF and USAID; and the Second Chance Learning program for children who have dropped out of school supported by UNICEF and OSISA.  Before joining Bantwana, Ms. Ndlovu managed the OVC program for Capernaum Trust Zimbabwe, specifically marshaling efforts in policy formulation and model designs. Previously under World Vision International Zimbabwe, Ms. Ndlovu provided technical support to the National Director in strategic planning, policy development, negotiations, proposal writing, reporting, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all country programs. She was also instrumental in the design of the USAID/WFP-funded Food Aid Program.

Ms. Grace Mayanja, Chief of Party, Uganda SUNRISE-OVC Project

Grace Mayanja  has 20 years of leadership and management experience at grassroots, national, regional and international communities. She is one of Uganda’s top social development specialists with expertise in social policy development and implementation, human and economic development, gender analysis and planning, development management, child development and rights. She holds a First Class Division Honors of the Master of Science Degree in International Development Studies, University College Dublin, Ireland. She also studied Master of Arts in Gender and Development Studies, and also holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management. Grace has been instrumental in leading and working with teams that have developed various child development and related frameworks for Uganda and other African countries. She was the civil society lead person on the National Steering Committee that spearheaded the first National OVC policy and Strategic plan development for Uganda as well as other OVC related guidelines, standards, systems, technical tools and strategies. She is currently International HIV/AIDS Alliance'sChief of Party for USAID SUNRISE-OVC project in strengthening Uganda’s local government responses for OVC in 80 districts.  Previously, Ms. Mayanja was Chief of Party for the USAID CORE project in supporting and building capacity of Uganda Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to lead and coordinate the national OVC response. Her other experience includes working with World Vision as technical advisor for OVC and HIV/AIDS Models of Learning global Hope Initiative Program.

Please use this link to access the webinar any time after 8:15am EDT on July 30:

You will be asked to complete a short registration form and then copy a link to the webinar.

To calculate what time the webinar will be held in your part of the world, use this link:

 Please visit

to learn more about this webinar series and to access the series’ archives.

 This webinar series is supported by:


Anonymous's picture

Global Social Service Workforce Alliance Symposium: Experts discuss how to strengthen workforce

This article appeared in the June 2014 edition of the NASW News:

Global Social Service Workforce Alliance Symposium: Experts discuss how to strengthen workforce

By Rena Malai, News staff

The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance held a symposium in April that brought together experts to discuss the importance of strengthening the social service workforce worldwide.

The NASW Foundation was one of the co-hosts of the event, called “Supporting Families, Building a Better Tomorrow for Children: The Role of the Social Service Workforce.” NASW is also part of the alliance’s steering committee.

“The symposium brought forth many important issues, including the importance of building a stronger social service workforce to support the needs of children and families around the world,” said Susan Rubin, assistant director for the NASW Foundation.

Three panels presented at the symposium, with each addressing a different area on how to build a stronger social service workforce. The first panel — “How Social Service Workers Support Families to Promote Healthy Development and Well-Being of Children” — included NASW member Nathan Linsk, professor of social work in family medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago and founder of the Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center.

Linsk spoke about developing training and a workforce for paraprofessionals in other countries who serve vulnerable families and children. The term stands for those who are not necessarily trained social workers, but who carry out social services.

“Coordination is key,” Linsk said. “With Global Alliance as a resource for idea sharing and networking, advocating can happen to use paraprofessionals in suitable roles.”

Amy Bess, Global Social Service Workforce Alliance coordinator, said social workers comprise a key component of the social service workforce, and they are often called on to coordinate and collaborate with other disciplines in order to provide comprehensive social services. She said the symposium was an opportunity to highlight the importance of the social service workforce, which plays a critical role in promoting healthy social service systems and improving the lives of vulnerable children and families.

“The symposium, as well as the work of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance in general, offered an opportunity to bring people together to identify effective workforce strategies at the micro, mezzo and macro levels,” Bess said.  “At the end of the day, this will mean stronger support and services to children and families who need it most.”

The symposium had more than 100 attendees, and was held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The NASW Foundation, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) provided funding for the event.

The mission of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance is to promote the knowledge of evidence, resources and tools, and political will and action needed to address key social service workforce challenges, especially within low- to middle-income countries. USAID partner CapacityPlus also helped implement the symposium.

The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance hosts a Social Service Workforce Webinar Series. The webinars are free, and NASW members are encouraged to attend, said Susan Rubin, assistant director for the NASW Foundation.

“I encourage anyone who is interested in getting involved in this kind of work to become a member of the Global Alliance network as it provides a great connection to an international network and shared information,” she said. “There is no cost to join. The Global Alliance sends out notices to its members and provides them access to a wealth of information.”

For more information on the NASW Foundation, visit©2014 National Association of Social Workers. All Rights Reserved.

Anonymous's picture

Happy Birthday - Today the Alliance is 1 Year Old

Thank you to all who have shared your creative ideas for building a platform to connect with one another, learn and share resources.  The Alliance came to life one year ago and is helping to strengthen the social service workforce.

At the Social Welfare Workforce Strengthening Conference held in Cape Town, South Africa in 2010, 150 participants from 18 countries recommended that we find a way to continue the inspiring dialogue that the conference stimulated.  As a result, the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance launched one year ago to generate the knowledge and evidence, resources and tools, and political will and action to address key social service workforce challenges around the globe.
What do members do?
The Alliance vision is to work toward a world where a well-planned, well-trained and well-supported social service workforce effectively delivers services that improve the lives of vulnerable populations. To realize this vision takes members like you to join and to engage with leaders and colleagues to advance knowledge, explore shared issues and promising practices and be strong advocates to help strengthen the workforce.
Over the past year, members have been involved in:

  • Sharing tools, resources, models and best practices; contributing to the resource database and E-Updates; and learning about creative initiatives being undertaken by others
  • Participating in webinars, events and a Symposium
  • Participating in and taking leadership on interest groups to connect with others and contribute ideas and best practices to address workforce challenges in specific thematic areas
  • Being part of a global movement to strengthen this key workforce, through initiatives such as Social Service Workforce Week.

Who are the members?
Since our launch on June 6, 2013, we have had 354 individuals join from 52 countries, including staff from NGOs (34%), universities (26%), government (10%), UN agencies (10%), professional associations (5%) and corporations (5%).  Membership is free and open to anyone who is:

  • Involved in the area of social service initiatives or interested in learning more
  • Interested in supporting and promoting the aims and principles of the Alliance
  • Committed to interagency collaboration.

Thank you for joining!  
We would like to thank everyone who has joined this emerging network to share information and make use of the excellent resources related to strengthening the social service workforce and promoting the protection, development and well-being of children and families.  In case you are not yet a member, you can sign up for free membership here.  

More about us  
Are you interested in learning more about who the social service workforce is, why they should be supported, and ways that organizations are working to strengthen this workforce that provides critical care, support and services to vulnerable populations? Take a look at this background information on the workforce on our website.
Read more about the history and leadership of the Alliance here.
The Alliance receives core funding from PEPFAR/USAID and periodically receives funding for priority activities from other donors. IntraHealth International, the lead partner of CapacityPlus, hosts and acts as fiscal sponsor for the Alliance.
Contact Amy Bess, the Alliance Coordinator, at abess@ with any questions or ideas.
We look forward to your continuing involvement in this important initiative to strengthen the workforce and improve lives.  And we look forward to celebrating more Alliance birthdays with you in the years to come.
The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance Steering Committee

  • Dr. Bernadette J. Madrid, MD, Executive Director of the Child Protection Network Foundation, Inc.
  • Dr. Catherine Love, PhD, Trustee, Taranakai Whanui Iwi Authority (WTT/PNMR)
  • Dr. James McCaffery, PhD, Senior Advisor, Training Resources Group and CapacityPlus
  • Ms. Joyce Nakuta, Deputy Director, Namibia Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Directorate Child Welfare Services, Division Child Care
  • Ms. Kendra Gregson, MSc, BA, CYW, Senior Advisor, UNICEF
  • Ms. Maury Mendenhall, MSW, Senior Technical Advisor, OVC, United States Agency for International Development
  • Dr. Nathan L. Linsk, PhD, Professor of Social Work in Family Medicine, Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Dr. Natia Partskhaladze, MD, MSW, Chairperson, Georgian Association of Social Workers and Iv. Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Georgia
  • Mr. Patrick Onyango Mangen, Country Director, TPO Uganda
  • Dr. Robin Sakina Mama, PhD, Professor and Dean, Monmouth University School of Social Work, US
  • Ms. Susan Rubin, MBA, MA, Assistant Director, National Association of Social Workers Foundation, US
  • Mr. Ummuro Adano, MSc, Senior Principal Technical Advisor, Management Sciences for Health, US
  • Ms. Zenuella Sugantha Thumbadoo (Zeni), Deputy Director, National Association of Child Care Workers – South Africa
Anonymous's picture

Takeaways from April 29 Symposium: Supporting Families, Building a Better Tomorrow for Children: The Role of the Social Service Workforce

Submitted by guest blogger, Chiedza Mufunde

On April 29, 2014, the Alliance hosted a symposium, Supporting Families, Building a Better Tomorrow for Children: The Role of the Social Service Workforce in Washington, D.C. The symposium, attended by professionals working to promote resilience through child and family-centered interventions at the micro, meso and macro levels featured panelists working in South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Uganda, Namibia, Philippines and Zimbabwe. Some of the major highlights included discussions on workforce training, role of community assets, and the importance of coordination and integration in service delivery.  

In the keynote address by UNICEF’s Chief for Child Protection Programmes, Dr. Susan Bissell underscored the 20th Anniversary of the International Year of the Family. Families are the first port of call for children and they play an essential role in development. Sadly, in many places around the world, this port is broken due to violence, conflict, HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty. The social service workforce is the supply in working to protect children in these dire situations.  Dr. Bissell also noted the importance of training and coordination of the workforce to avoid doing harm, even when there are good intentions.  While there are many challenges—certification, resources, supervision, attracting professionals, burnout—in the training of social workers, there is evidence of increased partnerships to train and retain frontline workers in communities.  In her opening remarks, Dr. Caroline Ryan, Deputy Coordinator for Technical Leadership, US Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, underscored PEPFAR’s support and sponsorship for social service workforce strengthening and programming.

Dr. Nathan Linsk discussed the project training para-professionals in Tanzania in collaboration with the Institute of Social Work and the AIHA Twinning Center. Para-professionals fill in critical gaps in identifying needs and providing support. Kendra Blackett- Dibinga presented findings from a recent study by Save the Children indicating the critical role of community caregivers on children orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS in Cote d’Ivoire. According to the study, The Impact of Community Caregivers in Cote d’Ivoire: Improving Health and Social Outcomes through Community Caregivers in Cote d’Ivoire, households that received community caregiver support were about 12 times more likely to receive care and had better clinical and social outcomes. In South Africa, the Isibindi model implemented by the National Association of Child and Youth Care Workers is evidence of the role of community-based child and youth care workers trained to provide child-care services that are family- centered.  Zeni Thumbadoo captured the essence of the role of social service workforce in direct service provision at the micro level: “The core of Isibindi is translating care into action by using everyday life events—ordinary human interactions—that transcend basic needs and foster resilience.”  

Community ownership featured prominently among panelists working at the meso level through community caregivers and case care workers. As Mike Wessells stressed, studies indicate that there are spontaneous, homegrown child protection mechanisms that are often sustainable and effective within communities. Mapping out these assets and resources through connecting the formal and non-formal actors is only achievable when the workforce engages the community as co-learners. Reflecting on positionality relative to local people is essential in cultivating community ownership. Patrick Onyango Mangen presented on work in remote areas of Somalia and Uganda.  He emphasized the need for social workers to develop the ability to navigate dual worlds and respect local traditions without romanticizing or judging them. Social service workers can and are harnessing local strategies that have the potential to improve outcomes for children and families.

Engagement with the community sets the stage for successful integration and coordination at the macro level. Patience Ndlovu elaborated on the case management program with Bantwana Initiative in building the system of the Department of Social Services in Zimbabwe. Through this cadre of volunteers, case care workers ease the burden of social workers and meet the needs of children. Joyce Nakuta of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Namibia also echoed the need to promote an integrated service delivery system in establishing a continuum of care; it is important for governments, and non-governmental actors to embrace partnership as key to building and strengthening national systems. Based on the experience of establishing child protection units in the Philippines, Dr. Bernadette Madrid stressed the need to advocate at all levels to ensure sustainability and institutionalization of child protection laws.  All panels highlighted close collaborations with various universities in integrating curricula on child protection: Bantwana Initiative collaboration with University of Zimbabwe and Women’s University in Africa social work programs; Makerere University in Uganda and TPO Uganda; UNICEF and Harvard School of Public Health and University of KwaZulu-Natal; and Institute of Social Work, Tanzania and PEPFAR. These collaborations build capacity of institutions in training a movement of social workers and para-professionals who embody the core principles and values of social work.

Overall, the symposium fostered a stimulating conversation among professionals committed to developing and supporting a workforce that keeps children and families at the heart of the work. My biggest takeaway from the symposium: It takes humility for all players to effectively engage and coordinate actions that inspire breakthroughs in protecting children. Many thanks to the Alliance for organizing the event!


Chiedza Mufunde recently received an MSW from Boston College Graduate School of Social Work specializing in global practice and policy.


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SSWWeek Day Five: Making Sure the Workforce Has the Support it Needs

By Dr. James McCaffery, PhD, Senior Advisor, Training Resources Group and CapacityPlus

To paraphrase Albert Einstein, who once said ‘out of clutter, find simplicity,’ I would adapt it to say ‘out of diversity, find strength.’  And the social service workforce is wonderfully diverse. 

Consider the broad range of job titles that exist – social worker, social work assistant, community based care giver, social welfare extension worker, community based psychosocial worker, child and youth care worker, and so on.  In addition, there are other roles from related sectors that deliver some aspect of social service work within their areas or responsibility, including people like teachers, probation officers and community health workers.  To add to this complex social service workforce picture, there is a broad range of government and non-government organizations that hire and support workers, and these exist in some form at both the national and local level, and include formal as well as non-formal (and traditional) community groups and mechanisms. 

I use the term ‘wonderfully diverse’ in the first sentence just to acknowledge that there is definitely space for many to contribute in this area, and there is a certain strength in this organizational and workforce diversity that should be celebrated.

Given this picture, however, there is a key challenge – what kinds of actions can this broad range of organizations take to make sure they are supporting the various components of the workforce that they are responsible for?  What options do they have to motivate a plethora of widely different kinds of workers?

Drawing from the Support component of the Social Service Workforce Strengthening Framework, there are two important areas that leaders at every level – and in any type of organization -- can use to choose appropriate interventions or strategies that fit their context and needs. 

1)                  Develop or strengthen systems to improve and sustain social service workforce performance.  Probably most important, organizations can improve the kind of supportive supervision that they use with front line workers, and to seek out any special mechanisms that may be needed for community based caregivers.   Another key area that would support workforce performance is to develop or agree on standard operating procedures for more coordinated and comprehensive services between national, district and community based organizations providing support for children and families (e.g. better tracking and documentation of services, making certain the referral system is actually working, and identifying how well the different players are working together to provide ongoing support for children and families).

2)                  Develop or adapt tools, resources, and initiatives to improve job satisfaction and retention.  It is important to start in this area by soliciting and implementing ideas from social service workers for improving workplace conditions aimed at enabling them to carry out their responsibilities more effectively.  Just the act of asking for input will be motivating to workers (assuming of course that something is done as a result).  It is also important to consult with social service workers and community based care givers to identify ways to acknowledge achievements or incentives and (merit-based) promotions to provide for individuals who stay with organizations for longer periods of time. Finally, it is useful to engage in on-going monitoring to measure progress in the areas of job satisfaction and retention interventions and to make appropriate changes based on evidence.

I should also add that there is an Alliance Interest Group working now on exploring and consolidating perspectives and key considerations concerning the role of para professionals in the social service workforce.  As part of their work, they are developing a series of guiding principles for developing and supporting the workforce, which will also be a valuable resource once it is complete.

As we consider these kinds of leadership actions to support the social service workforce, we are also fortunate to have profiles of leaders who are doing just that. 

I encourage you to read these profiles as they are excellent examples of a very important social service cadre, that is, leaders and managers who are responsible for creating an enabling workforce environment.  Also take a look at a story about the way that community volunteers are supported through intensive training provided by the USAID-supported Yekokeb Berhan Program for Highly Vulnerable Children in Ethiopia.

For those leaders interested in taking action to support their workforce, the Alliance website has many useful resources on supporting the workforce that can be adapted and applied to fit different contexts.  For example, there are different tools or training courses that can be used to develop or train supervisors.  There are studies about how best to compensate primary and secondary community based caregivers.  There are country profiles that described workforce strengthening progress in Tanzania, South Africa, Malawi and Namibia.  There are resources aimed at improving staff retention, one that describes how important the supervisor’s role is in retention and identifies supervisory competencies that increase retention and another – borrowed from the health sector – which provides tools to solicit input from workers about packages of incentives to best facilitate retention

The Alliance has also hosted a number of webinars related to supporting the workforce, including:

I encourage you to go on the website and look around, and I think you will find it a rich resource.  And our hope is that you will share your documents or insights about your own initiatives in this area so that others might profit as result of your work.  You email documents to us with a short description and we will help you to disseminate them.

And to return for a moment to our Einstein quote – we may not easily be able to find simplicity, but we can make every effort at the workforce level to make the diversity a strength by supporting all kinds of workers better.