by Jini Roby
There is a crisis of a shortage of social services workers around the globe. Pressing needs of child protection, social protection and family strengthening require a variety of trained workers; yet, many low- and middle-income countries are struggling to recruit, train and retain them in a sustainable way. Since the workforce serves as the critical bridge to services and resources for vulnerable children and families, strengthening the workforce has emerged as a global priority issue. How can we effectively plan, develop, deploy and maintain an effective social service workforce? What evidence is there that can support this effort? This was the topic of the first-ever social service workforce evidence review convened by the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance Building Evidence for Social Service Workforce Strengthening Interest Group on June 3 in Washington, D.C. Download the full report and the evidence matrix.
The evidence forum included multi-disciplinary experts to review the draft report of the current state of evidence on social service workforce strengthening around the world. The goal of the report is to identify the most critical gaps in evidence and priority research needs pertinent to strengthening the workforce.
This process was initiated by creating an evidence matrix using key words and accessing multiple data libraries and search engines to explore academic and grey literature. Relevance was determined by the approximation of the work to the Framework for Strengthening the Social Service Workforce, adopted by the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance. The Framework envisages strengthening the workforce through coordinated and integrated processes of planning, developing, and supporting the workforce. Of the thousands of articles and books found, only those considered the most relevant were added to the matrix.
Although there is an increasing interest in best practice models in these areas, the evidence is scattered, and tends to be anecdotal, program-specific, or observational in nature. These pieces of information are helpful since in most development efforts, workforce building is location specific and measured at the program level. However, there is also a need to organize the current state of information to better understand what we know, as well as what we don’t know, about what workforce strengthening strategies work, what doesn’t work, and the impact of workforce strengthening on clients.
Overall, the available evidence on efforts to strengthen the social service workforce is weak. Yet of the pertinent studies, there are some methodologically robust studies coming out of high-income countries such as the U.S. and UK. Evidence from the low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is emerging, and tends to be limited to technical reports and situational analyses that are country- or region-specific. Still, these pieces of information provide a much needed sense for what is happening on the ground in some regions and suggest many helpful ideas for further exploration regarding the workforce. In addition, research in allied fields, such as health, suggests potential research methodologies and applications for the social service workforce as well as a foundation for anticipating some issues that have not yet emerged as discussion topics in the field.
The evidence review meeting brought together a large variety of experts to help analyze the preliminary findings. The participants were broken into three groups and were tasked with analyzing and determining the utility of the existing evidence base. They also identified high priority areas in need of further research and next steps needed to create a practical and useful research agenda. The full group then reconvened to discuss their findings and vote on what they saw as the most important areas to tackle first.
The summary of available information combined with the insights from experts at the working group meeting has been combined into an outcomes paper that provides some direction and suggestions for priority research areas to build the evidence base for social service workforce strengthening. We invite your input on these suggestions from the full report and on the evidence matrix by posting a comment here, initiating a discussion on the discussion board (note you must be a member to post comments or discussion topics) or emailing the Alliance.
The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance and IntraHealth International are proud to announce that the Tides Center will become the new host and fiscal sponsor of the Alliance effective July 15, 2016.
The Alliance is an influential and effective advocate for social service workers and systems around the world. It strives for a world where a well-planned, trained and supported social service workforce helps those in need improve their lives. The Alliance works with individuals and organizations at the local, regional and international levels to strengthen the social service workforce.
With participation and support from a broad range of participating organizations and a strong and diverse steering committee, the Alliance has grown to include more than 900 members representing 87 countries. IntraHealth has acted as host and fiscal sponsor to the Alliance since its launch three years ago. Both entities are committed to improving the health and well-being of vulnerable populations through stronger workforces.
The new host represents a shift toward greater independence for the Alliance. The Tides Center is specifically designed to act as a fiscal sponsor to networks and start-up groups similar to the Alliance. It has experience supporting global networks, works with a vast array of donors and has highly developed fiscal sponsorship support structures. The Tides Center is positioned to help the Alliance achieve its goals of continued growth and organizational independence. The Alliance looks forward to increased partnerships, new members and expanding projects.
The Alliance is thankful to its 900 members for their efforts to strengthen the provision of social services in their countries and to raise awareness of the important role social service workers play in their communities. Social service workers are critical to creating protective environments for healthy development and well-being by alleviating poverty; reducing discrimination; facilitating access to essential services; promoting social justice; and preventing and responding to violence, abuse, exploitation, neglect and family separation.
Collaboration with IntraHealth will remain important to the work of the Alliance. We will continue to work together to build the capacity of social service workers and systematically link social and health services. IntraHealth and the Alliance will continue to work together under the 4Children Project, led by Catholic Relief Services and funded by the United Stated Agency for International Development through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to improve the health and well-being of orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV, AIDS and other adversities.
Please direct any queries to: Amy Bess, Director, Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, email@example.com
In 1993, a UN resolution created the International Day of Families “realizing that families, as basic units of social life, are major agents of sustainable development at all levels of society and that their contribution to that process is crucial for its success.” International Day of Families was introduced as a way to celebrate the importance of the family to the international community. The theme for 2016 is “families, healthy lives and a sustainable future,” recognizing the way in which families contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Families serve a vital role in socializing, educating and caring for children, but in many places around the world families have experienced extreme hardships over the last century. Problems ranging from civil wars to the rise of HIV/AIDS have overburdened family and community support structures. Children are taken to residential care institutions, including orphanages and children’s homes, often because their parents do not have access to adequate social services to help them cope with the hardships facing them. Evidence indicates that children outside of family care are at increased risk of being exposed to abuse, neglect and exploitation.
Strengthening family-based care can help to prevent unnecessary separation of children from their families. For children already in residential care, deinstitutionalization and a careful process of reintegration back into family-based care that includes community-based support will help children return to a safe and protective home environment.
Many countries are undergoing care reform processes and are shifting away from institutionalization of childcare. For example, last week in Zambia, the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance took part in organizing a national consultation on care reform led by the Government of Zambia along with many other partners including the Better Care Network, GHR Foundation, USAID, UNICEF, Save the Children and other NGOs. The consultation aimed to jointly identify national priorities for action in order to accelerate child care reform in Zambia. The main focus areas and questions of the consultation were:
- What evidence do we have about child care reform? And how can we build and share the evidence base?
- How can we build capacity for family strengthening and alternative care?
- How can we strengthen advocacy efforts to accelerate the child care reform process?
A day was set aside to focus on issues specific to the social service workforce, without whom child care reform cannot be achieved. Presentations about the workforce were provided by Janestic Twikirize, Makerere University, on behalf of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance; Barnabas Mwansa, Zambia Rising; Robert Sihubwa, Zambian Association of Childcare Workers; and Benson Chisanga, University of Zambia, Department of Social Development Studies.
The consultation culminated in a Call to Action that recognized policies currently in place to support children and families, but also urged government, civil society and all stakeholders working with children to support the implementation of a set of strategic actions to accelerate child care reform in Zambia.
The International Day of Families offers the opportunity to pause and consider the central importance of families to the well-being of communities and society. At the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, we also celebrate the many, many workers who have dedicated their lives to supporting and strengthening families.
by Amy Bess and Nicole Brown, Global Social Service Workforce Alliance
The world’s attention has been focused on the tragedy unfolding for millions of Syrians, as they are forced to leave their homes and risk their lives in an effort to cross seas and borders to find safety. Also tragic is the total number of 60 million individuals who are currently forcibly displaced worldwide and live as refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons. This number has steadily increased over the past four years as a result of persecution, war and human rights violations. The length of time a person spends displaced averages 17 years worldwide. Displacement has immediate and long-lasting social, emotional and economic impacts.
At times like these, the social service sector plays an important role in helping individuals and families rebuild their lives. Several recent events featured the important work of social workers who work alongside refugees and migrants to affect policy, design programs and address the psychosocial effects of displacement.
On April 4 I had the opportunity to participate in the 33rd Annual Social Work Day at the UN under the theme of Refugees and Displaced Persons: Ensuring Dignity and Worth. Organized by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW), the event brought together 700 social work practitioners, academics and students as well as representatives from NGOs and UN agencies.
The event recognized the important roles social workers play, both as policy advocates and direct service providers, when working with refugees and migrants. Guglielimo Schinina, Head of Mental Health, Psychosocial Response and Intercultural Communications for the International Organization for Migration, stated that social workers have a fundamental role in defining the underlying causes and the consequences of migration and need to focus on policy issues as well as provision of social services. Both he and Ninette Kelly, Director of the New York Office of the UN Office of the High Commissioner, also emphasized the importance of providing psychosocial support to those who have been displaced, using a strengths-based perspective that builds on resilience, is forward-looking and sees the person beyond the category they represent.
World Social Work Day
This year’s World Social Work Day also saw several events dedicated to the issue of refugees and migrants. Held on the third Tuesday of March, World Social Work Day is an opportunity for the profession to express international solidarity and bring messages to governments, regional bodies and our communities. On March 15, social workers and others in the social service workforce held events to celebrate the theme “Promoting the Dignity and Worth of Peoples.”
IFSW organized two high-level events to bring together professionals working in the social service sector to discuss and strengthen collaboration in responding to the refugee crisis that remains ongoing in Europe.
The Social Work Symposium in Vienna, “Responding to the Refugee Crisis,” was co-organized with the Austrian Association of Social Work, YOUNION and the Chamber of Labor, Austria. It brought together social workers from 25 countries of departure, transition and resettlement or asylum, from Syria to Sweden. The event was also webcast for others to view and participate.
The goals of the Symposium were to: 1) create an overall working plan for social workers in each of the affected countries to coordinate information that provides a better understanding and response to refugee needs; 2) develop a focused strategy on particular vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied children and young people, older people, those with health issues and trafficked persons; 3) establish a comprehensive political advocacy strategy; 4) establish social work models that support refugees in isolated situations where other forms of assistance are not available; and 5) utilize the skills of social workers constructively to develop inclusive and cohesive societies.
Dunja Gharwal, a social worker in Austria, shared her experiences assisting families in the main train station in Vienna and at a nearby refugee camp. “We were allowed two days to conduct a survey to determine needed services. People asked for psychosocial support, but the most common question was where they could get water.” There were also 1,500+ unaccompanied children in need of a myriad of services. “Social work as a profession is based on human rights,” she said. By collaborating, we strengthen “our approach to human rights at the micro, mezzo and macro levels.”
Rory Truell, IFSW Secretary-General, announced that “This is a great example on World Social Work Day of the kind of work that we do. We’re going to strengthen our capacity to articulate a stronger social work voice that we hope the politicians will follow.”
The World Social Work Day event in Geneva covered the topic: “Refugees and Displaced Persons: The Role of Social Work.” Presentations focused on forced migration and the role of social work. Organized by IFSW in collaboration with IASSW, European Association of Schools of Social Work (EASSW) and University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland (HESSO), speakers included UNICEF, UNHCR, Swiss Red Cross and International Red Cross, FICE International, International Council of Social Welfare, International Social Service, IFSW, EASSW, IASSW and social work professors from universities in Europe.
The event concluded with the release of a Common Statement. “On this World Social Work Day, professional social workers (educators, practitioners, researchers, advocates) pledge to: Work to uphold the dignity of all those refugees and asylum seekers who have been forced to leave their homes…and integrate the learnings from practice in social work curricula across the globe so that the new social work workforce is oriented with adequate knowledge, skills and attitudes for working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in different contexts. We commit ourselves to: Work in partnership with all other agencies and professional groups to maximize results and we hope that this grass-roots/ ground- up initiative will act as a catalyst for governments to work with us.”
In timing with World Social Work Day, The Guardian also wrote on the developing role of social workers in responding to the refugee crisis. “As more people settle for the longer term, social work will be crucial in integrating communities and helping people come to terms with what they’ve been through.” Gabriele Stark-Angermeier, deputy chief executive of the Munich branch of the welfare organization Caritas, said, “The emotional trauma of change is something that social workers know a huge amount about. But I think there’s also a huge learning curve for social workers in understanding the massive journeys that people are making and the situation they have come from.”
Many resources exist for social workers interested in learning more about work with refugees. The National Association of Social Workers US (NASW) Policy Statement on Immigrants and Refugees provides background on the situation as well as policy recommendations. The IFSW Policy Statement on Refugees includes information on the role of social workers. Resources on the UNHCR website provide data and updates on refugee situations around the globe. InterAction has compiled fact sheets and created a map and other resources specific to Syrian refugees. If you have more resources or information to add, please do so in the blog comments section below.
We’ve all heard the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child.” This phrase rings true when applied in the context of comprehensive care – health workers and social service workers, community leaders, neighbors and parents coming together for the best interests of a child.
The social service workforce is a vital component of the global health workforce, working to improve lives by improving the wellbeing for vulnerable children and their families. This workforce helps to strengthen connections to health systems, enabling all parties to become better positioned to improve the health of vulnerable populations.
The social service workforce represents a range of individuals working in different contexts; working at different levels - local, national, regional, and international; working as professionals and paraprofessionals; working to implement a range of different services; and working together to serve the best interests of families. They aim to strengthen the resilience of families to cope with their unique challenges in a changing and diverse global world
A multi-disciplinary team of social workers, child and youth care workers, youth development workers, child protection officers, community health workers and others comes together to put families at the center of integrated service delivery. Together, this united yet diverse social service workforce contributes to promoting the inherent strengths of families and their capacity for self-reliance.
Social service workers promote the inherent strengths in families through integrated, well-coordinated services that are child-centered, family-focused and community-based. Some examples include:
- In South Africa, 10,000 child and youth care workers are being trained through the National Association of Child Care Workers to provide support in any area as needed in a child’s life, linking their families with other community services, such as improving household economic strengthening, grants for child and granny-headed households, help in obtaining birth certificates in order to enroll in school and connecting those affected by HIV with clinics for treatments.
- In Zambia, through the STEPS OVC World Vision-supported project, a network of 52,000 caregivers has strengthened communities in rural Zambia to mitigate the impact of HIV on households living with HIV-positive individuals and orphans. Stigma has reduced and HIV prevalence continues to drop.
- In Zimbabwe, through the Bantwana Initiative, 9,765 community-level child care workers have been trained to strengthen linkages and referral systems between community and government service providers, including developing an integrated pediatric HIV/AIDS care and treatment.
- In Guinea, social service workers collaborated with the government and other NGOs, including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent, Red Cross Society of Guinea, the Ministry of Health, World Health Organization, and Medecins Sans Frontiers, to manage the spread of Ebola, raise community awareness and provide psychosocial support to affected families. They also helped ensure children made vulnerable by Ebola were protected from further harm.
The strength of a social service system is, in many ways, dependent on the strength of its workforce. Building the social service workforce entails strengthening cadres of workers to prevent and respond to crises, both personal and societal. The availability of qualified and trained social service workers improves communities’ levels of resilience to shock, as workers are prepared and available at times of crisis to assist vulnerable populations.
It does take a village to raise a child, and it does take a village of trained health workers, including social service workers, to protect, support and serve families to advance the well-being of those globally who are in greatest need of our support.
The Global Social Service Workforce works toward a world where a well-planned, well-trained and well-supported social service workforce effectively delivers promising practices that improve the lives of vulnerable populations. The mission of the Alliance is to promote the knowledge and evidence, resources and tools and political will and action needed to address key social service workforce challenges, especially within low- to middle-income countries. Members of the Alliance work in 80 countries around the world to form a network to advance this mission. The Alliance is hosted by IntraHealth International. Learn more at www.socialserviceworkforce.org.
(Originally posted on the Frontline Health Workers Coalition website.)
World Social Work Day 2016: Social Workers, Social Service Workers Globally Advocate for Dignity and Worth of All PeoplesSubmitted by Nicole Brown on Mon, 03/21/2016 - 8:48am
Around the world, social workers, students and others in the social service workforce came together on March 15, 2016 to mark World Social Work Day. The annual day is an opportunity to recognize the achievements of social workers and social service workers in local and global communities, as well as an opportunity to increase awareness through advocacy efforts.
Several high-level events around the world spotlighted the need for a better developed, planned and supported social service workforce to best meet the needs of vulnerable populations.
“The International Association of Socials of Social Work (IASSW) believes that learnings from practice should be integrated in social work curricula across the globe so that the new social work workforce is oriented with adequate knowledge, skills and attitudes for working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in different contexts. Social workers will need to strengthen and work in partnership with all other agencies and professional groups to ensure that grassroots voices reach the governments and ensure the right to life and well-being for the most vulnerable and distressed people around the world,” according to a statement of support issued from the IASSW on World Social Work Day.
Events in Africa
In Tanzania and Uganda, social workers, students, professors and government representatives took to the streets to make their voices heard. In Kampala, Uganda, a march was held, originating from Makerere University Freedom Square and traveling through the city streets of Kampala. They carried banners promoting ending childhood marriage.
An evening function in Kampala was an opportunity for the Social Work Association of Uganda to call on government leaders to form an autonomous Social Work Council. “Care, protection, family and community support services for the most vulnerable cannot be improved, expanded or sustained without strengthening and regulating the social workforce,” said Michael Byamukama, Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI) Country Representative. “We need to establish a social work council under an act of Parliament to regulate the activities of social workers, as well as auxiliary and paraprofessional workers, in Uganda.” The Honorable Sulaiman Kyebakoze Madada, State Minister for the Elderly and the Disabled, Ministry of Gender Labor and Social Development, then made a commitment before the hundreds of people in attendance to ensure a council is established in Uganda.
Timing with World Social Work Day, an international conference in Arusha, Tanzania, focused on the promotion of professional social work in East Africa. Conference organizers stated the motive of the conference and convening of attendees from throughout the region was “to showcase the professional contribution as it deals holistically with the most vulnerable populations from the grass-root levels…this mission realizes the integration of East African countries by connecting the social care and support initiatives done by social workers with the community.”
The conference officially began with a march through the streets of Arusha and ended with a regional student summit. The Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Dr. Augustine Mahinga, gave closing remarks emphasizing the need for people-centered social development and governance based on human rights. The attendees then issued a resolution calling for accelerated processes of statutory regulations of social work in the region.
The Social Workers' Association Zambia held a two-day event in Lusaka that included practitioners, dignitaries and students. The event focused on the role of social work in working with children and families affected by HIV. The localized theme in Zambia was designed to implore social work practitioners to reflect on the impact of HIV and AIDS and how the profession can effectively contribute to resolve the problem in Zambia by 2030. A media breakfast was held to increase outreach and visibility of social workers' roles within the community.
The Association of Schools of Social Work in Africa shared this message with its members: Many initiatives are underway to "demonstrate that in Africa, social work educators, practitioners, and students can draw on powerful philosophical ideas, traditions and knowledge systems, and that ASSWA members are working hard to develop these resources into practical, teachable approaches. Indeed, these approaches are beginning to define African social work in unique ways."
Events in Asia
At an event in Jakarta, Indonesia, attended by 800 social workers and other social service workers, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Khofifah Indar Parawansa, called upon Parliament to act upon a social work bill. “I am hoping the Government of Indonesia will continue supporting the certification of the social workers. I am also expecting that the Draft of National Social Worker Regulation, which currently has moves in the process of National Legalization Program 2016, will be soon discussed and become the present/gift for social workers that will be celebrated in the next World Social Work Day.”
A panel presentation was organized by the Indonesia Association of Social Workers, Centre for Development of the Social Work Profession and the Welfare Worker MOSA. Speakers from Indonesia, Australia and Malaysia spoke on the global agenda for social work in the context of human and cultural diversity.
Events in Latin America and the Caribbean
Events were also coordinated in Argentina, Peru and Cuba. In Puerto Rico, the national social work association joined with the local university to host a discussion on social justice. In Panama, social workers joined with other social organizations to demonstrate in the Plaza de la Democracia. “Every one of the social workers of Latin America and the Caribbean every day contribute to the construction of a more just and humane society.” Silvana Martinez, International Federation of Social Work President, Latin America and Caribbean Region.
Events in the United States
In the United States, events were held throughout the month of March to time with the country’s Social Work Month.
“Social workers take on some of the most serious and complex issues facing society – poverty, mental illness, voting rights, racism, and child welfare – and work with individuals, families, communities and government to create positive solutions,” NASW CEO Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW said. “NASW and its chapters want to help the nation celebrate these accomplishments during National Social Work Month.”
More than 400 social work students, faculty and early professionals from more than 45 social work schools and departments gathered on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC, to engage members of Congress in discussions on social workers providing mental health services to Medicare clients. Student Advocacy Days have been organized biennially since 1999. Additional events, including a policy and politics symposium and a reception with Senator Barbara Mikulski, a social worker, were organized by the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work & Policy (CRISP) as part of Social Work Day on the Hill, March 1-2.
As part of National Social Work Month, the New York City Chapter of NASW held a conference on the topic of “Building a Progressive Agenda and Striving for a Better Life for All New Yorkers,” with 1,020 social workers in attendance. The Guam Chapter of NASW conducted interviews with media and hosted a conference on the theme “Holistic Transformation for a Healthy Micronesia.” The NASW Tennessee Chapter will hold their annual Social Work Day on the Hill in Nashville on March 30, with hundreds of students, faculty and practitioners expected to participate.
Social Work Day at the United Nations will be held on April 4 this year. Look for our blog following that event.
Events in Europe
Additional events were organized by IFSW in partnership with OBDS and Younion in Vienna, and also in Geneva, on the topic of social workers responding to the refugee crisis. In Vienna, social workers and representatives from relief organizations in 26 countries gathered to develop plans to strengthen the social work response to the refugee crisis. The goal of the workshop was to be a catalyst for governments to work more closely with the social service sector to effectively deliver services. As a result of this symposium stronger links have been established between social workers working in the war countries, transition countries and asylum countries. Key instruments have been identified to support the most vulnerable groups such unaccompanied minors, trafficked persons, victims of abuse, people with disabilities and single parents. View recorded presentations from the event and read our upcoming blog for more detail on this topic and related events.
Training and Motivating Volunteer Caregivers Enables HIV/AIDS Affected Children in Zambia to Access High Quality Care and SupportSubmitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/01/2016 - 12:00am
Authors: Wezi Kaira, James Mateyo, & Shelby Benson
“Before STEPS OVC came, as a member of the League of Mercy, my friends and I visited the sick in their homes where we helped them with household chores, bathed bed ridden patients and cooked in certain instances. Little did we know that we were in fact risking our lives and that of patients, especially in the transmission of HIV!”
*This was shared by a STEPS OVC caregiver who was exposed to HIV and possibly exposing others to HIV through serving households prior to receiving training and capacity building in managing and mitigating the impact of HIV in her community in Zambia.
Through a network of over 52,000 volunteer home visitors (called “caregivers”) and working through 621 local subgrantees (community- and faith-based organizations) and Rural Health Centers (RHCs), STEPS OVC (Sustainability through Economic Strengthening, Prevention and Support for vulnerable youths and Orphans and Vulnerable Children) has strengthened communities in rural Zambia to mitigate the impact of HIV on households living with HIV-positive individuals and orphans. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the USAID-funded STEPS OVC program (2010-2016) capitalized on the zeal from community volunteers and groups by building their capacity in providing evidence-based home based care, support and referrals for households affected by HIV/AIDS. This has improved not only the management of HIV in households but also the prevention of further spread of HIV in communities of Zambia.
Because the project is closing out, STEPS OVC has phased out operations in 58 districts and now only works directly with 15,479 caregivers in 15 districts. But the caregivers in phased-out districts and communities have continued to provide services to households in their communities affected by HIV, stigma has reduced, and HIV prevalence rates continue to drop owing to the great work provided by the community caregivers who are now supervised by the local RHC or the district medical centers. This is a clear demonstration that the thorough capacity built in community caregivers is in the community to stay, and HIV affected people will continue to receive services from the caregivers.
Community-based Approach & Trainings
The strength in the approach taken by STEPS OVC is that it is community-based. It involves local leadership and stakeholders in the identification and selection of caregivers. Caregiver training was done in the local language and in local setup in villages. In addition, household members caring for vulnerable populations were also often involved in these trainings so they could support the work of the volunteer home visitor/caregiver when they were not present.
Caregivers who were unable to read and write were paired with those with advanced educational levels during training, visitation periods, and reporting. For specialized training like finger pricking for HIV and malaria testing, caregivers with advanced education (grade 12 or higher) were selected and trained. Most of them have now been employed by many rural health centers or other NGOs implementing health programs.
All the trained caregivers were given certificates of attendance in recognition for their skills attained from the specialized trainings. All caregivers were equipped with tools for work such as identity cards, HBC kits (with contents such as gloves, pain killers, oil, lotion, petroleum jelly, torches, etc.), protective clothing, bags to carry supplies, Chtenge wrappers (a printed/branded cotton cloth popularly worn by women in Zambia), and bicycles to aid their work. Many of these items were received as Gifts-In-Kind and also served to incentivize caregivers.
With a ratio of 1 caregiver to 5 households and a maximum number of 30 beneficiaries in total, caregivers provided services to HIV-affected households during their bi-weekly visits. Evidence-based interventions and services were provided to project beneficiaries during these visits, such as counseling and testing for HIV and malaria, psychosocial support to HIV infected children, economic strengthening support to adults and youth, HIV prevention interventions, parenting skills building, nutrition and education support, linkages and referrals for clinical needs, child and gender protection interventions, and others based on need.
At project inception, STEPS OVC ensured identified caregivers were linked to permanent structures in their communities like churches, RHCs and the Department of Social Welfare, to ensure sustainability. As such, caregivers reported to Site Coordinators, and Site Coordinators reported to RHCs and/or to partner CBOs or FBOs. This reporting system and structure also supported sustainability to ensure continued provision of services. All the caregivers are fully linked and report to the government reporting system through their CBOs or FBOs participation in the District AIDS Task Force (DATF) for coordination.
STEPS OVC also supported the caregivers to create a forum to meet and discuss issues affecting them across projects and districts. This is the National Caregiver Alliance that has received support from government and other NGOs.
The golden question is: what motivates these caregivers? As previously stated, the STEPS OVC project capitalized on the existing platform of volunteers striving to make a difference in their communities by vocation, or for some volunteers who had the passion to serve, but were unable to be professional medical practitioners for various reasons. STEPS OVC offered such individuals training in areas they knew were needed in their community and were passionate about and equipped them with not only the knowledge but also strengthened their linkages to CBOs, FBOs and Government community structures. It is a lasting and sustainable solution, indeed.
About World Vision
This blog was contributed by World Vision staff from the STEPS OVC program. World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision’s Health programming includes a large and diverse portfolio of ongoing US government, private foundation and individual private donor funded projects located in over 100 countries across Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and South Asia addressing HIV/AIDS (prevention, OVC, HBC/palliative care, treatment adherence) and community health (maternal and child health, child survival, malaria, polio eradication, neglected tropical diseases, healthy timing and spacing of births, and local mobilization for primary health care delivery).
World Vision Zambia has been registered and working in Zambia since 1981. World Vision Zambia provides support to approximately 400,000 children through grants and in child sponsorship within the 40 Area Development Programs. It impacts more than 2 million people countrywide in areas of health, education, livelihood security and HIV and AIDS support. For more information on World Vision’s Health programming or the STEPS OVC program, please contact Shelby Benson.
Looking back on 2015, the Global Social Service Alliance is deeply grateful for people like you who make the world a better place. A strong social service workforce is needed now more than ever to help create protective environments for healthy development, tackle poverty, and promote social justice. Countless lives were made better through the efforts of the social service workforce.
The past year has been one of great growth and accomplishment for this field in general and for the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance. Your support and that of nearly 800 other members in 73 countries has contributed to this success and we look forward to your engagement in 2016.
We invite you to take a look below as we reflect on the past year and look ahead to the many exciting events and opportunities awaiting your involvement in the coming year.
Achievements in 2015
The Alliance serves as a convener for an inclusive, representative network for discourse and collective learning. In 2015, the Alliance participated in a number of leading learning events worldwide, including:
- Presentation at Global Health Mini-U on workforce collaboration to improve overall health
- World Social Work Day Webinar to Celebrate Success in SSW Strengthening
- Family Care First consultation in Cambodia with local and international NGOs and government representatives
- 2nd Annual Global Social Service Workforce Alliance Symposium
- Webcast on the role of child and youth care workers from the NACCW Conference
- Panel presentations on paraprofessional workers at the REPSSI Forum
The Alliance aims to advance knowledge by deriving, organizing and disseminating critical evidence-based research, resources, tools, models and best practices. The following are a few examples from this past year:
- Recruitment and Retention of Social Work Faculty—A Multi-Country Review documents challenges and effective strategies for faculty recruitment and retention
- The Role of Social Service Workforce Development in Care Reform working paper produced with Better Care Network
- Release of State of the Social Service Workforce Report, a review of data and promising practices for workforce strengthening efforts in 15 countries
- Para Professional Interest Group issued Para Professionals in the Social Service Workforce: Guiding Principles, Functions and Competencies
The network of members in the Alliance helps to advocate for workforce-supportive reforms, including through the following activities in 2015:
- Social Service Workforce Week 2015 helped raise awareness and increase engagement and interest in workforce strengthening initiatives
- Throughout the year, you provided worker profiles and stories of change
- Our many blog posts emphasized many important efforts of social service workers, such as the key role in eliminating violence against women and girls.
Building on Our Success in 2016
In 2016, the Alliance will continue its commitment to being a convener of people and ideas by organizing events and webinars, launching a new website that will allow members to more easily interact with one another, and helping to advance knowledge of effective ways to address workforce challenges by building a body of evidence to support workforce strengthening efforts. And we will continue to support and facilitate efforts to advocate for this important work.
More information on these upcoming events and programs and many more initiatives planned for 2016 will be shared in upcoming e-updates. We also invite you to visit our website, like us on our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for the latest updates.
Together we can achieve a world where a well-planned, well-trained and well-developed workforce is fully able to provide needed services to care for and support those who need it most. We look forward to your continued input and involvement in the coming year.
The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance
Amy Bess, Nicole Brown & the Alliance Steering Committee
World AIDS Day aims to raise awareness about AIDS and the global spread of the HIV virus. It is also dedicated to commemorating those who have passed on or been affected by AIDS.
Remarkable progress has been made in the fight against AIDS. But now, as this year’s theme states, it is time to fast-track efforts to end AIDS. Bold action to address the new targets laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals can end the epidemic by 2030. Rapid scale up of programs will lead to 21 million AIDS-related deaths averted and 5.9 million infections among children averted by 2030.
Today, too many children are still affected by the disease. Those who are living with HIV/AIDS still don’t have enough access to the testing, treatment and care they need. Children living with or affected by HIV/AIDS face unique protection risks and stigma. At the same time, children facing other vulnerabilities have an especially high risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS as they move into adolescence and adulthood.
To realize the future of an AIDS-free Generation, it is imperative to put in place the protection, care and support services that are so critical to ensuring the healthy development and well-being of all children.
Globally, social service workers are at the forefront of providing critical support and services to children and families affected by HIV/AIDS. They provide case management services and referrals, psychosocial support, child protection services, economic strengthening and social protection services, family strengthening services and early childhood development services. By providing these services and acting as a critical link between community and clinic service provision, social service workers have been proven to positively impact levels of testing, adherence and retention. They also help communities combat stigma, lead advocacy campaigns and ensure that effective policies and legislation are in place.
This year, World AIDS Day acts as a reminder to all of us to step up our efforts to raise awareness, ensure access to quality prevention, care, treatment and comprehensive support services to families affected by HIV and AIDS.
- Learn the facts
- Spread awareness by wearing a red ribbon
- Download World AIDS Day campaign materials
- Put your knowledge into action and plan an event
- Let us know how you’ll be celebrating on our Facebook page
- Join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #WAD2015
- Read resources related to HIV/AIDS and the social service workforce
- View a webinar featuring ways that the social service workforce is combatting AIDS in Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe
Today we celebrate the 26th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This presents a timely occasion to consider the increasingly important role the social service workforce has in helping all children realize their rights. The social service workforce globally includes community volunteers, care workers in child care facilities, paraprofessional social workers and specialized social workers employed by governments.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders gathered at the UN in New York in September 2015 present a major opportunity to strengthen child protection – and for this the social service workforce is a critical component. For the first time ever a number of clear child protection-related targets are part of the global development agenda. And, as will be discussed, a well-resourced and accessible social service workforce is well-placed to help meet the global goals and targets.
SDG 16 ‘Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development’ includes target 16.2 ‘End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against, and torture of, children’. SDG 8 ‘Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all’ includes target 8.7 which focuses on ending child labour, including child recruitment and use of child soldiers. In SDG 1 ‘Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere’, target 1.3 is particularly relevant to the social service workforce. This target aims to ‘implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and to achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable by 2030.’
UNICEF works worldwide to protect and promote the rights of children and their families, providing critical support to national and sub-national programs and civil society efforts, including to reduce the vulnerability of children across multiple sectors. UNICEF’s #ENDviolence initiative, launched in 2013, connects well to the SDGs. It aims to end one of the most universal child protection experiences, and which can have a devastating impact on current and future lives, that of violence. For example, 85% of all children have experienced violent discipline. As part of UNICEF’s efforts to strengthen the evidence base on what works to prevent and respond to violence against children, the ‘Ending Violence Against Children: Six Strategies for Action’ was developed. The six strategies include 1) supporting parents, families and caregivers, 2) helping children and adolescents manage risks and challenges, 3) changing attitudes and social norms that encourage violence and discrimination, 4) promoting and providing support services for children, 5) implementing laws and policies that protect children, and 6) carrying out data collection and research. As will be explored below, community volunteers, care workers in child care facilities, paraprofessional social workers and specialized social workers –all those who comprise the social service workforce - play an important role in implementing many of these strategies.
Child protection is not about violence alone. There are other areas for which the social service workforce is required. Children may be separated from their parents (placed in alternative care) for various reasons including becoming orphaned, or they may interact with the justice system. In 2014, UNICEF data showed that 58 countries have an Alternative Care Policy in line with the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children; in 61 countries UNICEF supported improved service provision in relation to justice for children, including psychological support, legal aid and assistance, and child-friendly institutional and community-based capacities.
For these and other child protection issues, the social service workforce plays a critical role in protecting children from violence, exploitation and abuse. For example, they support parents, families and caregivers by strengthening parenting skills, their ability to solve problems and their ability to cope. Social service providers also help children and their families access essential services such as education, health care, HIV-related services, protection services, legal assistance, and government benefits, which in many countries are also administered by social workers. Collaboration between the services is essential because integrated efforts help reduce childhood and family vulnerability.
Thus there are considerable demands on the social service workforce. These demands are compounded by the need for effective social services in both development and humanitarian settings, where providers may face huge pressures in very difficult circumstances. In addition, the proportion of children to social service workers can be challenging – in some countries there may be tens of thousands of children per government social worker. This is why community members and community groups can, and need to, play a crucial role in enabling vulnerable children and their families to access support services, at least until increased investments are made into the social service workforce.
Developing a stronger social service workforce is a major component of strengthening child protection systems to enable society to prevent violence, exploitation and abuse, and to respond appropriately where these occur. Professionals working on the frontlines protecting the most vulnerable children who might otherwise fall through safety nets, and helping them and their families thrive in their communities, deserve our utmost recognition, appreciation and support. The work of the social service workforce helps to directly connect children’s enjoyment of their rights with the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Photo courtesy of UNICEF.