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Ending Human Trafficking - the work of ECPAT International

blog by Dr. Mark Kavenagh, Head of Research and Policy, ECPAT International

Trafficking Quote from ECPAT Executive DirectorSophie was only 13 when she was taken from her home and exploited at the hands of a relative. Barred from attending school and forced to perform household chores, she was left destitute precisely when she needed support and care the most.

Human trafficking for the purposes of forced labour or sexual exploitation is the third largest crime industry in the world, behind drugs and arms trafficking. Almost one third of human trafficking victims in the world are estimated to be children.

Far from being restricted to less developed countries, human trafficking sees no boundaries and affects various groups of people regardless of their gender, age, or ethnicity. All regions are affected, and all countries can be a destination, source and transit point for traffickers.

Commonly understood as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud or deception for the purpose of exploitation,” human trafficking, is not always well understood. Many social service providers may have encountered clients who have experienced forms of trafficking, though clients may not disclose this to practitioners, and in some cases, may not even self-identify as victims.

Although a large number of detected trafficking victims are women (almost 60 percent based on UNOCD estimates), we now understand that children and men are represented among victims in much higher numbers than previously thought. The latest figures also show that a growing number of cases take place at the domestic or regional level, with research showing that traffickers and their victims often “come from the same place, speak the same language or have the same ethnic background.”

Factors leading to trafficking are wide-ranging and complex and can include poverty; globalization; corruption; weak rule of law, and poor law enforcement. It is important to keep in mind however, that victims and survivors of human trafficking have diverse socio-economic backgrounds; varied levels of education; and may be documented or undocumented. Many are deceived or coerced, initially believing that they have been hired for a real job, or that they are going to get married, before finding themselves trapped and powerless. 

Law enforcement bodies are key in dealing with the identification and protection of victims, but they are far from alone in fighting human trafficking and social services providers are a big part of the solution in support for victims and in moves to eradicate this pervasive crime. The ECPAT International Network, which includes 104 member organisations across 93 countries, plays an active role in the fight against the trafficking of children for sexual purposes: both on the frontline, by providing helplines and direct support to victims; and behind the scenes, by conducting research, advocacy and policy monitoring. A number of ECPAT members act to prevent children from being trafficked and sexually exploited, particularly through early or forced marriages, prostitution, by travellers and tourists and in online child sexual abuse material.

In many ways, the needs for social care of trafficking victims don’t differ substantially from those of other clients seeking care from helping professionals. A range of supports can be provided - from counselling to cope with traumatic experiences, through to supported reintegration back into communities – with attention to the push factors that may have put people at risk in the first place.

In serious cases, particularly involving children, specialist care and support is necessary. Some members, like ECPAT Foundation in the North of Thailand, employ specialist child protection staff with social work backgrounds to educate young people on the risks to consider when migrating for work, relevant laws to protect themselves, and how to access support when they need it. Others, like ECPAT USA, concentrate their efforts on leading public awareness campaigns such as the #doesyourhotelknow campaign, to alert the private sector and ordinary citizens of the role private businesses and particularly the travel and tourism industry can play in safeguarding children from exploitation. Many of our members engage with the private sector and encourage companies to implement a child protection code of conduct. Others are more involved with governments and development partners in drafting and supporting policies that protect children and criminalise offenders.

World Day Against Trafficking logoFrom producing research and leading support groups and shelters, to running campaigns and petitions at the regional and global level, ECPAT International’s work is varied and comprehensive. However, despite making headway in protecting children from trafficking and exploitation, ECPAT International cannot abolish the practise on its own and needs the help of other organisations and individuals to do so.

The international community has already committed to “take effective measures to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking” and to “end abuse, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children” by 2030 via the UN Sustainable Development Goals. To raise public awareness of trafficking, the international community will observe World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on July 30. Now is the time to act and put an end to this crime, collectively and permanently.


ECPAT International
ECPAT International is a global network of organisations (104 member groups in 93 countries) dedicated to combating the sexual exploitation of children. The ECPAT International Secretariat is based in Bangkok, Thailand, and is the administrative and supporting unit of the network. The Secretariat coordinates and supports a range of network initiatives including research, programming and active campaigning along with the development of tools and provision of technical support to the global ECPAT network.

Dr. Mark Kavenagh, Head of Research and Policy, ECPAT International
Mark Kavenagh joined the ECPAT International Secretariat as Head of Research and Policy in early 2018 where he oversees a range of research projects that focus on ending the sexual exploitation of children. Mark began his career as a registered psychologist and worked in school settings with children and adolescents before moving into international development a decade ago. Since then, Mark has lived and worked in South East Asia and Eastern Europe in child protection programming and research roles. Most recently he worked for ChildFund Australia as their Child Protection Advisor. Mark holds a Doctorate of Educational Psychology from the University of Melbourne.

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Celebrating Child and Youth Care Worker Week, May 6-10

CYCW logo 2019Suggested resources for learning more and highlighting the important role of child and youth care workers:


Monday May 6 - What is Child and Youth Care?



Tuesday, May 7 - Child and Youth Care Standards of Practice, Certification and Professionalism in North America


Wednesday, May 8 - Global Perspectives in Child and Youth Care


Thursday, May 9 - Child and Youth Care in Residential Care

Video:Simon Walsh 


Do We Really Want Compliance? A conversation with Dr. Lorraine Fox, Sep 28th, 2016
Transitioning Home
An audio-drama online. “This podcast is a story. Many stories. Our stories. Fictionalized. About living and working in shelters. And how we ended up in them.”
Transitioning Home has six episodes.


It was made by a group of young queer, trans, racialized, and straight folks who have lived in the Toronto shelter system. Or didn’t, because staying away seemed safer. We also invited in some supportive not-so-young-folks who provided technical support, raised funds, did some acting, and helped make this project happen.


The stories in the episodes come out of our experiences in the shelter system. They also come out of our hopes. Our hopes for safe, anti-racist, queer & trans positive, accessible, and affirming services for all marginalized people who are homeless, street involved, or need to get away. There is far more that we want, and don’t want, and many of us are actively working towards these goals. You’ll get a sense of what we think could work, and what we know doesn’t, by listening to the episodes.

While the stories are based on our lives and experiences, none of the stories are any one person’s. Characters are composites of ourselves, our friends, our colleagues, our families, those we’ve lived with (some of whom were decidedly not our friends), and those we would like to see working with us.”

The Catastrophe of Compliance (Lorraine Fox)
A Framework for Understanding and Practice in Residential Group Care (Jim Anglin)
Newbury, J. & Vachon, W. (2019). Community settings, outreach and youth engagement. In K. Gharabaghi, & G. Charles, (Eds.) Child and Youth Care Across Sectors: Canadian Perspectives, Vol. 1: Canadian Perspectives. Toronto, ON:Canadian Scholars.
Graham, J., Hightower, J. & Vachon, W. (2018). Transitioning from home, to Home: Ethics, safety, and aesthetics in community art creation. Relational Child and Youth Care Practices, 31(2), 51-60.


Friday, May 10 - Thinking Critically About Child and Youth Care Practice



Vachon, W. (2018). CYC fragility. CYC-Online, (232), 14-18. 
Vachon, W. (2014). Characteristics of a CYC Improviser: Approaching with “yes, and...”. CYC-Online, (186), 31-38. 
Vachon, W. (2010). Honouring the wounded: Inviting in our successes and mistakes. Relational Child and Youth Care Practice, 23(2), 54-62.

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World Social Work Day: Advocating for the Social Service Workforce

In celebration of World Social Work Day, the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance is sharing events, resources and learning opportunities to drive advocacy efforts and actions for strengthening the social service workforce.

CELEBRATE: World Social Work Day

Every year, World Social Work Day is celebrated the third Tuesday of March, and events are organized throughout the month of March. This year, World Social Work Day is on March 19. The day is an opportunity for social workers and others in the social service sector to celebrate their achievements as well as to raise awareness and support for the important role that social workers play in the lives of vulnerable families and communities. The day calls attention to the need for further planning, development and support to the profession and social service sector.

Read about events planned globally.

ATTEND: The 6th Annual Social Service Workforce Alliance Symposium, May 7
The Alliance hosts an annual symposium to provide a forum to discuss efforts to strengthen the social service workforce.

Collecting and analyzing data to better understand the social service workforce is fundamental and foundational to creating informed advocacy. Regional panels of speakers representing a variety of stakeholders will provide examples of how they have used new evidence and recommendations to better support advocacy efforts and to design and implement strategies to better plan, develop and support the workforce. Speakers and breakout work sessions will also make connections to global trends and progress toward achieving the recommendations within the Call to Action. The Symposium will include the launch of the 2018 State of the Social Service Workforce Report which provides a comparative look at social service workforce development in four regions. 

Participants will be able to join in person in Washington, DC, and via live webcast from any location.

View the full agenda and register now to attend in person or online. 

GET INVOLVED: World Social Work Day Events Around the World
Many national associations and organizations around the world are hosting events today and throughout the month of March to call attention for the need for greater support for social workers and other social service workers. Read about events in Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cyprus, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, India, Japan, Lativa, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, and many other national and global activities. A number of materials have also been developed to help in promoting the workforce today and throughout the year. If you are participating in an event, we encourage you to submit photos, quotes and stories.

View a listing of events taking place and download resources.

WEBINAR: Innovative Approaches to Advocating for the Social Service Workforce, March 20

The Alliance will present during the Global Social Welfare Digital Summit on March 20 at 10:30 am ET on the topic "Innovative Approaches to Advocating for the Social Service Workforce." Join online to learn about materials and methods to advocate in your country to government and decision-makers.

Register now.

WEBINAR: Role of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance as a Forum to Advance Knowledge and Advocate for Policy Reform, March 26 & 28

Speakers comprised of Alliance staff and Steering Committee members will provide an overview of the Alliance to serve as an orientation for newer members or new stakeholder groups wishing to become more involved. Presenters will share history on the development of the Alliance, existing tools and resources, and highlight current work underway. They will also share the many ways for members to become involved in supporting this work and how to engage with global colleagues. Following the presentation, speakers will answer questions from participants. This webinar is being held at two different times to allow for maximum participation by members across different time zones.

Register now.

ADVOCATE: Participate in the Advocacy Interest Group
Share resources, practical examples and ideas for effective advocacy by participating in the newly formed advocacy interest group. In order to strengthen the workforce and improve the lives of children and families, greater planning, development and support is needed to this frontline workforce. This group is currently gathering existing tools and resources and will then explore gaps and needs for being more vocal and sharing a common global message to advocate for this workforce.

Learn how to become involved.

About the Alliance
The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance 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 Alliance pursues this approach by serving as a convener for a network of 2,200 members and stakeholder groups in 134 countries, advancing knowledge through dissemination of evidence-based research and tools, and advocating for workforce-supportive policy reforms. Learn more and become a member at

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Mapping and Planning the Social Service Workforce in Middle East and North Africa

country task group meeting in TunisiaRealizing a need for data on the state of the social service workforce and guidance on systematically strengthen this workforce regionally and nationally, the child protection and social policy sections of the UNICEF Regional Office and Country Offices in Middle East and North Africa have partnered with the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance and Maestral International to undertake a mapping and analysis. Selection of the countries was determined by the Regional Office based on the progress to date, interest of the national stakeholders and preparedness for the review expressed by the Country Offices. Countries implementing the review include: Djibouti, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan and Tunisia.

Many of these countries have also already undertaken important steps towards such workforce strengthening, for example in Morocco, a repository was developed of social service workforce competencies.

To support the review, the Alliance has developed a questionnaire and a survey designed to gather quantitative and qualitative data to map the social service workforce. This includes also gathering data on education, supervision, training experiences and other areas prioritized in the currently developing UNICEF key indicators for social service workforce strengthening.

One respondent in Tunisia shared that “Our country has a very important history of developing and strengthening the social service workforce, including social workers as well as other categories of social service workers including psychologists. We must continue to work together to ensure their specific profession is fully recognised and respected, both at senior policy level as well as in terms of distinguishing social service professions from other professions such as medical and educational professions."

In each country the tools were translated and underwent language clarification and contextualization based on the local context and availability of data, as well as feedback from national stakeholders. With a goal of obtaining responses from multiple key stakeholder groups and at least 250 workers within the social service workforce in each country, the data is intended to provide a clear picture about the workforce nationally.

Following collection of data, led and supported by the key ministries and national stakeholder groups, national roundtable discussions are being held to help identify and agree on priority actions for strengthening and advocating for the social service workforce.

The work will culminate in a regional report providing an overview of the state of the social service workforce in the Middle East and North Africa. The report will be designed to inform the work of UNICEF and its national, regional and global partners to improve policies, programs, advocacy and knowledge generation related to the social service workforce in the region. The data will be included within the Alliance’s 2018 State of the Social Service Workforce Report, that will also include data from three other regions to provide a multi-regional review of trends and make recommendations for regional and global steps toward strengthening of the workforce. The mapping tool is among several tools that the Alliance is developing as part of a package of tools to support UNICEF country offices in national workforce strengthening efforts. Following roll out by UNICEF mid-2019, the toolkit will then be publicly available for social service workforce supporters to use within their programs. 

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Highlights of Our Collective Achievements in 2018, Looking Ahead to 2019

As the year draws to a close, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you - our members and other supporters – for the many accomplishments we’ve achieved together. Below are some of the highlights that your advocacy, outreach, expertise and support made possible this past year.

Advocating for Workforce

Some highlights of how you’ve helped us to advocate for workforce-supportive policy reforms at the global and national levels include: 

  • Through widely sharing with your networks, 35 organizations have now signed on to show support for the Call to Action for Strengthening the Social Service Workforce to Better Protect Children and Achieve the SDGs. This advocacy tool makes recommendations at the country and global level for governments to initiate, lead and engage in dialogue with partners in order to strengthen the workforce and improve the lives of children and families.SDG Inforgraphic
  • During the 5th Annual Social Service Workforce Week, members helped to encourage individuals and groups to take specific steps toward achievement of the recommended actions outlined in the Call to Action, and shared replicable examples from their organizations of ways they are supporting workforce strengthening efforts.
  • To advocate for the workforce to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, elements of the Global Advocacy Toolkit continued to incorporated into members’ national and regional advocacy efforts to bring greater political and programmatic priority for strengthening the social service workforce, particularly in the areas of ending violence against children, improving health and well-being and supporting refugees and migrants.
  • Alliance members participated in World Social Work Day events held around the globe. Alliance staff presented at the Social Work Day at the United Nations event in Geneva and Alliance Ambassadors presented on advocacy approaches at the CRISOWO Conference in Rwanda.

Advancing Knowledge

Alliance members aim to advance knowledge by deriving, organizing and disseminating critical evidence-based research, resources, tools, models and best practices. Here are some of the ways we collectively advanced knowledge in 2018:

  • Members with three regions contributed data and input into Alliance-led workforce mappings and assessments in 16 countries within the East Asia and Pacific region and nine countries within the Middle East and North Africa region in collaboration with UNICEF Regional and Country Offices. In addition, the Alliance completed a scoping of eight countries in South Asia, documented in the State of the Social Service Workforce in South Asia Report to establish a baseline of information and data on the workforce in each country to guide and assist country-level action plans toward strengthening the workforce.
  • Members shared and responded to a survey to inform the State of the Social Service Workforce Report 2017: Stories of Workforce Efforts to Address Violence Against Children. This third annual report provides insight into workers’ backgrounds, training, education, services provided and organizational factors to demonstrate the value of multidisciplinary approaches to addressing violence against children.
  • Alliance Members within the Interest Group on Case Management developed and released two new resources: Core Concepts and Principles of Effective Case Management: Approaches for the Social Service Workforce and a Compendium of the best existing tools, forms, training materials and other resources on case management.
  • Five webinars were held over the course of the year, on topics suggested by members ranging from case management and ending and preventing violence against children to the role of a Council and workforce support to refugees. The Annual Social Service Workforce Strengthening Symposium featured partners and supporters sharing examples of how they have helped to elevate the discussion about the workforce, increased visibility and implemented strategies to strengthen the workforce.

Convening Stakeholders

Members from government, NGOs, academic institutions, donor groups, professional associations and community practitioners actively participate in the Alliance network to create a forum for discourse and collective learning. Some of these efforts in 2018 include:

  • Through participation in mapping work, Alliance members and supporters helped convene or support formation of multi-stakeholder country task groups in more than 12 countries. In Uganda, Alliance Ambassadors and staff actively participated in the National Social Work Symposium for the launch of a national social service workforce strengthening strategy.
  • Through sharing updates and inviting colleagues, members helped the Alliance network to expand by 600 members and 20 countries, totaling 2,100 members in 131 countries in 2018, increasing the reach of the network and numbers of workforce advocates.
  • The second cohort of the Alliance Ambassador program began in September, with 10 Ambassadors from 10 countries. The first cohort finished their two-year terms, contributing to formation of a national association of social workers, training social service professionals on improving disability inclusion in programming, drafting of a bill on regulating and licensing of social work as a profession, increased budget allocations for hiring more social service workers and development of a code of ethics for social workers.

Looking Ahead to 2019

Many exciting efforts are underway and will be realized in 2019 through continued support by you - our members and partners. Through your input and participation, we continue to develop new tools and resources for a stronger workforce.

  • The Alliance is developing a toolkit for UNICEF to support Country Offices in implementing the programme guidance on strengthening the social service workforce specific to child protection. The guidance will be released in the coming months, and the toolkit will be publicly released mid-2019 and include a tool specific to carrying out national workforce mapping, one of the most requested tools by our members.
  • The Alliance's State of the Social Service Workforce 2018 Report will include a multi-regional analysis and assessment of the workforce. Data from the three mappings and assessments in the East Asia and Pacific, Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia, will be compiled for this report, which will be shared during the 6th Annual Social Service Workforce Strengthening Symposium in May 2019.
  • Members will have increased advocacy opportunities. A new advocacy interest group will launch in early 2019 for members to exchange effective advocacy approaches for greater political will and programmatic support to the workforce, and members will also be asked to participate in sharing how national plans of action are underway toward achieving the recommendations within the Call to Action.
  • Additional details will be shared in the coming months. Through sharing knowledge and contributing expertise across the network, we all play an important role in contributing to a stronger social service workforce.

With Gratitude

As we enter the season of gratitude, we would like to express our appreciation to all of you - members, advocates and supporters of the Alliance’s work - toward building a stronger social service workforce that is best positioned to meet the needs of vulnerable populations. We are thankful to Alliance Steering Committee members, staff, Ambassadors, interest group members, consultants and the many others who have contributed their time and talent this year. We are thankful to our donors – USAID, GHR Foundation, UBS Optimus Foundation and UNICEF – for supporting ongoing and new work. We look forward to continued engagement to advance this work in 2019 and invite our members to join our circle of friends by donating to this work. 

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World AIDS Day – Social Service Workers Play Key Role in Policy and Services

World AIDS Day logoSocial welfare programs have been a lifeline for people living with HIV, David Chipanta, Senior Advisor Social Protection, UNAIDS, shared during a World Social Work Day webinar hosted by the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance in 2015. He gave examples from around the world: cash transfer programs are contributing to keeping more girls in school in Malawi and South Africa, civil society organizations like the Association de Lutte Contre le Sida in Morocco are working with social workers to ensure that transportation and housing needs are met for people accessing HIV treatment, and social workers in Belarus and Ukraine are linking people who inject drugs to clean needles and syringes and other essential social services. He issued a call for social service workers to join social policy and protection efforts to end the AIDS epidemic by focusing on social justice and the populations left behind, improving the quantity and quality of social service workers and deploying them to the areas of greatest need. He stressed the role of the social service workforce in reaching the “three zeroes:” zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths, and zero discrimination.

Celebrated annually on December 1, World AIDS Day highlights the great progress made in the fight against HIV and AIDS, and also calls for continued action to redouble efforts toward elimination. 

Over the past years, the Alliance has shared many blogs, resources and additional materials to champion the important role of the social service workforce in the provision of services for those affected by HIV and also preventive measures. Take a look at some of the existing resources and share with us new resources from your organization so that they can be widely available through this network.  


World Social Work Day - Celebrating Success in Social Service Workforce Strengthening
Significant reductions in new HIV infections, AIDS-related deaths and AIDS-related discrimination are possible through a well-planned commitment to prevent and mitigate the social, economic, and mental health impacts of HIV. This is made possible through a social service workforce engaged alongside others to increase access to HIV services, nutritional, legal and economic support to foster the physical, social, and cognitive well-being of people living with and most affected by HIV. In celebration of World Social Work Day in March 2015, the Alliance hosted a webinar with PEPFAR and UNAIDS to share achievements of PEPFAR/USAID in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Presenters, including Chipanta shared the role of social service workers in supporting HIV-affected children and families and contributing to clinical outcomes toward the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic.



Get Involved

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Improving Care for OVC through Systems Strengthening in Botswana

IntraHealth International has joined the Call to Action: Strengthening the Social Service Workforce to Better Protect Children and Achieve the SDGs. This call is close to our hearts, because our mission—which is to improve the performance of health workers and strengthen the systems in which they work—includes social service workers, from government-employed social workers to trained community case workers or volunteers on child-protection committees. They play a key role in connecting vulnerable children and families to services, including health services, and work hand-in-hand with health workers to achieve a world in which everyone everywhere has the health care they need to thrive.

This inclusive commitment is what motivated our choice to sign on to the Call to Action and its specific recommended actions align with much of our work in health and social welfare systems and workforce strengthening.

For example, in Botswana, we’re a partner on two USAID-funded projects that are improving the lives of orphans and vulnerable children and their families. One is the Catholic Relief Services (CRS)-ledCoordinating Comprehensive Care for Children (4Children) project, where IntraHealth worked alongside the government of Botswana and USAID on the qualitative portion of a national situational analysis of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC).

The analysis revealed the high caseloads district social workers experience (especially given that one professional covers several villages), and how difficult it is for them to meet expectations. They face the heavy burden of administering assessments for households that need government cash transfers / OVC grants, and suspicion from community members, some of whom accuse them of corruption when their households are deemed ineligible for assistance.

Ms. Seitlhamo presenting report on the assessment of existing system for accessing OVC social protection services during consultative workshop

“We know the community does not like us,” one respondent told us. “They think we are corrupt, when we are following the policy. They think we have bad attitudes, when we are overworked and overburdened.”

A motivated, well-equipped workforce is essential for providing high-quality services—and to providing a safety net for the families most
at risk. The results show us some of the challenges to making that workforce a reality in Botswana.

Under the Project Concern International (PCI)-led Botswana Comprehensive Care and Support for Orphans and Vulnerable Children project—which empowers communities to seek, support, and provide HIV/AIDS-related services to OVC and their parents/caregivers—we’ve used what we learned from the situational analysis to support government systems and workforce strengthening efforts at the national level.

We’re doing this mainly by seconding a senior technical advisor to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, which is the primary custodian of OVC, particularly the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Community Development.

So far, we’ve helped:

  • Form a technical working group to assume ownership of the national-level efforts
  • Complete an assessment of the existing system of enrolling children in social protection/welfare services (like OVC grants and other forms of assistance such as birth registration, emergency food and clothing, and psychosocial support).
  • Determine which gaps to address within structures, systems, and procedures.

Findings from the assessment point to a need for more effective policy dissemination, so that across sectors and down to the civil society organization (CSO) level, all those who are involved in delivering services to OVC are clear on their roles, responsibilities, and reporting requirements, as well as joint planning at the district level with CSOs, since they are one of the major partners in OVC programming in Botswana.

“OVC problems require a multisectoral approach,” one government policymaker shared during the assessment, “and that calls for information-sharing, joint planning, and partnership in program implementation. If there is poor coordination, the management of the programs will be compromised, hence negatively affecting the quality of service provision.”

According to Ms. Boipelo Seitlhamo, senior social service workforce advisor with the project, internal consultative meetings on the report results “created dialogue with the Department of Social Protection and paved the way for developing an action plan that prioritizes response to gaps in knowledge and implementation of policies, reporting and referrals, including a mechanism for tracking and documenting OVC interventions.”  

After the report results and recommendations are widely disseminated, the project plans to work with the Department of Social Projection, the lead agency in rolling out a revised enrollment system that will ensure that all eligible children are assessed, registered, and receive benefits in line with the Children’s Act. The results will also inform a new national framework for forging effective working relationships between government and CSOs to deliver better services for OVC.

For decades, IntraHealth has worked to improve health and social systems around the world, partnering with countries to better plan, develop, and support their frontline workforces. And as the HIV epidemic continues and other threats—such as Ebola and Zika outbreaks and global refugee crises—grow, so will the needs of vulnerable children and their families. Our work is far from done.

IntraHealth International was the host and a fiscal sponsor of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance from 2012 to 2016 under the USAID-funded global CapacityPlus Project.

Caption: Ms. Seitlhamo presenting a report on the assessment of existing system for accessing OVC social protection services during consultative workshop.

Laura Horvath's picture

Strengthening Families to Reduce Vulnerability in Sierra Leone – the work of Helping Children Worldwide

Children and staff at the CRCHelping Children Worldwide has joined the Call to Action: Strengthening the Social Service Workforce to Better Protect Children and Achieve the SDGs because the ideas and recommendations reflect major goals of their programs in Bo, Sierra Leone. The organization supports the Child Rescue Centre (CRC), which provides education, health care, mentoring and programming to break the cycle of poverty for 600 vulnerable children and families throughout Sierra Leone.

The CRC has been working for nearly 20 years to improve the lives of vulnerable children living in chronic, systemic conditions of extreme poverty by ensuring that they can attend school, have access to free medical care, and live safely in family, kinship and foster-based care, supported by strong case management. Additionally, the CRC provides families access to parenting workshops, life skills training, individual and family counseling, family strengthening activities, and access to financial literacy training and microfinance loans, to help families work toward self-sustainability. 

To support children at the CRC in continuing their education and developing professional skills, Helping Children Worldwide covers school fees and offers scholarships. Henry is one of those beneficiaries, who has returned as a social worker to work at the CRC and help the next generation.  Henry’s story is unique in that he was a child supported by the CRC’s Child Support Program, which provided health and education support from primary through secondary school. After graduation, he applied for and won a Promise Scholarship which enabled him to attend university. Graduating with honors, Henry holds a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Njala University. As the Assistant Coordinator for the Sponsor A Child program at the CRC, Henry is responsible for the cases of 70 children supported by the CRC’s programs.

Henry credits being a CRC student with his path toward becoming a social worker. He was drawn to social work out of a desire to help people - particularly those who are most vulnerable. He has always been interested in community development and work has a deep, lasting and positive impact. Being a case manager for vulnerable children and their families helps him see that impact every day, he says. Henry finds the work at CRC particularly rewarding. In supporting CRC’s vision and focus, he is positively giving back to the community of Bo.

The Child Rescue Centre is also pioneering implementation of best practices in transitioning child welfare programs from institutional care and orphanage model settings to family-based care within the community. Helping Children Worldwide and the Child Rescue Centre contribute to the knowledge exchange by working closely with the Sierra Leone Ministry of Social Welfare and Gender Affairs as well as with other child-focused NGOs in the Bo region and in country, by meeting regularly to share knowledge and best practices (focused on family reintegration and transition from institutional care, as well as compliance with global research and standards for robust case management) at a time when all residential children’s programs in Sierra Leone are making the transition to family-based care. The CRC is helping lead the way, and in June 2018 successfully reintegrated the remaining 20 students living in group homes in the community into family homes, foster or kinship care.  

Henry’s deepest hopes for the children on his caseload are the same as for his own two-year-old son: to do well in school, find a bright future, and know how deeply they are blessed by God to be in a loving family.

Helping Children Worldwide recognizes that one way to strengthen families is to strengthen the skills of the social service workers, including social workers like Henry, who work with children and vulnerable families. HCW is committed to continuing to support the Child Rescue Center as it works to build capacity of social workers and case management staff striving to meet global standards in the care of children at risk.

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Implementing a Paradigm Shift in Uganda from Institutional Care to Family-based Care through Increased Training and Awareness for Catholic Caregivers

By Sr. Margaret Kubanze, Secretary General, Association for the Religious in Uganda

As Uganda places a stronger emphasis on community-based, family-oriented care toward implementation of a national alternative care framework, the Catholic Care for Children in Uganda (CCCU) initiative is supporting training religious caregivers within care institutions. The purpose of this training is to support family reintegration, prevent future family separation and ultimately end institutionalization within Uganda.

Launching Catholic Care for Children in Uganda

CCCU is an initiative of the Association of Religious in Uganda and financially supported by GHR Foundation in Minneapolis, USA. The program goal is to strengthen Religious Institutes in becoming champions of child care reform and improving outcomes for children living outside of family care. For a smooth and effective community-oriented paradigm shift to community-based care for children, the CCCU program was launched in 2016.

The program is currently working with 17 Religious Institutes operating 46 child care institutions (CCIs) with 1,773 children. Children enter the institutions largely due to family poverty and the mentality that children will have greater access to nutrition and education in institutions rather than remaining with their families. These families don’t understand the negative results of sending their children away to be raised outside of a family.

The program is being implemented in three phases, from 2016-2021. The program began with a rapid assessment to determine the skills and qualifications of those running the institutions. A second assessment was undertaken to determine the extent to which the legal frameworks for child protection are being implemented. Both studies revealed a need for greater training and education for staff, as well as increased awareness on the negative impacts of institutionalization.

Building Staff Capacity to Care for Children

Recipients of the certificate in child protectionTo build the capacity of staff, 80 scholarships were awarded for education in social work and social administration. A total of 46 staff, one per institution, obtained a bachelor’s degree in social work, and an additional 17 staff are continuing to work toward a master’s degree in social work. Additionally, 176 Religious staff members were trained in a certificate course on protection of children that included learning about the alternative care framework and implementing effective case management practices. The trainings were conducted by professors in the Department of Social Work at Makerere University in partnership with the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.

Phase IIis a two-year phase, from 2018-2019, that aims to ensure the 46 Catholic Care Institutions are exceeding the new standards set by the government for operating child care institutions. The program will support a few CCIs as a pilot to transition children to community/family-based care in preparation for mass program rollout in Phase III, which is expected to begin in 2021 and will support all 46 CCIs to align their work with the Alternative Care Framework and transition entirely to community- and family-based care.

Emerging Legal Frameworks in Uganda

The Children Act, passed in 1997, is the overarching legal framework for the welfare and protection of children in Uganda. An amendment bill was passed in April 2016, and includes significant changes in the legal environment for the care of orphans and other vulnerable children. In addition to broadening of the definition of children’s rights and violence against children, there is a stronger emphasis on community-based, family-oriented care.

This includes development of a stricter Alternative Care Framework that specifies a continuum of care and mandates that institutionalization must be a last resort. The framework defines six core care options in preference: (1) family reunification, (2) kinship and community care, (3) domestic adoption; (4) foster care; (5) inter-country adoption and; (6) specialized institutional care. A Deinstitutionalization Plan is also being developed and includes empirical evidence on the negative impacts of institutional care on the overall development of children, the increasing abuse and exploitation of children in child care institutions including child trafficking, and the higher costs associated with institutional care (Carter, 2005, and Walakira et al, 2014). If implemented, the plan will result in resettlement of approximately 64% of children currently in institutional care. The rules and regulations for approved homes were been revised in 2013 and made more stringent as far as approval and minimum standards for child care institutions are concerned. Legal liability is placed on individuals and organisations operating unapproved homes.

Implementation of the framework and deinstitutionalization plan will result in immediately halting approval of institutions while a systematic assessment of existing ones is conducted, subsequently resulting in closure and more strict inspection of child care institutions by government.

In anticipation of this and based on the principal law’s highlight on family-based care, these strategies are already being adopted and implemented into the current work of Catholic sisters and brothers caring for orphans and other vulnerable children. Catholic Care for Children in Uganda believes strong gatekeeping mechanisms blended with effective case management practices, skills that are being developed through social work studies, will prevent unnecessary admission of children into instructional care and prevent the prolonged, unnecessary stay of children in CCIs. This will not only contribute to de-institutionalization efforts in Uganda but also promote child protection by ensuring that every child is entitled to enjoyment of parental care and protection that is free of abuse, violence, exploitation and neglect.

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Actions for Realizing a Stronger Social Service Workforce

Day 5, September 28, Social Service Workforce Week

In our work over the past five years, the Alliance has heard from thousands of social service workers that they need greater support in order to better serve children and families. Over the course of this past week of Social Service Workforce Week, our goal has been to rally social service workforce advocates to jointly call for key actions.

But once this week is over, where do we go from here? What actions do we take? And how do we know if those actions are making a difference?

The Alliance network, working with our many partners including USAID / PEPFAR and UNICEF and the organizations behind the INSPIRE Implementation Handbook, has helped to establish a few key milestone indicators. These indicators are relevant to any individual or group providing social services, and can be measured at the national level and compiled at a global level.

  • Existence of a government-led, national coalition to strengthen the social service workforce
  • Existence of a national strategic plan on strengthening the social service workforce
  • Existence of a normative framework on outlining/defining functions (roles and responsibilities) for social service workers and practice standards
  • Budget and mandated institutions for planning, developing and supporting the social service workforce
  • Nationwide comprehensive mapping of social service workforce regularly carried out and documented in an information management system

We will be tracking these indicators and several others across different countries to assess global progress in workforce strengthening. As noted on previous days during Social Service Workforce Week, the Alliance has supported workforce mapping processes to gather information about workforce structures and needs in 37 countries. But that is only one step in this multifaceted process that offers a baseline against which to measure future progress.

As a network member, we invite you to take part in this exciting process that will help us all see the change we are working to create. 

Get Involved

You can:

  1. Help support or establish a national level government-led stakeholder leadership group or coalition in your country, whether you are a representative of a government, civil society, non-governmental organization (NGO), university, training institution, professional association, religious entity, national donor, multilateral, bilateral, or private sector. It’s an opportunity to work with others involved in planning, budgeting, managing and supporting your country’s social service workforce.
  2. Does your country have adequate data on the current structure and needs of the social service workforce? If not, advocate to the stakeholder leadership group to carry out a workforce mapping and help to gather data. The Alliance will soon be producing a mapping toolkit to help guide this work for national actors.
  3. Support the development and implementation of your national workforce strengthening strategy based on available workforce information. It is important that these strategies include a diversity of views and experiences, including those who access social services.
  4. Help measure and report on the indicators mentioned above.
  5. Get involved in advocacy efforts to ensure that social service workforce strengthening remains high on the global agenda.
  6. Let us know how your organization is contributing to any of these steps – we’ll feature good examples in our newsletters and reports so that other organizations can learn from your efforts.

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