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Global Goals Require Gender Equality and a Strong Social Service Workforce

by Molly Fitzgerald, Plan International USAAt Plan International we fight every day for a future in which girls and young women can enjoy the same opportunities and have the same ambitions as their brothers.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets forth 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cutting across all sectors. This new agenda reflects an increasing awareness among the development community that vibrant societies and economies rely on thriving health, education, environmental and social sectors. Now is an ideal time to take stock of the important role the social service workforce will play in achieving these goals, particularly in advancing rights for women and girls.  

Gender equality features prominently in the SDG Agenda. SDG 5 is dedicated solely to gender equality, because women and girls’ inequality remains a significant barrier to achieving all the other SGDs. In addition to ending discrimination against women and girls, SDG 5 sets specific targets around social welfare including: the protection against violence and harmful practices including child, early and forced marriage; assurances for access to sexual and reproductive health services; and equal and full participation in economic, political and public life. We must all be concerned about the global status of women and girls’ equality.  As participants, advocates, members or beneficiaries of the social service workforce, we recognize that a stronger workforce is better equipped to address and advance these issues. They are vital members of their communities, helping women and girls recognize and fully achieve equal rights.

Unfortunately, the global status of women and girls lags far behind on most of these important targets. Globally, an estimated 35 per cent of women experience physical or sexual violence.[1] A third of girls living in the developing world marry before age 18, and one in nine marry before the age of fifteen.[2]

Regional and country variations reveal even greater gender disparities, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, where girls and young women account for between two thirds and three quarters of new HIV infections among adolescents.[3] Poor health and social outcomes result from failures in other social sectors to achieve targets for gender equality. In Malawi for example, females have less control over household resources, lower wages, less political participation, and lower enrollment in secondary and tertiary education.[4] Malawian adolescent girls (ages 15-19) are 10 times more likely to be forced into marriage than boys.[5] Female youth are less knowledgeable about HIV and are less likely to use condoms than young males of the same age.[6]

These converging factors enhance vulnerability to HIV infection leading to worse health outcomes -- Malawian adolescent girls and young women are more than twice as likely to be HIV positive.[7] Girls also experience higher rates of malnutrition, shorter life expectancy and poverty, further undermining equal participation in the education, labor and social sectors.  

These inequalities place a heavy burden on the social service workforce. Morbidity and shorter life expectancies related to HIV, malnutrition and widespread poverty increase the demand while also contributing to the challenges faced in meeting the workforce needs. As the leading cause of death in Malawi, AIDS has contributed to a 12 percent prevalence of orphaned children.[8] While tradition encourages community and extended family support for orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi, poverty compounded by recent draught in the country makes this challenging. Approximately, one fifth of all Malawian families are providing care for orphans and vulnerable children; women and girls often carry the brunt of this burden.[9] Even with a large proportion of volunteers and community support, the social welfare workforce struggles to meet the demands. Efforts to meet the demand have included economic, educational and caregiver support to strengthen families.[10] Given the massive human resource gaps in the formal health and social service workforce, strengthening the capacity and coordination among services is a priority.

Plan International implements gender equitable programming for girls and women. Through the USAID funded One Community, led by Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, Plan has also been tasked with DREAMS, PEPFAR’s new initiative to reduce new HIV infections among vulnerable adolescent girls and young women.[11] DREAMS addresses positive sexual health behaviors, increases access to sexual and reproductive health services, and creates an enabling environment for AGYW by supporting caregivers, addressing harmful community norms and practices, and creating safe spaces for AGYW in schools and in communities.[12]

Women and girls have an important role to play in closing this gap in strengthening the social service workforce. Representing more than 52 percent of the population in Malawi, and as essential actors in the social service system, certainly the best way to do this is to promote their welfare and protection.[13] This will reduce the demands on the workforce and services; it will also secure the health and well-being of families and communities as key components of a strong social welfare workforce.

Without assuring the welfare and protection of women and girls, we will never be able to achieve and sustain a strong workforce.

Photo caption and credit:
At Plan International we fight every day for a future in which girls and young women can enjoy the same opportunities and have the same ambitions as their brothers.
Plan International / Erik Thallhaug

Nicole Brown's picture

Sparking a Global Movement Toward a Stronger Social Service Workforce in 2016

As we reflect on 2016, we thank you for your efforts to strengthen planning, development and support of the social service workforce over the last year. You, our members, are the "sparks" and the reason that the Alliance exists. You have helped advance our collective mission of promoting the knowledge and evidence, resources and tools, and political will and action needed to address key social service workforce challenges and better support vulnerable children and families. This newsletter highlights some of the progress we’ve made together this past year.

Convene and Connect

Advance Knowledge


  • Daily blogs during Social Service Workforce Week in September generated discussion, shared promising practices and illustrated innovative approaches to ‘Build the Case for a Stronger Workforce.’
  • A cohort of eight Alliance Ambassadors are working to inform strategy and influence policy at the local, national and regional level in support of social service workforce strengthening efforts. Following an orientation and training in September, they began their two-year terms.
  • This year, the network grew to more than 1,100 members from 88 countries who are actively working to raise awareness and garner support at all levels for the social service workforce.

Why Be Involved in 2017

Looking ahead to 2017, we are energized by the many opportunities to convene members to exchange innovative approaches, advance knowledge of promising practices and amplify our voices by working together to advocate for greater recognition and integration of the social service workforce. We hope you will join us in the following ways:

  • Join our new interest group on case management (being launched early 2017)
  • Download the second edition of Para Professionals in the Social Service Workforce: Guiding Principles, Functions and Competencies, which will include new competencies for para social workers and community development workers after validation exercises in Ethiopia and DRC (early 2017).
  • Join our collective global advocacy efforts on World Social Work Day (March 2017)
  • Use our new advocacy toolkit aimed to assist members in outreach efforts (April 2017)
  • Attend our 4th Annual Global Social Service Workforce Strengthening Symposium (May 2017)
  • Participate in select conferences and events with us, including the 3rd Africa Regional Joint Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development (Zambia, June 2017) and the REPSSI Forum (Tanzania, September 2017)
  • Take part in Social Service Workforce Week (September 2017)
  • Share information for inclusion in the 3rd State of the Social Service Workforce Report (December 2017)
  • Participate in webinars on key topics related to strengthening the workforce

Join Us in Amplifying Social Service Workforce Strengthening Efforts

The purpose of the Alliance, as a network, is to bring together members across borders to exchange ideas, share tools and advance promising practices. There are many ways you can engage with one another and the global community to help strengthen the workforce in 2017. The coming year offers a renewed opportunity to build upon our many successes, and we look forward to working together over the coming year to continue to strengthen our sector and improve the lives of vulnerable populations. More information on ways to become involved in upcoming activities will be shared throughout the year. We hope you’ll join us on our journey toward strengthening the workforce in 2017 and beyond.

Our work is made possible by: USAID, PEPFAR, 4Children and GHR Foundation.

Betsy  Sherwood 's picture

Social Service Workers in Haiti Promote a More Inclusive Society for Children with Disabilities

Guest blog submitted by Betsy Sherwood, Head of Programs for CBM Country Office in Haiti & Ambassador of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance

December 3rd is always one of my favorite days in the calendar year - it’s the day those of us in the disability and human rights sectors come together to celebrate International Day for Persons with Disabilities. In many countries where I have worked, this tends to be a very inspiring day, one meant to reflect on the achievements made by persons with disabilities and to advocate for more progress in the coming year.

This year’s theme is “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want” – drawing attention to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals within the 2030 Agenda, a global framework for development.

While significant efforts have been made since the UN started celebrating this day 24 years ago, we cannot ignore that children with disabilities still remain one of the most marginalized and excluded groups in society. 

Here in Haiti, many children with disabilities face daily discrimination and are often not able to realize their full rights to education, family, and healthcare. To the dismay of many of us in the social service workforce, children with disabilities remain less likely to attend school, access medical services or have their voices heard in society.  

While the statistics and stories can feel daunting, there are many promising initiatives happening around the globe to promote the rights of children with disabilities. There are also important ways that those in the social service workforce can work to ensure that all children, including those with disabilities, have the opportunity to live up to their full potential.

Philogene meets with studentsIn my daily work, I have the privilege of collaborating with a motivated group of local social workers who have dedicated their professional lives to working on behalf of children with disabilities in Haiti. This week, I sat down to chat with my colleague, Philogene Edmonds, to learn more from him about his experience as an advocate for children with disabilities. Philogene is a Social Worker by training and serves as Program Coordinator for CBM-Haiti, guiding all of our programs related to child protection and inclusive education. Since the January 2010 earthquake struck Haiti, he has worked tirelessly to ensure that children with disabilities have equal access to all essential services. Below are a few highlights from our conversation:

Q:  What role can social service professionals play in improving the lives of children with disabilities?

A: We have a critical role to play as it is often on us to advocate for and defend the rights of those who are most vulnerable. I have witnessed firsthand how our workforce has been able to bring attention to the needs of children with disabilities. Here in Haiti, we have had positive influence on key child protection and education actors, using our professional knowledge to encourage them to build programs that are more inclusive for children with disabilities. After the earthquake, we advocated for disability inclusive child-friendly spaces, we trained frontline protection workers on the rights of children with disabilities and we pressured education actors at all levels to work on inclusive education initiatives.

As social workers, we also have very specific skills and training that allow us to work effectively with families. I’ve learned that one of the most important ways I can support a child with a disability is by also providing good support to their family members. By encouraging parents and caregivers of children with disabilities through counseling and coaching, I have seen many positive results. For example, I’ve watched parents become more confident and develop better coping mechanisms, I’ve seen children become more integrated into their families, and ultimately, in the communities where we have worked. I’ve noticed less children with disabilities being abandoned or placed in institutional care. Now, we just need to do a better job of tracking and documenting our successes – those in academia need to join alongside us to help us develop evidence and show what works best in the field.

Q: How has working with children with disabilities impacted you as a professional?

A: I have learned so much since I started working with children and adults with disabilities. I now am more open minded and always understand that no matter how tough a situation seems, there is potential and hope. I have become much more creative, often being forced on the spot to adjust interventions to ensure that a child with a certain type of disability is able to participate. I have become a much better listener and communicator. Sometimes I need to take a few extra steps, or rework the things I am trying to say to ensure that I am effectively communicating with the person I am working with, sometimes the work takes longer, but this process always helps in building trust. I’ve also had the privilege of working closely with people from the deaf community and thanks to them I have learned new ways to communicate.

Philiogene at a school with childrenQ: What advice would you give to a social service professional who is hesitant about working with children with disabilities?

A: Well the first thing I realized, when I too was initially hesitant, is that you don’t have to be a “disability expert” to work with children with disabilities. At first, sometimes the disability itself can be overwhelming and you forget to focus on the child – their needs, their dreams, their ambitions. I suggest not to get caught up in “curing or fixing” the disability and focusing instead on ways in which you can make their immediate environments more accessible and accommodating. Ask yourself how in your professional role you can support their teachers, family members, siblings, and neighbors to ensure that this child feels safe and included. As professionals, we already know how to connect with families and communities, this is what we are good at, so don’t be scared.

Also, it’s really important to always use a strengths-based approach! I find most days I am blown away by what the children I work with are capable of and how, when given the chance, they are able to adapt and succeed in ways many of the people closest to them never thought possible. At the end of the day, even when you are feeling hesitant, you will have to overcome those feelings. We as a workforce have a mandatory obligation to work with all children. Start to explore some of the many resources out there on working with children with disabilities and look for mentors in the field.

While the social service workforce still has hurdles to overcome here in Haiti, it is always inspiring to sit down and chat with Haitian professionals who are working tirelessly to improve the lives of children. This December 3rd, I encourage all members of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance to reflect on how you and your organization can better support children with disabilities. I also encourage you to take time to learn more about how to promote disability inclusion in your existing programming by exploring resources developed by organizations such as CBM and other leaders in the disability field.  

CBM is a Christian international development organization, committed to improving the quality of life of people with disabilities in the poorest communities of the world irrespective of race, gender or religious belief. Based on its core values and over 100 years of professional expertise, CBM addresses poverty both as a cause and as a consequence of disability, and works in partnership with local and national civil society organizations to create an inclusive society for all. For further information, please visit

Christina Quinby's picture

Para Social Workers in Tanzania: Helping People Living with HIV/AIDS Access Treatment and Navigate Social Barriers to Care

It was a busy morning in the usually calm village of Levolosi in the Tanzanian city of Arusha.  Neema, 27, and her friend Eliaremisa were going to visit a woman they had learned about from another member of the community.

The woman’s situation was dire: she had been ill for several weeks and had just been evicted from the home where she and her two children had been living.

During the visit, Neema and Eliaremisa provided counsel to their new friend, encouraging her to get tested for HIV. When the young mother tested positive, they supported her on her path to treatment. They also found her a place to live, finding a community member who was able to provide not only a home, but also a piece of land to cultivate, which represents an important means to earn a living in this part of northern Tanzania.

“The primary need of my clients is empowerment in a variety of ways,” Neema explains, stressing that removing barriers to accessing important social benefits is at the heart of her work with vulnerable individuals and families.

Neema gained a strong foundation in the knowledge and skills she needs to provide critical support to orphans, vulnerable children, and others in need in her community through her participation in the Para Social Worker (PSW) Training Program being implemented by the American International Health Alliance (AIHA) with support from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Tanzania.

"When I was little, I remember that my mother was very sick. She would send me to a clinic in another district to get her TB medicine. She died and my baby sister and I went to live with our grandmother for a while, but she was sick and became blind. If it weren't for this place, I would have joined a gang and likely been involved in drugs by now."
-Mohamed Shukuru, an 18-year-old orphan who receives support from Para Social Worker Edithrose Moyo in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
(photo: Kathryn Utan, AIHA)
Photo of PSW and boy helped  

AIHA’s PSW program provides skills-based training in social work case management and child development to caregivers, empowering countries to strengthen human resource capacity to more effectively address the immediate needs of vulnerable children and families through the development of a previously underutilized segment of the workforce and has been implemented in Nigeria and Ethiopia and soon in Mozambique.

The PSW training package varies slightly from country to country based on local needs, but the basic model includes an introductory course approximately two weeks in duration. This course introduces key social work concepts, such as using empathy and an unbiased approach when working with clients; development of a mutually agreed-upon focus of work and desired outcomes starting where the client is; and advocating for client access to services. The training package also teaches practical skills in outreach and client identification, needs assessment, case management, child development, resource linkages, family support, counseling, ongoing service coordination, and avoiding professional burnout. Upon completion of the introductory course, participants undergo six months of supervised field work and mentoring before taking a follow-up course that focuses on specialized skills related to caring for vulnerable children and families. Topics covered include: stigma reduction; collaboration with local governments; care and support for children living with HIV; HIV risk reduction; addressing personal and cultural biases when working with key populations; and addressing the needs of diverse family situations.

In response to a call by her village government for new community volunteer trainees, Neema entered the program in November 2014. Upon completion of the training, she returned home to Levolosi, a rural community that, like so many others, lacks professional social workers.

Neema says she really appreciates that the PSW training has set her apart from other community volunteers working to support vulnerable groups by arming her with unique skills needed to handle sensitive issues and help her clients through complex social challenges.

Community members and leaders alike also appreciate Neema’s work in supporting vulnerable groups in Levolosi, particularly people living with HIV and orphans and vulnerable children. She collaborates with other stakeholders to identify people in need and the community-based organizations or individuals that offer critical support. Neema also provides counseling, linkages, and referrals to crucial services, such as healthcare, economic empowerment, and education.

According to Neema, confidentiality and relationship-building are two of the most useful skills she has acquired. Without these, she admits, she would not be able to effectively support her clients — many of whom face very serious and complex situations.

“I reassure them that I am with them all the way through,” Neema states. “I do not simply identify the clients, speak to them, and leave them. I make sure they receive the care they need even beyond my purview as I work to address individual needs of vulnerable children, people living with HIV, and their households.”  

AIHA, through its HIV/AIDS Twinning Center Program, has supported social work education — including the PSW Training Program — in Tanzania since 2006. With PEPFAR support, we worked closely with the Tanzania Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children; the Institute of Social Work (ISW); and technical resource partners at Jane Addams College of Social Work (JACSW) and the Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center (MATEC) of the University of Illinois, Chicago, to support the development of a national PSW curriculum with enhanced HIV/AIDS competencies.

PSWs are trained and deployed across the country to deliver psychosocial services at the community level. To date, 4,682 community-based caregivers have completed phase one of the PSW training and more than 2,600 have completed the full course to become certified PSWs. In September 2016, ISW assumed full ownership of the PSW Training Program and now collaborates directly with other implementing partners to train PSWs throughout the country.

In 2012, AIHA worked closely with Tanzania’s Department of Social Welfare and our partners at ISW, JACSW, and MATEC to develop a mid-level Social Welfare Assistant (SWA) Training Program. The SWA program helps bridge Tanzania’s human resource gap in the health and social welfare sectors. It also provides a career ladder for members of the country’s social welfare workforce.

Developed to complement the existing PSW Training Program, the SWA Program uses ISW’s certification curriculum to qualify SWAs to work as government or NGO employees at the ward level. This year-long competency-based program includes both classroom lessons and a field practicum focusing on social work processes, policies, and laws governing services to vulnerable populations such as children, people with disabilities, and the elderly. ISW continues to operate this program and has to date graduated more than 140 SWAs.

This guest blog was prepared by Ronald Nakaka, Tina Quinby, and Kathryn Utan and submitted in honor of World AIDS Day.

AIHA provides technical assistance through comprehensive, integrated, and volunteer-driven partnerships and initiatives that help low- and middle-income countries build institutional and human resource capacity to create a strong foundation for delivering high-quality, inclusive health services. Our comprehensive, multi-pillar approach to health system strengthening has enabled us to achieve sustainable outcomes through more than 175 partnerships in Sub-Saharan Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean.

AIHA has more than 24 years of experience working with host country governments, donors, and other key national and international stakeholders to address critical public health issues such as HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, maternal and child health, primary healthcare, emergency medicine, and a broad range of health professions education and development.

Cover photo:
“Para Social Workers provide important support to the government. They are a key part of the health and social support workforce and have greatly reduced the workload of social workers at the village, ward, and district levels in Tanzania. This program has opened a lot doors for our trainees, who recognize that they now have a path to further education.”

 - Asha Mbaruku, Para-Social Worker Supervisor and Trainer, Kisutu Juvenile Court, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Photo: Courtesy of AIHA/Tanzania

Jennifer Kaberi's picture

To 'Leave No One Behind,' We Must Include the Social Service Workforce

The sustainable development goals have just clocked one year, and everyone is rallying behind the call to “Leave no one behind.” This year’s theme of the Universal Children’s Day, celebrated on November 20, is “Leave No One Behind.” But what does it really mean to leave no one behind? According to the Overseas Development Institute, it means that no goal will be met unless it is inclusive of everyone. In attaining the goal, organizations are aiming to include vulnerable children. Doing so requires both greater investment and data.

Social service workers are the advocates to ensure this happens, but they must be included to be able to do so. Is the social service workforce being included in high-level forums happening all over the world? They are the ones who are most closely positioned to truly understand and add voice to the situation of vulnerable children and families.

To help make this point, I’d like to introduce you to some social service workers who are striving to improve the lives of vulnerable children. One such individual is Lilly, a social worker I recently met in Madagascar. Lilly runs a day care center for street connected children. The center provides showers, meals and education for 100-300 children daily, from ages 6 months to 17 years old.

Her calm nature made me wonder what is her drive, what makes her wake up in the morning and walk for one hour? And most importantly, what does she need to be more effective or make her work easier? Has she fallen through the cracks as she provides for the most vulnerable? Her caseload is 1:300 and her center is poorly resourced. She is driven to improve the lives of these children who are the future of Madagascar, but more funding allocation for additional resources would help her toward meeting the SDGs.

Training in KenyaAnother example is John. He has a Master’s degree in Social Work. He works with children in conflict with the law. The first time I talked to John, I didn’t know there were social workers for children in the juvenile system; I assumed like many others that the prison department and police are responsible for children in the system.

John tells me that he is passionate about helping these children. According to John, probation work involving children in conflict with the law remains one of the most challenging roles. Since the first time he encountered a child in a police cell, young and full of potential, it has never been easy to see children in the criminal justice system in Kenya. He argues that social systems failures are partially to blame for children being in conflict with the law and that we need to remedy this. He is working to reform the juvenile justice system and ensure no child goes to prison. But how much understanding and support is there for social workers in the juvenile justice system and what do they need to best meet the needs of these children?

John tells me that he needs more human and financial resources in the probation department. He needs rehab centers with qualified social service workers. He needs a community where he can exchange ideas on reforming the juvenile system, as well as people who can relate to the stresses of his tough work.

Rehema is a community social worker who works with pregnant teenagers. She helps with nutrition and encourages them to go for health screenings. At age 35, Rehema is a “gogo” grandmother to many of these children who otherwise would have been abandoned. She believes that one of the children she rescues will one day become president, and that helps motivate her. Will Rehema’s efforts in development work be properly shared and reported to build the data base?

These three social workers are working to make a difference and ensure that the most vulnerable are not left behind. They are the intervention in these children’s lives. They collect data and come up with solutions to ensure no child is left behind. But who is ensuring that they are not being left behind? Many development agencies and governments don’t capture the needed data about their most important asset – the workforce providing these services. Very little data is available to show the contribution of social workers in sustainable development and more specifically in the lives of children. Evidence shows that an empowered, regulated and rewarded social service workforce has a better outcome on children. The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance has recently untaken a project to build the evidence base for helping support workforce strengthening, and the outcomes paper and webinar on the topic are available online.

To ensure that no one is left behind, there is a need for the right data to be collected. The data has to tell a story and show where investment needs to be made. The story needs to connect all the players in the children’s sector. The data has to tell the stories of Lilly, John and Rehema by recognizing what they do toward ensuring that no one is left behind. They, too, must be counted and their needs must be considered so that they are best able to help children and families to have better outcomes.

To ensure that no social service worker is left behind, there is a need for policies that not only regulate what they do but also ensure that they are retained. The policy has to speak to both the intervention and intervener and the policies have to be evidence based and intervention/solution oriented.

My passion is working with children to make development a reality in Africa, but this will only be possible when we leave no child and no social service worker behind.

 Jennifer Kaberi is a Social Worker and an Ambassador of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance. She coordinates the Children Agenda Forum in Kenya and has more than 10 years of experience working with children. She is driven by knowing children are the enablers and promise holders for Africa’s brighter future.

To read more articles by her, visit or follow her on Twitter at @dalithso.

Anonymous's picture

CYCWs Support Families in Household Economic Strengthening

by Sindisiwe Dlamini (CYCW), KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa

The Zondo* family was overwhelmed by their life situation. The mother was chronically ill and mentally disabled, the children were malnourished and missed school frequently and the family was dependent on government child support grants that were only provided for two children. The grants were not large enough for them to survive on. They saw no way to escape poverty. Their plight is not uncommon in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

A child and youth care worker (CYCW), trained through the National Association of Child Care Workers’ Isibindi program in South Africa, intervened. CYCWs are trained in household economic strengthening interventions and developing plans specific to the needs of each family. That’s how I became involved and was able to work with the family improve their financial management to better manage their home and resources in order to better provide for the children. On Eradication of Poverty Day, we share this story of success.

Family stands in front of their gardenThrough door-to-door family recruitment in September 2014, a Community Care Giver (CCG) learned of the family’s hardship and referred them to me, the local CYCW. The family consists of four children: Vamsile (20 years), Asabonga (17 years), Londiwe (10 years) and Siphiwe Biyase (6 years). The mother was on her own, and saw no way to improve the situation for her family.

The children were going to school without food as the mother was paying her loans with the grants she received for the two children. The mother was not adhering to her ARV treatment, the shortage of food in the house being one of the reasons.

I started by visiting the family twice a day to build relationships, especially with the mother. Fortunately, the mother was very open and shared all important and personal information. I referred the family to the Department of Social Development and SASSA for a grant application and for food parcels. I taught the mother about budgeting and assisted her to pay all of her debts. I also visited the Department of Agriculture to advocate for seeds for a food garden and land was identified.

A family meeting was held with Asabonga and her mother to discuss the issue of school attendance. All of Asabonga’s challenges and reasons for not attending school were discussed, namely, the issue of hunger in the house, her school uniform being in bad condition and the issue of lack of toiletries. I went to Asabonga’s school to advocate for her and to get a new uniform and continued to advocate for the family by going to the nearest primary school for admission for Londiwe and Siphiwe.

The school provided a new uniform to Asabonga and a good relationship between the school and myself was established, which enhanced the communication. Regular school visits were conducted for support and monitoring of the children’s progress. I also linked Asabonga to a study group that she attends every Monday and Thursday after school. Support is being provided by all stakeholders in terms of monitoring the progress of the children and family. Siphiwe and Londiwe were admitted to school and the mother was able to buy school uniforms for each of them with the Child Support Grant money. Both children did very well at school and managed to progress to the next grade. 

A daily routine was designed working together with the family, since they were struggling to assign chores in the household. The children are following the daily routine on their own, without supervision, and a sense of independence has developed.

Mother takes her medicineMrs. Zondo was linked to the community care giver for support in adhering to her medication plan. A pill box was issued to her, and this has worked well and she is now adhering to her treatment independently.

Asabonga has passed her first term and using her Child Support Grant money, she has been able to apply to the local university. Vamsile has been motivated by seeing her siblings attend school and has enrolled herself to write her supplementary examinations.

The family is now eating from the food garden which assists them to adhere to the budgeting plan that was designed. The family is able to save money and they are now debt free. Home visits are still being conducted to the family to monitor progress. Vamsile has been of great support to her siblings as she was motivated by the CYCW to help them.

The changes in this family show that they have achieved greater security through managing their resources and caring for each other in a process introduced and supported through the Isibindi program. The younger children are attending school, the older children are completing school and looking forward to post-school studies, while the mother is maintaining her treatment schedule and her health is stable. All the children help with the food garden which helps to feed them. The family is being supported to access external sources and to use these resources to support the family in caring for each other. This story is one of success attributed to household economic strengthening. More than 4,400 CYCWs throughout South Africa, like myself, have been trained through the PEPFAR-funded Isibindi program to help more families achieve greater security and improve overall wellbeing. More information can be on the NACCW’s website.

*names have been changed

Tata Sudrajat's picture

Improving Children’s Lives in Indonesia through a Trained Social Workforce

Guest blog submitted by Tata Sudrajat, Director of Families First Signature Program, Yayasan Sayangi Tunas Cilik - partner of Save the Children; member and Ambassador of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance

Febi, age 11A hospital without doctors would leave children without medical care. A school without teachers would leave children without education. What about a community without social workers? Where would that leave children?

We were able to see firsthand in Indonesia when we started our program, Families First, in 2005, a year after being hit by the largest tsunami in decades. This emergency shed a harsh light on the nearly non-existent social service system in the country at the time.

A staggering 500,000 children were living in orphanages and religious schools across the country, the largest number in the world. But out of these half a million children, 90% had living parents.* The majority of institutions were privately owned and completely unregulated. We found that children were living in poor conditions and at high risk of suffering neglect and abuse (physical and sexual).

While social work was taught in universities and accepted as a profession, the social work practices didn’t meet professional standards. The few social workers that existed were institution-based (working in orphanages) rather than part of a broader child protection system in local communities.

In fact, the overall child welfare system almost entirely focused on providing support through institutions. For families who were not able to provide for appropriate care, shelter or education, putting their children in institutional care was the only way to receive help.

This worrying situation for children was the start of our program Families First. Since the tsunami, together with the Indonesian Government and other partners, Save the Children has been working to create a whole new system of childcare, professional social work and support from scratch.

Together with universities, social work organizations and the Government, we have established a system for licensing of social workers to get social work recognized as a profession. By 2015, 485 social workers had been certified.

Through a new Standard of Care Act, a paradigm shift has been achieved, changing the focus from institution-based to family-based care. This shift has allowed the social workforce to start working directly with families to help them develop parenting skills and access services, without sending their children to orphanages. It has also led to the Government redirecting 35% of social assistance funds to be delivered to children in families instead of to children in institutions.

We are now seeing results at scale. In 2016, close to 52,000 children were kept from being put into orphanages unnecessarily. It is our goal to scale up the program to keep increasing the number of trained social workers along with the number of children being cared for in their family or community where we know they will be better protected from violence and receive better overall care than in institutions.

Gilang Susalit, social workerComing back to my question about what happens to children in a community without trained social workers, the answer is simple. It leaves children unprotected by their communities and by the state, without appropriate care. Children are potentially exposed to more violence, neglect, abuse and unnecessary institutionalization.

But our program in Indonesia shows that change is possible. When governments start promoting and prioritizing the social service workforce by shifting program and finance to the families, investing in their training, establishing legislation-backed standards, social workers become empowered to do their job – playing a key role in protecting the well-being of children, families and their communities. We know children’s lives improve as a result. Dedicated, motivated and trained social workers and para professionals will help every last child thrive and live free from violence.

Learn more about Families First through this video and this immersive website with figures, facts and stories from children, social workers, orphanage owners and others. Blog originally published online by Save the Children.

*Survey by Save the Children, Government of Indonesia and UNICEF in 2007

Photos courtesy of C J Clarke/Save the Children. Photo captions:

Febi, 11, and her brother Ahmad were sent to an orphanage in Bandung Province, Indonesia, when their parents lost their income and couldn't afford to send them to school any more. Febi misses her family and friends. Gilang, a social worker, is working with the family trying to improve their situation so that Febi and Ahmad can return home.

Social worker Gilang Susalit talks with Febi, 11, and her mother

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Advocacy that Moves the Social Service Workforce to the Fast Lane

by Global Social Service Workforce Alliance

Imagine a world where no child is subjected to violence, no child lives on the street, no child is forced into labor.  In 2010, many of us came together to imagine such a child-friendly and child-centered world. Our brainstorming about what it would take to make this world a reality led to the launch of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance.

Now with nearly 1,000 members, the Alliance allows individual voices to be amplified in calling for increased investment in the social service workforce. Instead of one small beeping horn in a massive traffic jam, we become a thunderous blast of sirens making everyone stop, take notice and give us the right of way. For optimum performance, this workforce needs routine maintenance, and upgrades, in the form of training, development and support.

You and I know that the social service workforce plays a key role in solving many of the problems our society faces. This workforce is essential for children and families to be healthy and supported, but to achieve a truly child-friendly world necessitates greater investment at all levels.

Securing that type of investment and political will requires strong advocacy. We need to make a strong case for why tight national budgets should be geared toward strengthening the social service workforce. In fact, we do not believe that the United Nations 2030 agenda or the SDGs can be accomplished without the social service workforce. Why not? That’s where building our case comes in.

Gary Newton, former US Government Special Advisor for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, spoke at the Alliance’s 3rd Annual Symposium in June 2016 about how we need to show a direct connection between a stronger workforce and better outcomes for children and families in order to win political support and increase resources. He suggested that advocacy for social service workforce strengthening should focus on preventing violence against children, and, conversely, advocacy for the prevention of violence against children should focus on strengthening the social service workforce. 

Social service workers are the intervention to end the epidemic of violence that 25% of the world’s children faced last year. They are also critical supports to children with disabilities, who are four times more likely to face physical violence and five times more likely to face sexual violence, according to the WHO. We need clear and compelling statements like this to build political will and global momentum for strengthening this workforce.

We must be more effective advocates. Our advocacy tactics must meet the same evidence-based standards applied to other interventions. This requires more and better data – both qualitative and quantitative.

Alliance Ambassadors Begin Their Role as Advocates

Ambassadors from Uganda develop their action plansIt also requires individuals and organizations becoming workforce strengthening champions. A group of dedicated advocates has been selected to be Ambassadors for the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance. They are charged with advocating nationally, regionally and globally for a strengthened workforce. It’s a tall order and they can’t do it alone. This first cohort of Ambassadors from seven countries took part in a training and orientation earlier this month. They discussed advocacy strategies and promotional tactics and reviewed existing materials about the workforce. They are now developing action plans for advocacy and promotion through development of key messages and outreach to existing and potential collaborators across sectors.

Their work is already underway. A zero draft of Kenya’s Children’s Bill 2016 has just been released and neglects to include the workforce. Jennifer Kaberi, National Coordinator, Children Agenda Forum, Kenya, is gathering examples of how the workforce has been referenced in other country’s similar bills in order to effectively advocate for inclusion of workforce-specific language into Kenya’s bill.

They Ambassadors acknowledge that their task is not an easy or quick one, but they expect the relationships they form to have an increasing impact over time. As one example, Pat Maquina, Senior Mentor, National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW), South Africa said “I look forward to seeing that the strengthening of the social service workforce addresses the root causes of social injustice against children and families left vulnerable and destitute.”

“As part of the Global Partnership to End Violence against children, we are acutely aware of the level and extent of violence experienced by children. Governments, communities and families all have a role to play in preventing violence and its associated harm,” said Jane Calder, Regional Advisor for Child Protection in Asia, Save the Children, Thailand/Asia region. “As an Ambassador for the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, I’m excited to be a part of the call for more social workers and para professionals to be employed, trained, resourced and given the status and the tools in the form of legislation and policy that will enable them to do the job – the job of contributing significantly to the current and the future health and well-being of children, families and their communities, with the goal of ending violence against children.”

One suggestion raised by this new group of Ambassadors is the creation of an advocacy toolkit that anyone can use to rally support for social service workforce strengthening and the Alliance will be working on developing such a toolkit. If you have materials to share that could be included in the kit, please let us know. How have you effectively advocated for the social service workforce? We invite you to share promising practices as well as challenges you’ve faced on our discussion board.

It’s not necessary to be an Alliance Ambassador to be an effective advocate for strengthening the social service workforce. We can all be better advocates to cultivate greater support for this effort. Doing so will benefit all of us and in turn benefit our children, families and communities.

Get Involved and Learn More

Today is the final day of Social Service Workforce Week. You can read the blogs from each day this week, then join the discussion online. Amplify your voice by becoming a member of the Alliance and join in advocating for a stronger workforce, sharing resources and tools, exchanging promising practices and supporting greater investment in this workforce. With more than 1,000 members, 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.

Anonymous's picture

Day Four Blog: Engineering Case Management Approaches

by Global Social Service Workforce Alliance
Read blogs from other days of Social Service Workforce Week

The process of case management is complex. It requires a well-engineered design that includes special attention to the social service workforce, or those ever-important tires that keep the car going, as referenced in the Social Service Workforce Week Day One blog.

Case management ideally helps to ensure the coordination of quality services to enable vulnerable children and families to find solutions to the challenges they face. It is often criticized for being an individualistic method of working in settings where a community approach is paramount. An effective case management approach is community-based and promotes meaningful engagement of community members, family members and children. At the same time, it is important to determine when and if case management is the best tool in the tool box for a social service worker to use or when other approaches, programs and services can be added or are better suited to meet the needs of vulnerable populations. 

The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance uses the power of a network to bring people together across organizations and countries to fill critical gaps in information and evidence and galvanize support for workforce strengthening initiatives that will ultimately better support families and communities to provide safe and nurturing environments for children. The Alliance has been reaching out to our members and partners to identify if there are gaps to be filled in coordination, development and dissemination of tools and resources related to case management. 

Case management word cloudIn a recent conference call on case management, 33 participants from 19 countries shared their wide-ranging definitions of case management. Given the breadth of programming, from coordinating services specific to children on the move or children affected by violence, for example, the range of definitions is not unexpected or unusual. There were a few definitions that seemed to capture many of the key elements emphasized by others. For example, Save the Children uses the definition: “the process of assisting an individual child (and their family) through direct support and referral to other needed services, and the activities that case workers, social workers or other project staff carry out in working with children and families in addressing their protection concerns.” The 4Children project uses the definition “the process of identifying, assessing, planning, referring, and tracking referrals, and monitoring the delivery of services in a timely, context-sensitive, individualized, and family-centered manner." Most definitions had some common key words, as featured in the word cloud.

Good case management is dependent on workers who have the right skills, abilities, ethics, values and behaviors to carry it out, along with the right type of supportive supervision or mentoring to help guide them through the many challenging aspects of providing quality case management. Many types of workers may be responsible for integrating case management approaches into their work, from social workers, child protection officers, para social workers, social welfare officers, children’s officers, community case managers, social auxiliary workers, social welfare assistants and so on. Many of these workers tend to receive in-service training and on-the-job mentoring and support, which is critical given the complex nature of the work. 

Many on that conference call noted interest in having increased access to tools and resources to plan training and provide ongoing support to those carrying out case management. Examples of resources discussed include standard operating procedures (SOPs) and guidelines, tools to monitor and evaluate a case management system, tools that support case worker performance or measure competencies, and/or tools that aid supervisors to provide supportive supervision. Many guidelines and resources already exist, for example:

  • The Case Management Toolkit:  A User’s Guide for Strengthening Case Management Services in Child Welfare was developed by USAID. The toolkit provides a framework for analyzing current systems, procedures and practices at both the case level and system level. It does not promote a specific model of case management; rather, it outlines the beneficial aspects, processes and strategies of case management that have shown improved outcomes for children and families. Good practice examples from seven countries in Europe and Eurasia are provided.
  • Interagency Guidelines for Case Management and Child Protection:  The role of case management in the protection of children is a guide for policy and program managers and case workers. It provides a general framework of agreed principles, considerations, steps and procedures for effective child protection case management developed by the Child Protection Working Group (CPWG)’s Case Management Taskforce in line with the Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (CPMS).
  • Case Management Practice within Save the Children Child Protection Programs analyzes the practice of case management within Save the Children’s child protection programs. It explains the fundamental components of a good case management process, looks at the organization’s understanding and practice in case management, highlights examples of promising practice and identifies actions that should be taken to improve the quality of case management work for the benefit of children, families and communities.
  • The Child Protection Case Management Framework provides standard procedures, assessment and planning tools and guidance in the delivery of case management services. It represents the efforts of the Malawi Department of Social Welfare and Case Management Desk with support from UNICEF Malawi. It highlights core competencies, values, ethics and knowledge required of case managers.

There are a vast array of other tools and resources on case management in existence. Many are available on the Alliance resource database under the workforce theme of case management. At the same time, there may also be gaps in availability of tools such as those that help to assess worker competencies and point toward additional training or mentoring needs.  

Do you have more case management tools to share with your colleagues or are you interested in learning more about what is available? Are you interested in joining a new thematic interest group on case management to contribute to the exchange of information and development of knowledge on this topic? Let us know by posting a comment below or contacting us here.

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Building a Roadmap for the Workforce Strengthening Journey

by the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance

Read blogs from other days during Social Service Workforce Week

Going on a road trip without a map is a little bit like planning to provide social services without knowing much about the people providing those services. Just like you need to know the roads, distances and locations in order to drive to a new destination, decision makers need comprehensive data on the social service workforce in order to adequately address a population’s need for social services. And they need to pair this with stories and analysis of people’s travels along the way to have evidence of whether the map is functioning effectively.

Data on the workforce assists decision makers in understanding employment trends and workforce needs and in identifying the policies, budgets and training systems that need to be in place to produce a well-planned, developed and supported social service workforce. This data helps to build the roadmap for the journey that will need to be undertaken in order to have the right people with the right skills in the right place to meet current and future needs of vulnerable populations.

Once the roadmap has been charted and the journey begins, stories and analysis of the travel need to be assembled to ensure the map is accurate and useful, as well as if any changes need to be made. This is where building a growing evidence base comes in and forms an important part of refining the journey to a strengthened workforce.

The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance aims to bring together people across its membership, including policy makers, academics, donors and practitioners, to help identify needs for data collection and develop tools and resources that can inform decision-making on social service workforce investments and programming. Along those lines, we have embarked on several projects in recent years.

State of the Social Service Workforce Reports

The Alliance has compiled annual State of the Social Service Workforce Reports to highlight social service workforce strengthening data and approaches by examining and analyzing unique initiatives in particular countries and identifying common challenges and trends evident across locations.

  • 2016 Report CoverThe first State of the Social Service Workforce 2015 Report explores the diversity of the social service workforce within and across 15 countries in different regions of the world, recognizing the variety of functions, titles and types of education and training in both government and nongovernment work settings. It also reviews the availability of professional associations and councils to support the workforce. It takes a more quantitative approach to collating information on the workforce, combined with worker profiles and stories of change.

Evidence Review

While data is critical, evidence of what is working is also important. The Evidence Base on the Social Service Workforce: Current Knowledge, Gaps and Future Research Direction report reviews the current state of evidence on strengthening the social service workforce around the world. This report, along with The Evidence Matrix for the Social Service Workforce, are a culmination of a process undertaken by the Building Evidence for Social Service Workforce Strengthening Interest Group (BEIG) of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance. They hoped that by organizing the current state of evidence, we can all better understand what data is available in what locations and what more is needed in order to improve the map of the way forward.

Having a good road map requires collecting the data points necessary to guide the future journey. It also allows you to look back and see how far you’ve come.  As Maury Mendenhall, USAID, wrote in her blog for our first annual SSW Week in 2014, “My hope is that in the very near future, we will be swimming in data. We will have the evidence we need to make a case for increasing investments in the workforce and workforce strengthening - and we will be able to target investments, to achieve the impact that we desire.” As we look at the work of our many members in more than 86 countries, we are all, indeed, a few steps further on that journey.

Get Involved

In what ways do you think data and evidence could best inform workforce strengthening initiatives? What data and evidence about workforce strengthening can you add to the evidence matrix?

  • Add your feedback by posting on the discussion board or in the comment box below. Share your reports or research with others by sending it here.  
  • Tweet to show your support for the social service workforce. Some sample tweets you can use today are:
    • It’s a long journey to strengthen the social service workforce. We need a good map. #workforce2030 #SSWWeek
    • Improved evidence of what works = an improved social service workforce. #SSWWeek