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Supporting the para professional social service workforce

While community level workers, often para professionals, provide an array of social services in various countries across the globe, the functions and activities of these workers are not well described or delineated within or across countries. Training, credentialing, supervision and evaluation of para professional community social services vary as well based on local context. The Alliance's Interest Group on Para Professionals in the Social Service Workforce developed a guidance document for developing programs and activities related to how para professionals can be trained, developed, deployed and supported, and a competency framework to provide program guidance, accountability and ultimately inform both training and supervision. The guiding principles related to supporting the para professional social service workforce are as follows:

  • Retaining competent and trained para professionals at the community level to support the development of effective services where they are most needed (proximate to the children, families and communities they are to serve) should be a key objective of the development and support for a para professional social service workforce.
  • Appropriate incentives and compensation should be given to para professionals for the work they are doing as well as to help them sustain their work over time. All para professional social service providers - whether volunteering or being compensated - need to be provided with basic materials and wherever possible, refunded for expenses such as transportation. Minimum remuneration levels should be established for different types and levels of para professional work, recognizing the skills, knowledge and effort involved in undertaking the work and allowing for a basic decent level of living for the workers and their dependents.
  • All para professionals should work under supervision of qualified para professionals or professionals. Supervision and support mechanisms should be put in place in order to support para professional social service workers in their work and for their personal and professional growth. Innovative approaches to supervision and support including job sharing and shadowing should be considered. This will also create stronger and more positive linkages between para professional and professional social service workers. Supervision also helps to ensure that the practice and performance of para professionals stays within any policy or legislative framework that clarifies roles and responsibilities and guarantees accountability and rights.
  • Para professionals require specific provisions for support and care and encouraging self-care to empower and sustain them in their work. They often come from the very communities that they work in and provide services in difficult conditions that could threaten both their well-being and the sustainability of their services. It is imperative that mechanisms for support, management, supervision and empowerment are established to ensure social connectedness and that these mechanisms and relevant wellness programs are appropriately planned and financed.

Resources Related to Supporting the Para Professional Social Service Workforce

The Alliance has created a curated list of resources specifically relevant to planning, developing and supporting the para professional workforce. These tools are selected from a wider array of relevant tools you can find in our resource database and are intended to feature practical information and actions necessary for strengthening the para professional social service workforce.The below resources are selected as best practice for information, tools and specifics related to supporting the para professional workforce:

Key Considerations in Establishing a National Association for Child and Youth Care Workers

These guidelines were produced by four national professional associations for child and youth care workers in Africa to encourage others to undertake a similar process in other countries toward professionalization, regulation and growth of child and youth care work. These guidelines provide an overview on the steps and considerations to launching and sustaining an association.

FICE International, FICE Africa
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Beyond Quick Fixes: What will it really take to improve child welfare in America?

This is the second in a series of articles regarding the current status of child protection services in the United States and proposals to address its challenges. This paper is on the topic 'Caseworkers Are First Responders. They Deserve the Same Professionalization as Other Essential Personnel.' The article is intended to identify a specific issue, analyze typical or traditional responses to the identified issue, and propose fundamental and substantially new alternatives to addressing the issue faced by child protective agencies.

PCG Human Services
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