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WEBINAR 25: Ways in Which the Social Service Workforce Plays a Key Role in Preventing Violence Against Children

View the full webinar recording and download the presentations.

The 25th webinar was hosted by the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance on April 12 on the topic of “Ways in Which the Social Service Workforce Plays a Key Role in Preventing Violence Against Children.”

Many recent reports have captured the severity of the situation of violence against children across the world. The statistics can be staggering and provide a context that emphasizes the dire need for interventions from a strong workforce. The Alliance’s 2017 State of the Social Service Workforce Report, includes four types of violence: physical violence, sexual violence, emotional violence and neglect. The report draws from several recent studies, VAC studies and other existing data.

Violence affects children of all ages and in a wide range of contexts across the globe. For example, half of all children in the world have been affected by some form of violence. There are multiple social and economic costs associated with violence against children. Evidence supports the cost-effectiveness of preventing violence against children, yet current levels of government spending remain very low.  All in all, investing in the workforce is cost effective and helps to prevent the cycle of violence and its many costs to society.

This webinar was held to review findings and recommendations from the newly released 2017 State of the Social Service Workforce Report. The report highlights the magnitude of violence children and families face and offers stories and recommendations for strengthening the frontline workforce helping to prevent and respond to violence against children.

Amy Bess, MSW, Director of the Alliance, opened the webinar by providing an overview on the types and magnitude of violence affecting children and families globally. She also detailed the aim of the 2017 report toward helping to improve understanding of the role of social service workers in preventing and addressing violence against children. “We hope that this report will help to advance the causal link between the strength of the social service workforce and positive outcomes for children and families through a story telling, narrative analysis approach. And this report demonstrates the value of multidisciplinary approaches to addressing violence and emphasizes the key role that social service workers play in facilitating this approach.”

The stories included in the 2017 report provide valuable insight on the role of social service workers in these efforts and bring their work to life while raising awareness about their role.

Elena Ghanotakis, MPH, consultant and lead author of the 2017 report, then presented the methodology and findings included within the report. Survey responses were received from 53 respondents from 29 countries submitted responses. The data was collated, analyzed and 8 stories were selected for complete profiles. Respondents provided details on their work setting, educational background and motivation for this work. Respondents shared that they deal with 13.5 cases per month on average that deal with 13 different types of violence. They stated the importance of multi-sectoral collaboration in dealing with these cases, need for adequate training and some of the challenges they must overcome in familial and cultural situations.

Saleem Bokhari, MSW, health education officer and social worker within the health department of a government hospital in Punjab, Pakistan, detailed his work as a medical social worker in helping children who have been victims of violence. His work includes counseling children and families, offering advice to parents/caregivers on non-violent disciplinary approaches, training those working in child protection/abuse prevention roles and conducting seminars on raising awareness of child rights. Physical abuse is the most common form of abuse in Pakistan, perpetrated by teachers and parents. He has undertaken the first study in Pakistan to determine the numbers of children affected and causes of childhood violence.

He also shared a case study on child abuse from his interaction with a mother who brought her child to the emergency room at the hospital. Taboo and denial prevented the mother from reporting the perpetrator of the sexual violence, and it’s a grave challenge that Saleem and others in Pakistan continue to try to overcome, including by working with community leaders to encourage community dialogue addressing the underlying sources of violence and increasing reporting of these cases.

He concluded with recommendations and steps needed to better prevent and address violence against children, including through more involvement of social workers in these cases, increasing awareness and understanding of child rights and greater training on child protection among those who interact with children.

Amy then concluded the webinar by discussing implications drawn from the data and stories gathered for the report. Increasing accessibility and availability of services to children and families affected by violence is necessary, but can only be done by ensuring a well-planned, well-trained and well-supported workforce. Social service workers should also be included and consulted in development of legislative and policy frameworks and included as coordinators of a multi-sectoral response. These changes cannot happen without continuing to build the evidence base, such as through reports like the 2017 State of the Social Service Workforce Report.

Participants then posed a number of questions to the presenters and the webinar concluded by encouraging review of the 2017 Report and further engagement with global colleagues on this topic to lead a stronger social service workforce that is best positioned to help countries meet Sustainable Development Goal 16.2 that calls for ending violence in all forms by 2030.

The Social Service Workforce Webinar Series is brought to you by the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance through funding from the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to the 4Children project implemented by a consortium of organizations and led by Catholic Relief Services.