Picturing Our Work: Providing Support for Orphans and Vulnerable Children

Devika ChawlaThere are approximately 17.5 million orphans and vulnerable children in Nigeria. In fact, one in every ten households in Nigeria is providing care for an orphan. How can we ensure safety and support for children affected by HIV/AIDS and other children in need of protection from abuse, neglect, and exploitation?

Social service workers can play a crucial role in bridging the formal child protection system with the local community. But Nigeria, like many countries, is currently facing a severe shortage of these workers. Mapping and assessing the current social service workforce is the first step to strengthening this workforce; it provides a “snapshot” of the current system and allows a country to plan strategic strengthening. In January 2013, CapacityPlus initiated a gap analysis to assess challenges and opportunities in social work policy, practice, capacity, and education. Read more »

CapacityPlus’s Work Aligns with New US Government Action Plan on Children in Adversity

The US Government recently launched the first-ever Action Plan on Children in Adversity. The plan coordinates efforts across seven government agencies to address the needs of children in adversity, including those made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS, natural disasters, and violence.

The launch of the plan was celebrated at two events, the first hosted at the National Press Club for civil society partners and media and the second hosted at the White House. Both events highlighted that, as stated in the action plan, “building strong beginnings, putting family care first, and protecting children from abuse, neglect, exploitation, and violence” should be among any nation’s top priorities. Read more »

Let’s Move People

I woke up on my second day at the International AIDS Conference wanting to be moved. Not that the opening plenary speeches I attended the day before were not inspiring, but I was left wanting a more personal experience or connection. I know I’m not alone.

That day I found myself in front of a piece of art outside the main session room, a see-through column lined with small dolls. I leaned in to examine the artful beadwork on the dolls, very similar but intricately different. Orphan Tower contains 634 dolls made by local bead workers in a rural village in South Africa. Each doll represents one child living in the village whose parents died from AIDS. According to the placard, there are currently over 3.7 million AIDS orphans in South Africa alone. To represent all of them, there would need to be 5,835 of these towers. I’m left wondering who will care for these children, if they will also develop AIDS, and, if so, whether will they receive treatment. I’m also aware that these dolls could represent millions of children all over Africa, and all over the world. Read more »

Social Workers Are at the Fault Lines of Society

Amy Bess“Social workers are placed at the fault lines of society,” claimed Professor Walter Lorenz, rector of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, at the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Joint World Conference on Social Work and Social Development last week.

At times of devastating health epidemics, financial crises, natural disasters, or war, we are very often quick to respond to immediate health, housing, and food security needs. Another often neglected area of response is taking into account and addressing the social consequences of these events: identifying those who will raise orphaned children, assessing impacts on mental health and well-being, supporting community cohesion, identifying and strengthening existing social networks that support vulnerable children, and, in general, ensuring a coordinated professional response to the social welfare needs of communities. Read more »

Expanding iHRIS to Support the Social Services Workforce

This post was originally published on the iHRIS blog.

Dykki SettleWhen we think of health care workers, we tend to think of doctors, nurses, midwives, and the like. We originally developed the iHRIS Suite to track and manage these traditional, well-defined cadres.

But many other professionals provide needed services in hospitals, clinics, and communities, and their roles may not be so well-defined. The social services workforce is a critical segment of these workers, bringing essential services to communities and their underserved populations, such as orphans and vulnerable children, the often unseen victims of the HIV epidemic. Because there are few standards for job roles and qualifications in this sector, it’s hard to identify and hire qualified social workers and deploy them to where they can be most effective. Read more »

Time to Tackle the Social Welfare Workforce Shortage

Dana SingletonGlobal health workforce challenges have deservedly received much attention in recent years and are being tackled in many positive and innovative ways at the country level. The social welfare workforce (SWW) in many countries is facing similarly complex, yet lesser known, challenges that are beginning to attract additional attention and support.

Since 2010, CapacityPlus has been working to strengthen the SWW by adapting and building on lessons learned from global and country responses to improve the health workforce. In January, Paul Marsden and I were part of a team that visited Malawi to meet with government representatives, implementing partners, and SWW leaders to identify how the project could contribute to country-led efforts to strengthen the SWW, particularly focusing on developing social workers and the social work profession to best support child protection services. Read more »

Building the Workforce to Help Orphans and Vulnerable Children

Maurice MiddlebergShe’s 14 years old and HIV-positive. She has been taking ARVs her whole life but no one told her why she was taking medications. She finally confronted the doctors and asked for an explanation as to why she was taking the pills. The doctors answered her questions. She then had something of a crisis and became quite depressed. We have been working with her and we’re very happy because she seems to have recovered. You can see she is back playing with the other children and smiling again.”

This story was told to me during a recent visit to Haiti by a staff member at an NGO working with orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). It is a poignant reminder of the terrible costs of the HIV pandemic, which has created a large number of children who have lost a parent or live in a household with a seriously ill adult. In Haiti there are more than a million such children. This problem was exacerbated by the January 2010 earthquake, which resulted in an additional 150,000 orphans.

The needs of OVC extend beyond health services to include mental health care, schooling, food and nutrition, shelter, and protection from abuse and exploitation. The clinician or community health worker is usually ill-prepared to arrange and integrate the array of services needed by OVC. These are the skills of the social worker. Read more »

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