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.

Here we see the new assessment team during a site visit in January. From left to right, the team includes Olumide Oyatoye, Dr. Olufolake Jegede, Pius Emmanuel Uwamanua (the preservice education manager for CapacityPlus/Nigeria), Dr. Rebecca Davis, Dr. Bisayo Odetoyinbo, Idowu Jumoke, and Dr. Oluwagbemiga Adeyemi. 

The assessment team engaged social work educators and practitioners at the federal level and in Lagos State in discussions about the gap between policy and practice and the role of social work education in building local capacity.

Dr. Davis is a consultant for CapacityPlus who teaches social work at Rutgers University. “There was a shared belief that children and families need to be served in their communities as reflected in Nigeria’s policies and laws,” she explains. Strengthening the social service workforce will require officially recognizing community social work and legitimizing the profession of social work. However, this requires legislation and thus high-level advocacy. “Perhaps the gap analysis can be one tool for mobilizing a high-level advocacy agenda,” adds Dr. Davis. 

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Photo 1 courtesy of Devika Chawla. Photo 2 courtesy of Dr. Rebecca Davis