Webinar Focuses on Role of Community Members and Workers in Social Services

How can community members and workers contribute most effectively to ensuring social services for vulnerable children and families? More than 70 participants from a range of countries joined a webinar on January 17 to consider key and emerging issues related to working with community members, including voluntarism, accountability, workloads, roles and responsibilities, and sustainability. Hosted by the Social Service Workforce Strengthening Alliance via CapacityPlus, the webinar was the fourth in a series funded by PEPFAR, and the first to be offered in both English and French (on January 19).

Social worker in GuatemalaSarah Lilley of Save the Children UK served as the session chair. She touched on the ongoing debate around the effectiveness of paid vs. volunteer community workers, and stressed the importance of community social service workers being linked with the wider social welfare team and social welfare system. Maurice Middleberg, CapacityPlus director, provided some lessons learned in the field of human resources for health, presenting five key factors that contribute to the effectiveness of community health workers: policy and leadership support, clear roles, engaging the community in all aspects of these roles, strong management, and integration of the community health workers into a primary health care team. The webinar also featured presentations on experiences from a community-level initiative to reach separated and other affected children in Haiti after the earthquake and an orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) program relying on community caregivers in Côte d’Ivoire.

Moderated by Maury Mendenhall, OVC advisor in USAID’s Office of HIV/AIDS, webinar participants engaged in lively discussion about the presentations as well as communicated among themselves via a chat function. A recording of the English and French webinars (as well as previous webinars in the series) is available at http://www.ovcsupport.net/s/index.php?c=114.

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Photo by Trevor Snapp. (Social worker at Esquintla Hospital in Guatemala)