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Ending Violence Against Children Requires a Strong Social Service Workforce

Amy Bess's picture

Day 4, September 27, Social Service Workforce Week

As many Alliance members know, there have been multiple recent efforts to address violence against children across the globe. Sustainable Development Goal 16.2 calls for ending all forms of violence against children. The distressing findings of many national surveys of violence against children have catalyzed stakeholders to take action and work together to end violence. To date, 23 countries have signed up as Pathfinder Countries through the Global Partnership to End Violence, demonstrating their commitment to lead comprehensive initiatives to end violence against children as outlined in National Plans of Action. These plans are meant to incorporate the seven strategies to end violence as outlined in the INSPIRE package and the accompanying actions laid out in the recently released INSPIRE Implementation Handbook

Studies show that approximately 1 billion children worldwide have experienced physical, sexual or psychological violence in the last year alone. While the magnitude of violence against children can be discouraging, one of the solutions and reasons for great hope lies in strengthening the social service workforce. 

The social service workforce is on the front lines every day to prevent and respond to violence against children in its multiple forms, by:

  • Playing a key role as central actors facilitating collaboration amongst service providers
  • Carrying out strengths-based assessments
  • Providing or referring children and their families to support services
  • Monitoring children separated from their families who are living in institutions and home placements and supporting their reintegration
  • Providing direct counseling and psychosocial support
  • Mobilizing communities and facilitating community discussions about cultural beliefs and social norms related to violence
  • Supporting the development of policies and legislation
  • Carrying out policy and programmatic advocacy

Infographic on importance of a strong SSWSocial service workers have noted the many positive changes over time that children and families have experienced as a result of their work together, as reported in the State of the Social Service Workforce Report 2017. Outcomes include an increase in children and families’ self-worth, self-confidence and morale. They have seen increased trust, communication of feelings, attachment and emotional bonds among family members. They have noted that caretakers better understand how to engage with and care for the children in their care. And they have seen families benefit from various services, such as health and nutrition, shelter and birth certificates and have become empowered to earn income to support themselves and their families.

These positive outcomes are only possible when the right number of workers are in the right places with the right training. This requires careful strategic planning with a diverse range of people at the table.

Planning and Developing the WorkforceMany countries recognize the importance of collaborative workforce strengthening strategies and are incorporating them into their National Plans of Action to Address Violence against Children. Read some best practices in integrating the social service workforce within National Plans of Action

Today as part of Social Service Workforce Week, we are offering a webinar that will provide examples of ways that coalitions of organizations coming together at the national level are developing and implementing comprehensive plans to strengthen the workforce as part of their overall plan to end violence.

For example, in Tanzania, a coalition has come together to identify concrete actions to improve workforce distribution, including ensuring that one Social Welfare Officer per district be assigned to schools to help identify children who need to be referred to services. 

In Montenegro, one of their workforce strategies includes improving the design of both pre-service and professional development curricula for relevant professionals working with children victims of violence.Supporting the Workforce

Fortunately, for others looking for effective ways to improve the workforce and the provision of social services and support to children and families affected by violence, several documents, tools and approaches exist. The diagram to the right outlines strategies to plan, develop and support the workforce that have been included in national strategies. The Alliance will be working with UNICEF to develop a toolkit of resources linked to specific workforce strengthening strategies.

We hope you’ll continue to work with the many members in this network to improve workforce strengthening efforts, and if you’re not yet a member, we invite you to join us in these efforts. As we all know, strengthening and supporting the social service workforce is an important pillar of any plan to address violence against children, and success requires working together.

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Read how organizations that have signed on to the Call to Action are supporting social service workforce strengthening efforts:

  • Having worked in child protection for the last 10 years in Thailand, Global Child Advocates recognizes the need for an increase in social service workforce capacity to provide family support services and assistance to orphanages seeking to shift their care model to family-based care. Working alongside the Thai child welfare department, the organization provides guidance for orphanages and shelters along the border region on child protection best practices in an effort to provide family-based care for all child victims of abuse and trafficking. GCA is supporting social service workforce strengthening as a critical component to facilitating care reform in a safe and sustainable way so that more children have the chance to grow up in a safe, loving family.  
  • Shanduko Yeupenyu Child Care in Zimbabwe supports the Call to Action because it aligns with their mission of protecting children through strengthening the social service workforce. Shanduko helps children to thrive in difficult circumstances through provision of psychosocial support services to physically and sexually abused children. They support drop in centers in the region and consult with child protection committees, recognizing the key role of social service providers in this work.
  • The Together for Girls partnership aims to raise awareness, promote evidence-based solutions and galvanize coordinated action to end violence against girls and boys. TfG believes that a strong and locally-based social service workforce plays a crucial role in both preventing and effectively responding to violence against children. TfG is contributing to knowledge exchange and cross-cultural learning through a variety of resources, including launching the “Every Hour Matters” campaign, which aims to increase awareness about the critical importance of quickly accessing post-rape care and calls on national and community leaders to ensure comprehensive services are available in all communities.
  • The Centre for Excellent for Looked After Children in Scotland’s (CELCIS) international work aims to promote the implementation of Guidelines on the Alternative Care of Children. CELCIS shares the understanding that the social service workforce, encompassing social workers and social pedagogues, carers and multiple other professionals and volunteers, play a pivotal role in reforming and improving current care systems and increasing the emphasis on supporting families and preventing the separation of children, while ensuring that those who cannot be cared for in their own families receive the best possible care. CELCIS is developing a collaboration of key stakeholders to develop course topics and identify resources to strengthen knowledge and practice skills in child and family social work in specific countries where professional social work is a new or recently developed profession, or where it has recently expanded.