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Social Welfare Workforce

Around the world today, there are 153 million children who have lost one or both parents, according to UNICEF. Approximately 34 million of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa and nearly half of them were orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

In 2013, the Institute of Medicine’s Summary Evaluation of PEPFAR reported that efforts to provide comprehensive economic and psychosocial support to children living with or affected by HIV over the past decade have not achieved sufficiently broad coverage. A social safety net capable of addressing issues such as poverty; gender inequality; access to education, proper nutrition, and medical care; and protection from violence and sexual exploitation are critical for these vulnerable children and their households. In low- and middle-income countries, however, the public health and welfare systems are severely overstretched and unable to deliver these much-needed services.

Social welfare workforces that provide care and support for vulnerable populations, especially children, are all too often some of the weakest and most poorly funded. Current social welfare workforce staffing plans lack clearly defined strategies and realistic implementation mechanisms due to funding constraints, while the absence of accurate human resources data and cost projections, coupled with ineffective, sometimes corrupt, systems for recruiting, hiring, and promoting workers, further impedes efforts to bolster the workforce. In addition, existing educational opportunities are outdated and unable to meet the demand for this high-stress, often under-appreciated workforce.

AIHA’s Social Welfare Workforce Strengthening Program

AIHA’s Social Welfare Workforce Strengthening Program focuses on developing competency-based training along a continuum ranging from community-level para social workers on up to those seeking Master of Social Work degrees. Technical assistance also focuses on advocacy, policymaking, accreditation, and association strengthening to help build comprehensive, sustainable, and locally-driven capacity.


Our Response

AIHA has more than 23 years of experience working in close collaboration with governments and healthcare institutions around the globe to build sustainable human resource and institutional capacity to effectively address community health and social support needs. Since 2006 when we launched our first social work partnership in Tanzania through the HIV/AIDS Twinning Center Program, AIHA has been working with local partners across Africa to strengthen their capacity to mount targeted, comprehensive, and community-based responses to the unmet needs of orphans and vulnerable children. Subsequently, similar partnerships or initiatives were launched in Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Zambia.

In low-resource settings where HIV prevalence is high, community-based caregivers represent an untapped resource for addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children. Whether they are employees or volunteers with local government authorities, NGOs, or private groups, these individuals are dedicated to helping the communities they serve. They are also familiar with the background and culture of the HIV-affected children they work with. Unfortunately, a lack of training, mentoring, supervision, and ongoing support hinders their ability to effectively engage, assess, and refer their clients to the appropriate community resources and service providers. As a result, many children and families are not able to access critical medical and psychosocial support, including housing and food assistance, healthcare, counseling, education, and basic safety and protection services.

PSWCoverImageAIHA’s Para Social Worker (PSW) Training Program provides skills-based training in social work case management and child development to caregivers, empowering countries to strengthen human resource capacity to more effectively address the immediate needs of vulnerable children and families through the development of a previously underutilized segment of the workforce.

Although AIHA’s PSW training packages may vary slightly from country to country based on local needs, the basic model includes an introductory course approximately two weeks in duration. This course introduces key social work concepts and teaches practical skills in outreach and client identification, needs assessment, case management, child development, resource linkages, family support, counseling, ongoing service coordination, and avoiding professional burnout. Upon completion of the introductory course, participants undergo six months of supervised field work and mentoring before taking a follow-up course that focuses on specialized skills related to caring for vulnerable children and families. Topics covered include stigma reduction, collaboration with local governments, care and support for children living with HIV, HIV risk reduction, and addressing the needs of diverse family situations. In collaboration with local stakeholders, AIHA and our partners have also developed a four-day PSW Supervisors Course that trains selected individuals in key supervisory skills needed to assume oversight of PSWs at the community level.

To view the Tanzania Para Social Worker Training Manual & Curriculum, click here.

As a way to help bridge the human resource gap in the health sector, AIHA worked closely with Tanzania’s Department of Social Welfare and our partners at the Institute of Social Work and the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Jane Addams College of Social Work and Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center to pilot a mid-level Social Welfare Assistant (SWA) Training Program in 2012. To date, 96 SWAs have been graduated from Kisangara Institute of Social Welfare with some deployed at the ward level providing case management services to OVCs and supportive supervision to PSWs.

Developed to complement the existing PSW Training Program, the SWA Program uses the Institute of Social Work’s certification curriculum to qualify SWAs to work as government or NGO employees at the ward level. This year-long competency-based program includes both classroom lessons and a field practicum focusing on social work processes,

policies, and laws governing services to vulnerable populations such as children, people with disabilities, and the elderly. The SWA Certificate Program represents an important new step on the emerging career ladder for PSWs and others in the social welfare workforce. AIHA also works with local member associations — including the Tanzania Association of Social Workers (TASWO) and the Social Work Association of Zambia (SWAZ) — to strengthen the social work profession in these countries through targeted policymaking, regulation, advocacy, and expansion of professional development and continuing education opportunities.

AIHA’s Social Welfare Workforce Strengthening Program

AIHA’s Social Welfare Workforce Strengthening Program represents an effective, replicable model for building lasting capacity to address the needs of vulnerable children in low-resource settings.


Selected Program Results

  • In collaboration with the Tanzania Human Resource Capacity Project, AIHA and our partners have trained 2,563 certified PSWs, who have completed the PSW I training, a six-month supervised field work practicum, and the PSW II course; we’ve also trained 743 PSW Supervisors and 103 Master Trainers. In addition, we currently have 2,119 Tanzanian PSWs trainees, who have completed the PSW I course and their six-month supervised practicum.
  • Based on the Tanzania PSW Training Program model, AIHA established similar twinning partnerships in Ethiopia and Nigeria; these partnerships have trained 300 and 1,141 PSWs respectively.
  • Working closely with Tanzania’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and other stakeholders, AIHA helped pilot the SWA Training Program at Kisangara Institute in 2012; the first cohort of 35 students was graduated in December 2013 and a second cohort of 60 students is currently enrolled.
  • AIHA supported an “association to association” learning exchange between the TASWO and the US-based National Association of Social Workers; between 2010 and 2013, this partnership within a partnership focused on organizational development, advocacy, member recruitment and retention, and establishing a national regulatory framework.
  • In an effort to increase recognition and absorption of PSWs, AIHA has been collaborating with the Nigerian Association of Social Workers to ensure that this growing cadre of community-level caregivers is included in new national social work legislation, which is currently in its final hearing stages.
  • AIHA is providing ongoing technical assistance to TASWO, which is currently focused on expanding opportunities for social work in Tanzania and helping to establish a National Social Work Council to regulate professional practice. The establishment of this council, which will be a semi-autonomous government entity, is critical to ensuring all the components of AIHA’s Social Work and OVC Support Initiative are sustained well into the future.
  • Surveys of PSWs in Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Tanzania have revealed that the training program has helped them more effectively assess client needs and address crisis, trauma, and attachment issues. The trainees surveyed have also reported that they are now working more closely with local stakeholders and sharing much-needed resources, ideas, materials, and professional support.
  • Successful implementation of the PSW Training Program has resulted in marked interest in replicating the model elsewhere in Africa, including through separate USAID-supported projects launched in Nigeria and Zambia in 2013. Working with teams led by Save the Children, AIHA is adapting the current Nigerian curriculum for use as a certificate-level course in five states in the Northern part of the country; similar activities are being conducted for a national program in Zambia.
  • So far in Zambia the Tanzania para social worker training modules 1 and 2 have been adapted to the Zambia context. Twenty-nine participants were training in the Module 1 training in 2014. AIHA also supports the organizational capacity development of the Social Workers Association of Zambia and has already worked with them to draft the National Social Work Act and put in place a long term strategy for the association.
  • AIHA’s Social Work and OVC Support Initiative is supporting the Tanzania Emerging Schools of Social Work (TESWEP), a consortium of 12 schools throughout the country, helping to standardize training curricula and develop each institution’s human resource and management capacity.