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Experts discuss how to strengthen social work workforce worldwide

By Rena Malai, News staff

The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance held a symposium in April that brought together experts to discuss the importance of strengthening the social service workforce worldwide.

From left, symposium attendee Anastasia Mukami; NASW member and member of the NASW Spectrum Advisory Committee Nathan Linsk; and symposium attendee Hailemichael Tesfahun talk during a break at the recent Global Social Service Workforce Alliance symposium. Photo by Rena Malai/NASW News

The NASW Foundation was one of the co-hosts of the event, called “Supporting Families, Building a Better Tomorrow for Children: The Role of the Social Service Workforce.” NASW is also part of the alliance’s steering committee.

“The symposium brought forth many important issues, including the importance of building a stronger social service workforce to support the needs of children and families around the world,” said Susan Rubin, assistant director for the NASW Foundation.

Three panels presented at the symposium, with each addressing a different area on how to build a stronger social service workforce. The first panel — “How Social Service Workers Support Families to Promote Healthy Development and Well-Being of Children” — included NASW member Nathan Linsk, professor of social work in family medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago and founder of the Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center.

Linsk spoke about developing training and a workforce for paraprofessionals in other countries who serve vulnerable families and children.  The term stands for those who are not necessarily trained social workers, but who carry out social services.

“Coordination is key,” Linsk said. “With Global Alliance as a resource for idea sharing and networking, advocating can happen to use paraprofessionals in suitable roles.”

Amy Bess, Global Social Service Workforce Alliance coordinator, said social workers comprise a key component of the social service workforce, and they are often called on to coordinate and collaborate with other disciplines in order to provide comprehensive social services. She said the symposium was an opportunity to highlight the importance of the social service workforce, which plays a critical role in promoting healthy social service systems and improving the lives of vulnerable children and families.

“The symposium, as well as the work of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance in general, offered an opportunity to bring people together to identify effective workforce strategies at the micro, mezzo and macro levels,” Bess said.  “At the end of the day, this will mean stronger support and services to children and families who need it most.”

The symposium had more than 100 attendees, and was held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The NASW Foundation, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) provided funding for the event.

The mission of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance is to promote the knowledge of evidence, resources and tools, and political will and action needed to address key social service workforce challenges, especially within low- to middle-income countries. USAID partner CapacityPlus also helped implement the symposium.

The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance hosts a Social Service Workforce Webinar Series. The webinars are free, and NASW members are encouraged to attend, said Susan Rubin, assistant director for the NASW Foundation.

“I encourage anyone who is interested in getting involved in this kind of work to become a member of the Global Alliance network as it provides a great connection to an international network and shared information,” she said. “There is no cost to join. The Global Alliance sends out notices to its members and provides them access to a wealth of information.”

For more information on the Global Social Service Alliance, visit socialserviceworkforce.org

For more information on the NASW Foundation, visit naswfoundation.org

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