A proven strategy for family preservation in vulnerable communities is a lay social worker working alongside local churches and schools. Lay social workers (sometimes also called para social workers) are those who have not been formally certified as a social worker but have the experience or know-how to perform many of the same services to their community. Their role includes:
-Identifying vulnerable populations at risk, especially vulnerable children, families and people infected or affected by HIV/AIDS
-Establishing a relationship with those in need of service
-Assessing strengths and needs
-Developing service plans
-Providing supportive counseling or psychosocial support, especially in times of crisis
-Linking clients to services and following up through case management
-Providing ongoing support and problem solving
-Providing service according to their abilities and training, obtaining consultation, assistance or referral as needed (1)
One example of this may be a teacher who voluntarily makes home visits to her students, or a pastor who helps members of his congregations find jobs or housing.
For many of the Local Experts we partner with, they find themselves in these roles as they simply respond to the needs of their communities: keeping families together and protecting the most vulnerable. However, many of them have told us they are hungry for more training on how to develop this role and leadership within their community. Therefore, along with our desire to equip Local Experts with capacity training in social enterprise, we are also looking into opportunities to further equip them in this field.
Imagine if every school in East Africa had several lay social workers that would track with student’s families who need help in the areas of family income, shelter, food, parenting, and mental and physical health. This would benefit the student, the teacher, and the family as well as transform the learning environment. We believe communities and families can thrive if we simply equip and invest in the caring adults who have the vision to make it happen. Together, change is possible.
(1) Nathan Linsk, Global Social Service Workforce Alliance Symposium 2014