Strengthening Tanzania’s social welfare workforce to provide ongoing paraprofessional support services to vulnerable children and families

Authored by: Leah N. Omari , Nathan L. Linsk , Sally Mason

The Handbook of Social Work and Social Development in Africa

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472468512
eBook ISBN: 9781315557359
Adobe ISBN: 9781317029380


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This chapter discusses the social work partnership for orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV and AIDS in Tanzania, established in 2006 by the Tanzanian Institute of Social Work (ISW, hereafter the Institute) through the Twinning Center partnership with Jane Addams School of Social Work in Chicago with support from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The Partnership developed a paraprofessional training program to provide much-needed knowledge and skills to community-based volunteers working with orphans, vulnerable children, and families affected by HIV and AIDS; the program has trained 4700 paraprofessionals who work at the ward and village level in providing care and support to the most vulnerable children in Tanzania. An interim review of the program in selected villages conducted three years after its inception revealed that about 1500 parasocial workers had been trained in five regions (Guyer, Singleton, & Linsk, 2012; Lindsay & Guyer, 2012). Their work involved linking clients to service providers and referring cases to district social welfare officers for follow-up. They worked under the supervision of social welfare, education, and village and ward extension officers, most of whom did not have a background in social work. The review found these village-level parasocial workers had increased the accessibility and sustainability of quality services to orphans, vulnerable children, and families, as well as opened opportunities for the creation of a stronghold for the social work profession at the local community level. The chapter reaffirms the importance of the parasocial work model as a promising solution to resource-constrained welfare institutions needing to expand the social safety net and supportive institutional structure for vulnerable populations in Africa affected by natural disasters, armed conflicts, exploitation, HIV and AIDS, and hunger and food insecurity. Developing services to reach the most vulnerable children is one of the greatest challenges facing developing countries such as Tanzania. As in most African countries, the vacancy rates for professional and paraprofessional positions in Tanzania range from 50–60%, with half of those employed leaving their jobs within five years to look for better-paid options due to low salaries and a reluctance to work at the village level (United Republic of Tanzania (URT), 2012a).

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