This month, Children’s Emergency Relief International’s (CERI) Executive Director, Dr. Dearing Garner, spoke as part of a panel addressing the issue of international health and human services for a group of students in the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work.
“Our goal is to promote awareness about international social work through experienced professionals like Dearing so students can have a better idea of how they too can practice social work internationally,” said Jennifer Connatser, Co-Vice President of Students for Advancement of International Social Work (SAISW).
Garner presented on the mission of CERI, the overseas division of BCFS, and the overarching goal of the organization: caring for vulnerable children and families around the world. He specifically spoke about the roles that Orphan & Vulnerable Children (OVC) psychosocial work, foster care, child protection, and orphan and transitional care play in CERI’s work overseas.
Garner showed photographs of the faces of those CERI has helped through its international programs, and discussed how the organization’s dedicated national staff, donors, grants, churches and volunteers make the work possible. He also talked about the challenges that come with international social work, including the unfamiliarity of the industry in many countries.
“The only way to overcome the challenges we experience in changing the face of social work in other countries and ultimately helping hurting families and children is continued training of our national workers and beneficiaries and challenging the universities and governments of countries that we work in to embrace and implement social work systems and practices,” said Garner. “It will be this future generation who continues the work long after we’re gone.”
As an example, as part of Moldova’s efforts to move the country closer to joining the European Union and as Eastern European governments, in general, are working to downsize the number of children placed in antiquated orphanages and moving toward family-type homes, CERI’s Dr. Jon Meyer, an American, is playing a key role in the standardization of the social work profession. Meyer has been serving as the government’s senior advisor to determine national guidelines for social workers as well as a professional supervision mechanism for the approximately 1,000 newly hired government social workers.