A new and significant change in how ACT works is the creation of a new staff position we are calling Family Advocate. Last year we realized that we were not keeping close enough connections with the families in the project. We often didn’t know what was happening medically or socially, and it became clear that problems, sometimes serious problems, were being missed and not addressed. We had grown too large for our current staff to keep up with everyone.
In the past we used Expert Patients, people who are part of the project, usually HIV+ and what some organizations call Peer Counselors. This worked reasonably well for several years but no longer seemed to accomplish what we needed. We saw the need for a position that had a higher skill level. We also realized that as we added families, and our plan for 2019 was to increase from 420 to 570, we needed a better way to manage and support them.
One of our first challenges was deciding what to call this new position. We started with Patient Advocate but that made the position seem too medical and we wanted them to cover health, psychosocial and spiritual issues. Translating the various options into the local language of Amharic also created issues. Some titles had negative connotations that we wanted to avoid. Family Advocate seems to capture better what we want the job to be and also translates reasonably well.
Our strategy is to assign 40 to 50 families to each Family Advocate, and they are responsible to check on them regularly and report to the appropriate staff member if any action is needed. We have developed a home-visit checklist and we plan to put this on an iPad and create a system where a Family Advocate does a home visit, enters information on the iPad and when they return to the office, the information is uploaded and then routed to the staff person who needs to do any follow up. If there is a medical problem, then one of the nurses is notified. If there is a social or emotional problem, then one of the social workers is notified. If there is a spiritual issue, then one of the spiritual ministries team is alerted.
We have hired eight Family Advocates and plan to hire two more this year. Monday, February 11 was our first staff prayer time together with these new coworkers. We are getting to be a pretty large team!
Meet our new Family Advocates!