The Toolkit is a comprehensive overview of ONETrack International’s innovative orphan care. What started as a small program in Cameroon has emerged into a global initiative to diminish the orphan crisis and provide all orphaned children the opportunity to grow as a member of a family.
What ONETrack International Does
Starting out as a program to confront the orphan crisis in the Republic of Cameroon, CameroonONE and ONETrack International are dedicated to the transitioning of orphaned children from over-crowded and under-resourced institutionalized care back into family environments. The Republic of Cameroon was faced with over a million orphaned children with very few measures dedicated to their protection, wellbeing, and housing. Many children, often left to fend for themselves or finding themselves the victim of exploitation, were found to have caring parents or relatives who were incapable of providing sufficient care due to circumstances such as conflict, exploitation, poverty, lack of education, natural disaster, and/or disability and illness. In order to confront this crisis, CameroonONE focused their support on family-preservation efforts, allowing surviving relatives to resume caring for these children so that they may develop into resourceful, innovative citizens who will protect and strengthen their community.
CameroonONE’s In-Home Child Sponsorship program has been proven to be one of the most efficient methods of ensuring that orphaned children can remain valued members within their communities of birth. With the priority of keeping families together at the forefront of CameroonONE’s mission, those relatives taking on parental responsibilities of an orphaned child are supported through financial, material and household provisions. In turn, this support allows the family to provide a suitable education, healthcare, and security to those children in their care. By keeping Cameroonian communities and families together, CameroonONE has taken on the mantle of the international community to protect parentless children from losing their cultural ties, reach their potential through education, and reduce child mortality by ensuring generations of orphaned children are spared institutionalized care through community education and strengthening.
ONETrack International continues the work of CameroonONE throughout the globe, promoting the care of parentless children and vulnerable families by supporting programs that work with orphaned children, within the Transition to Home context. ONETrack aims to reduce short-term poverty through family preservation initiatives and advocacy, as well as long-term poverty by creating a more productive human capital among parentless children who may have otherwise received little or no education.
What is Reunification?
Reunification is the process in which orphaned or abandoned children are reintroduced into the home and community of their family of origin.
Institutionalized care serves an important purpose for parentless children, but, according to the international laws and standards highlighted by the Hague Adoption Convention (HCCH #33, 1993), the UN Declaration on the Protection and Welfare of Children (RES/41/85), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations Treaty Series, vol. 1577, No. 27531), orphanage care should be reserved for children who are unable to be placed within a family environment. Through reunification, ONETrack International works to relieve overcrowded and underfunded orphanages, reunite vulnerable families, and support communities in their building of family care infrastructure.
For children to have the most beneficial childhood, access to education, healthcare, good nutrition, culture, adult guidance, psychological support, and economic stability are essential. Therefore, proper reunification should include family-strengthening programs that provides guardians and caretakers with childrearing, livelihood, community, psychological, and basic living support. For those children who have been institutionalized due to the death of parents and older siblings, reunification focuses on maintaining ties with surviving relatives and supporting them with the tools they need to assume responsibility of the care of orphaned children.
In the context of our Partner Toolkit, the term “family care” will be considered birth, extended family, foster or adoptive homes, where children have either been reunited with the family of biological origin or permanently integrated into a family atmosphere with similar cultural ties. “Institutionalized care” will be considered state-run or privately-run non-family-based group homes, temporary transitional care, residential care, and large institutions such as orphanages, in which children are hosted together in a facility with trained or untrained professionals taking on the role of a twenty-four hour caregiver.
Why is it Important to Transition Children Back into Family Care?
Under the guidance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Resolution 217 A (III), it is has been internationally acknowledged that large-scale institutionalized care is no longer considered a successful practice for the healthy development of children. Overcrowding, insufficient funding, inconsistent caregiving, and limited community support is often associated with large-scale institutionalized care, making it difficult to cultivate the necessary life skills for becoming an active member of society. Children faced with inadequate care are at risk of being denied an environment that nurtures their development. It is found that depression, suicide, and drug abuse occur at a higher rate for orphaned adults who have transitioned out of large-scale institutionalized care. By keeping family units together and strengthening the ties of the community, children are able to maintain cultural traditions, form a bond with their heritage, and develop safely under the guidance of a caring adult to become secure, responsible, and productive adults.
Internationally, the family unit is considered the most nurturing environment for children. To allow family units to remain together, every effort should be focused on providing support services to separated and vulnerable families. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1577, No. 27531), UN Declaration on the Protection and Welfare of Children (RES/41/85), and UN guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (RES/64/142) all acknowledge the wider advantages of providing family-preservation support, ensuring vulnerable families have access to food, health, and education services.
ONETrack International believes in and is supportive of orphanages and international adoption as an alternative for individual cases that lack other options. We support institutions and cross-border adoption by ensuring that each child’s situation has been researched and that only those without biological family should be considered for alternative family upbringings other than Transition to Home. Furthermore, we commend those who raise orphaned children that cannot be placed within their communities of birth.
Types of Family Care Models
When parental care is not possible, a search for an extended family member willing to care for the child is the first priority and is the most culturally appropriate care outside of parental care. Kinship care offers all the benefits of family care including providing a sense of belonging and family ties. Extended family may include uncles and aunts, adult siblings or cousins, close friends or neighbors, etc.
Non-relative foster care is a strong alternative when family members cannot be identified. Generally authorized and arranged by legal courts, screening prior to and during the transition is crucial to ensure children are entering safe and stable environments. The long-term viability of a foster care placement should be assessed to avoid multiple placements in foster care homes. Domestic foster care is prioritized to keep cultural ties and, if children are to be placed in foster care outside of their community, training in caring for children from a different culture is necessary.
Adoption is an option for children whenever returning to relative-based care is not possible. Typically authorized and arranged by legal courts, screening prior to placement and active engagement with all involved parties, including the child, is critical to ensure children are entering safe and stable environments. Domestic adoption is prioritized so children can remain connected to cultural ties. The UN Declaration on the Protection and Welfare of Children and The Hague Adoption Convention state that international adoption should only be considered if other arrangements cannot be made for the child in her or his country of origin.
Models Strengthening Family Care
Each case begins with an assessment of the child and family situation before mobilizing resources, as support should address the root causes related to the abandonment and promote the well-being of the child. If vulnerable families can be identified prior to separation, preventing the splitting of families is preferred. Ultimately, policies and operations should be working with the aim of diverting their support towards preventative services and community building to strengthen the capacity of vulnerable families to look after their children.
The psychological and physical needs of the children must always be at the forefront of assessments and if a child is in danger of any kind, temporary or transitional care (respite, emergency care, rehabilitation, or small group homes) can be utilized while the family unit receives resources and support. Furthermore, during the process of reunification, it may be necessary to provide a child with a more suitable form of alternative care, such as foster care or small group homes. The decision to relocate children should be regularly reviewed to ensure children are returned to their family environment in a timely but considered manner.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1577, No. 27531) should be considered when making decisions regarding a child’s new family environment. Gatekeeping, the process in which families and children are assessed at all levels to ensure a safe and caring environment, is the most important aspect of the reunification process. Effective gatekeeping ensures decisions are made in a rational, planned and prudent manner, and that resources are distributed effectively. Those responsible for gatekeeping and assessing options for best care should always be seeking out families within the child’s community of birth that are stable, safe and nurturing environments.
For a thriving childhood, access to the following are necessary:
- adult guidance
- psychological support
- economic stability
The resources necessary to provide these conditions can be divided into the following five support categories: parental, livelihood, community, psychological, and basic living. These five categories should be offered as a comprehensive support package, although, depending on the circumstances, a family may not need all support in all categories.
1) Parental Support
Providing caregivers with the tools to parent can address childrearing techniques that are counteractive or detrimental, as well as, ensuring parents understand the essentials for healthy development. This can include advice in preparing nutritious meals, appropriately tackling child behavioral problems, conflict resolution, and/or creating a safe, predictable and supportive family environment. If working with vulnerable families prior to child separation, encouraging awareness of issues being facing should be approached sensitively and social norms for the community should always be taken into account when giving advice. Parental support may extend to creating awareness of government policies on the protection and wellbeing of children, and of resources in the area, including non-governmental initiatives, providing healthcare, education, and security.
2) Community support
The sense of belonging to a community is an important aspect of raising a family and can be lacking in vulnerable or isolated families. For this reason, it is best that children be transitioned into family care within their community of origin or one that is culturally similar, when possible. Community support may come in the form of access to support groups, daycare, youth programs, respite care, special needs services, and spiritual guidance. These services not only assist caregivers in their responsibilities, but also provide the opportunity for children to socialize, learning to form healthy relationships and partaking in community networks.
3) Livelihood Support
In many cases, providing family members with the skills and capital to engage in livelihoods will be necessary to feed and support the children. Capacity building can come in many forms including a stipend, grants, material support, food, agricultural supplies, microcredit loans, small business training, vocational training, and legal advice on property and inheritance. Strategies offered to families should complement the available community products and services as well as existing government welfare initiatives. Additionally, assistance in managing finances and debts should be provided to the head household members. A commitment from caregivers to actively participate in proposed initiatives is necessary for success and, therefore, support should be provided only after discussion with the family. Poverty should never be considered a motive for removing a child from parental or relative care, but rather an indicator for timely support.
Children of vulnerable families are at risk of dropping out of school to care for other family members or contribute to family income. Efforts from livelihood and community support should work towards children having less responsibility in supporting the family household.
4) Psychosocial Support
Psychological support for caregivers and children is particularly important for families who have experienced a distressing separation or traumatic events. Trauma can result in children undergoing a range of behavioral issues including anxiety, difficulties with attachment, sleep disturbances, dependency issues, and/or regression. Each child will handle experiences differently and, therefore, psychosocial support needs to be approached on an individual basis with a thorough assessment of the scope of issues and the child’s coping mechanisms. Parental and child interventions should be accessed within the community and may come in the form of therapy, substance abuse treatment, psychiatry, home visits, group support meetings, and counseling. Child-focused activities should empower children, promoting self-confidence, relationship building and a sense of control over their lives, as well as safeguard the child’s right to identity, freedom, religion, and opinion.
5) Basic Living Support
Basic living support should complement existing amenities in the community that provide similar services, such as secure housing, clothing, school supplies, clean running water, electricity, primary healthcare, family planning, medications, nutritious food, transport, and primary and secondary education. An assessment should be performed to better understand the cost of living in the area, including costs associated with going to school, paying rent, medical insurance, and household bills.
Implementing Transition to Home Programs
Reunification programs are designed to find a permanent family for a child, either in the form of custody, guardianship, or adoption. Transition to Home can take years to complete, not including ongoing monitoring and evaluation required after a successful placement. For this reason, it is necessary to provide clear expectations to all stakeholders. It is important to remember that the process of transitioning children back into family homes should be driven by the child’s needs and, therefore, requires a case-by-case approach. Children should be consulted and have their perspectives considered and prioritized throughout the following process:
1) Understand government standards and priorities regarding family reunification
· Identify resources and services available to prevent family separation.
· Identify existing policies working towards transitioning children out of institutionalized care.
· Identify the laws surrounding child protection.
· Identify the national procedures for responding to children in abusive, exploitive or violent homes.
2) Understand the community
Transition to Home will have an impact on families not directly benefitting from the program and, therefore, should not be implemented without assessing the community and identifying potential obstacles to a successful reunification.
· Gather testimonials from the community on the perception of orphanages, orphans, professionals working in child protection, and the social stigmas of vulnerable families.
· Identify and meet stakeholders in the community working with orphan-care and child services.
· Understand the economic setting of the community.
· Determine the risks a child faces being reintroduced back into the community.
· Determine the cost of living for the area.
· Determine the cost of schooling and health care services in the area.
· Raise awareness within the community about the importance of family care models and the rights of children.
a. Engage in dialogue – forums speaking to community concerns with readily available information and shared experiences.
b. Address any stigma or discrimination that is associated with families suffering from sickness, poverty, single parenthood, legitimacy, and/or disability.
c. Address cultural stigmas associated with caring for children not biologically related.
d. Highlight the opportunity for new employment with an increase in community services focused on child and community care.
· Identify strengths in the community and gaps in community services that need to be supported.
a. Identify who provides childcare and family services.
b. Identify community organizations – religious and community groups.
c. Identify community services – education, health care, and community development.
d. Assess community infrastructure – transport, roads, electricity, housing, and water.
3) Identify potential partners and stakeholders
Form a steering committee by identifying partners, community leaders, host families, and service providers who are familiar with the situations of the children in the area and will be integral to a successful family care transition.
· Locate any national offices or commissions in the area dedicated to family welfare.
· Identify the location of key stakeholders responsible for implementing government policies, procedures, and services regarding child protection and wellbeing.
· Identify non-governmental and intergovernmental initiatives in the area that provide education, health care and protection to families.
· Identify and involve community leaders.
·Identify families in the area who are or have provided foster or adoptive family care environments.
· Assess the training components necessary to effectively carry out planned programs.
· Develop and build upon policies, laws, strategies and practical guidelines that promote long-term deinstitutionalization and set the foundation for robust gatekeeping processes and quality criteria.
· Ensure all partners have a clear understanding of their responsibility and role within the gatekeeping system.
4) Identify vulnerable families and potential beneficiaries
· Speak with the child/beneficiary. Every effort should be made to engage with the child in their native language to ensure full understanding.
· Identify the emotional effects of family separation.
· Investigate any possible traumatic events that have occurred within the family.
· Ascertain the age the child was removed.
· Determine if there is contact between the child and any living relatives.
· Involve the child in deciding on the transition approach, taking into account his/her level of maturity.
5) Partner with the host family
· The approach taken to meet the needs of families and children will differ and, therefore, flexibility is necessary for setting goals and developing partnerships.
· Interview the family and assess family living requirements to determine the support that will be needed.
· Set family goals.
· Outline steps for achieving longer-term community-based basic living services, such as clean water, transport to schools, and electrical power.
· Identify and set fair expectations.
· Determine the cost of living for the area.
· Determine the cost of schooling and health care services in the area.
6) Monitoring and Evaluation programs
Monitoring will need to involve the community, thus, engaging with community members is vital to a successful transition:
· Evaluate the effectiveness of training and education provided to caregivers.
· Evaluate the effectiveness of community education by assessing community understanding and embracing of transitioning children out of institutionalized care.
· Continue to reassess family goals, making adjustments to expectations and assistance if outputs are not achieving the community, child and family needs.
Programs will need to be assessed on both an individual and broader scale:
· Consider the number of children enrolled in the program.
· Collate data collected individually to assess the ability of programs to provide appropriate services, to utilize community services, and to maintain partnerships with caretakers, children, and communities.
Methods used to assess communities and families include:
· Unscheduled and scheduled visits to the home.
· Unscheduled and scheduled visits to school and healthcare providers.
· Monitoring the establishment and quality of services.
· Semi-structured interviews with community providers.
· Focus groups with community leaders and individuals.
· Community field observations.
· Childhood success markers such as school attendance, behavior, health, and grades.
A Compilation of International Standards
This chapter aims to introduce the rights and the set of guiding principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which international governments have acceded to. A child is defined by the convention as a person below the age of 18. This convention encompasses the complete range of international human rights that can be covered with respect to a child.
A: GUIDING PRINCIPLES & RIGHTS
1. Non-Discrimination (Article 2): The Convention applies to all children, whatever their race, religion or abilities; whatever they think or say, whatever type of family they come from. No child should be treated unfairly on any basis.
2. Best interests of the child (Article 3): The best interests of children must be the primary concern in making decisions that may affect them. All adults should do what is best for children. When adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children.
3. Right to life, survival and development (Article 6): Children have the right to live. Governments should ensure that children survive and develop healthily.
B: FOUR PROVISIONS
1. Survival and development rights5: the basic rights to life, survival and development of one’s full potential
2. Protection rights: keeping safe from harm
3. Participation rights: having an active voice
4. Human rights provisions: Children and young people have the same basic general human rights as adults and also specific rights that recognize their specific needs
C: DEFINING CHILD ADOPTION
Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting of another, usually a child, from that person’s biological or legal parent or parents, and, in so doing, permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities, along with filiation, from the biological parent or parents.
D: ROLE OF ONETrack International
The primary role of ONETrack is to place orphaned children in households of surviving relatives while ensuring that these children receive their basic rights to education and healthcare within a secure family environment.
A: INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION LAWS
Numerous International adoption laws are in place to ensure that the welfare of the children are prioritized. The purpose of such laws are to uphold and attain the fundamental goals of advancing the rights of a child. Several of these laws are listed in the section below.
B: THE HAGUE CONVENTION OF INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION
The Hague Convention or The 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption was developed to ensure that the best interest of a child is safeguarded and that the respect for the child’s fundamental rights are upheld during inter-country adoptions.
C: OTHER RELEVANT INTERNATIONAL LEGISLATION
Inter-country Adoption Act
The Inter-country Adoption Act was passed in 2000 to help regulate the implementation of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation within the United States.
These purposes include:
- the protection of the rights of and prevention against abuses of children birth families and adoptive parents involved in adoptions (and prospective adoptions) subject to the Convention and to ensure that such adoptions are in the children’s best interests.
- to improve the ability of the Federal Government to assist United States citizens seeking to adopt children from abroad and residents of other countries party to the Convention seeking to adopt children from the United States.
The Inter-country Adoption Universal Accreditation Act 2012 (UAA)
This act requires all international adoption agencies to be accredited in order for them to continue operations, ensuring that all service providers adhere to the same standards as the federal standards in the United States.
Previously, only child service providers that operate in countries that are party to the Hague Convention of Inter-country Adoption were required to be accredited, and so, agencies operating in countries that are not members of the convention were not required to be accredited and could continue providing child adoption services. However, under the UAA, any entity providing child adoption services to/from any country requires accreditation.
According to the U.S. Department of State’s webpage, if entities provide the following six specific services, these entities are required to be accredited:
1. Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption.
2. Securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption.
3. Performing a background check on a child, or a home study on prospective adoptive parent(s), and reporting on such a study.
4. Making non-judicial determinations of the best interests of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement for a child.
5. Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parent(s) until final adoption; or
6. When necessary because of a disruption before final adoption, assuming custody and providing (including facilitating the provision of) childcare or any other social service pending an alternative placement.
United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (1961)
The Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (1961) was enacted to address the occurrence of statelessness and complements the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. The Convention gives effect to article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which recognizes that “everyone has the right to a nationality.” This Convention was adopted on the 30th August 1961 and was effective on the 13th December 1975.
Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Convention states that:
“If the law of a Contracting State entails loss of nationality as a consequence of any change in the personal status of a person such as marriage, termination of marriage, legitimation, recognition or adoption, such loss shall be conditional upon possession or acquisition of another nationality.”
Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, and Recognition of decrees relating to adoptions (1965)
This Convention was drafted to establish provisions on jurisdiction, applicable law and recognition of decrees relating to adoption. The Convention lays down the basic principles to ensure the interest of the child to be prioritized. This is stated in Article 6 of this Convention:
The authorities referred to in the first paragraph of Article 3 shall not grant an adoption unless it will be in the interest of the child. Before granting an adoption they shall carry out, through the agency of the appropriate local authorities, a thorough inquiry relating to the adopter or adopters, the child and his family. As far as possible, this inquiry shall be carried out in cooperation with public or private organizations qualified in the field of inter-country adoptions and the help of social workers having special training or having particular experience concerning the problems of adoption.
United Nations Declaration on Social and Legal Principles relating to the Protection and Welfare of Children
This Convention was adopted by the General Assembly on the 3rd December 1986 and was drafted for the “Conscious of the need to proclaim universal principles to be taken into account in cases where procedures are instituted relating to foster placement or adoption of a child, either nationally or internationally.”
As stated in Article 4:
“When care by the child’s own parents is unavailable or inappropriate, care by relatives of the child’s parents, by another substitute – foster or adoptive – family or, if necessary, by an appropriate institution should be considered”.
United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
There are three Optional Protocols that are relevant to the adoption of children:
– Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement
of children in armed conflict
– Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
– Optional Protocol to the Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Human Rights Principles
Human Rights Principles are a set of guiding principles that are outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948. It should also be noted that the UDHR is the basis of other international agreements that are legally binding to members who ratify them.
– Universality and Inalienability
As stated in Article 1 of the UDHR, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”, everyone is entitled to their own rights.
Human rights are indivisible. Human rights are applicable to all sectors of society from economic to cultural rights. The status of one right does not take precedence over any other.
– Interdependence and Interrelatedness
Human rights are interdependent and interrelated with each other. The fulfillment of one right depends on the fulfillment of other human rights and the accumulation of the fulfillment of all rights will inherently contribute to the overall realization of a person’s human dignity.
– Equality and Non-discrimination
Articles 2 & 7 of the UDHR covers the fact that despite various orientations, human dignity should still remain inherent and intact within each human being.
– Participation and Inclusion
Every human being has the inherent right to participate and have access to information that is related to their well-being and decision-making process including that of protecting their rights. This right is covered in Articles 7, 19 & 27. In order for these rights to be fulfilled, the participation of the government, communities, civil society and other identified groups is required regarding the respective issues.
– Accountability and Rule of Law
The governments of member states should be held accountable for their obligation to uphold human rights as set out in the UDHR. Even though the UDHR is not a treaty, and therefore not legally binding, member states should still be responsible for the observance of these fundamental human rights and freedoms. Civil society, the media, the international community, individuals and other actors should participate in holding the state accountable to their responsibility in upholding human rights.
https://assets.hcch.net/docs/994654cc-a296-4299-bd3c-f70d63a5862a.pdf (28) https://www.hcch.net/en/news-archive/details/?varevent=310 (29)
MONITORING AND EVALUATION
ONETrack International’s Transition to Home program maximizes the welfare of orphaned children around the world and placing them in the care of existing family members. Monitoring and Evaluation is a crucial component of making sure that children receive the care they deserve and that we as an organization are having the impact that we set out to provide.
Definition of Monitoring
Monitoring is a continuous process of information gathering (quantitative and qualitative data) in order to track the progress of the implementation of the project by using indicators to identify whether the goals of the project have been achieved. This allows the program manager to establish if the program is moving towards achieving the main objectives. By utilizing the data collected, a project’s strengths and weakness can be identified and therefore the limitations that arises out of the implementation of the project can be resolved as the project develops.
Types of Monitoring
There are a few types of monitoring methods that can be included in the M&E process:
1. Process Monitoring:
This involves field visits to the location where the project is being implemented. A joint development of a checklist of outputs, inputs and activities (to be identified during these visits) by the management/stakeholders and project staff can be used by the M&E staff during these visits. The checklist can be used to determine if the project is close to the attainment of its goals. After which, any gaps identified can be flagged to the management/ stakeholders and the project staff to ensure that they are addressed.
2. Assumption Monitoring:
Assumptions are stated to ensure that factors outside of the control of the project are taken into account. Therefore their influences on the project should be considered towards the development of the project since these assumptions can determine the project’s successes or failures. Assumption monitoring measures these external factors that are not within the control of the project and may be contributing factors in explaining why a project has succeeded or failed. For instance, one of the long term goals of ONETrack International is to ensure that the orphans who have transitioned to be under the care of their extended family members are able to have access to education that would eventually lead them to attaining tertiary education. However, this may not happen due to factors such as the interest of the child and family problems that are out of the scope of ONETrack International’s capacity.
3. Financial Monitoring:
Financial monitoring has several uses. One of the most obvious reasons is to ensure that the project stays within the planned budget set out during the planning stage of the project. It is also important for the organization to be financially accountable and to therefore, maintain transparency to stakeholders regarding the use of these funds. Lastly, financial efficiency can be measured to track which activities are under resourced or over resourced and therefore to perhaps channel these resources to other activities where they may be needed.
4. Impact Monitoring:
This type of monitoring involves the continual assessment of the impacts produced from the project to the respective target populations. The path to achieving the long term goals of the ONETRACK International is dependent upon the systematic attainment of short term goals. The task of impact monitoring is applicable primarily to those long term goals as there is a need to measure whether the intended impacts of the projects have been produced and is on the way to achieving the main long term goals. These impacts can be monitored through the established impact indicators. It should also be noted that both positive and negative impacts should be taken into consideration to also identify impacts that were not identified and therefore not intended to be achieved prior to the project initiation.
To establish the monitoring process, three main elements are used:
- Project inputs
A widely accepted set of monitoring criteria adopted in the M&E procedures of various agencies is the SMART criteria. SMART is used to set the goals and objectives of the project and these are used as a principle guide for indicator formulation for an effective results based monitoring. This section aims to set out the components in this criteria. As each component can be interpreted and defined differently by various organizations according to the context of the project they are implementing, the components stated here represents that of which ONETrack International is utilizing in the monitoring process of our Transition to Home program:
The indicator must be formulated to capture the quantitative and qualitative information that is necessary to reflect whether a specific objective has been met and not any other objective. This is so that it can be ascertained if the changes are happening are due to the implementation of the project or otherwise. Hence, it is important that the objectives of the project are set out clearly at the start of the project. Stakeholders and project managers should also have a common understanding of what these indicators are supposed to capture.
Firstly, the indicator must be feasible to quantify and the data should be gathered in a pragmatic manner for the indicators to measure changes that can be verified objectively. Secondly, these indicators must also be measurable and formulated in such a way that two different people would measure them in the same way irrespective of the time when the data is collected to ensure consistency across contexts. If qualitative data is being collated for the purpose of indicator formulation, then the definition of the qualitative data must be clearly defined so that there are no different interpretations or misinterpretations of the meaning of the indicator. Lastly, the sensitivity of these indicators should be taken into consideration so that they would be able to measure any tweaks in the actions of the program that would affect the results.
3. Achievable and Attainable:
In order for the indicators to be deemed achievable, the target outcome should accurately specify the component that is to be measured by the indicator and therefore, these outcomes must be realistic enough to be achieved. Additionally, the indicator should be able to attribute any changes measured by the indicator to the implementation of the project itself. Hence, these changes should be anticipated prior to the implementation of the project so that they can be identified upon its implementation.
4. Relevant and Realistic:
The indicators must be realistic in a sense that the way the data is collected must be practical, reflect the expectations of parties involved and utilize sources that are already available to the project manager. If the costs or skills associated with the data collection are obstacles, then those indicators may not be accurate if the information cannot even be obtained. This may have a knock on effect on other criteria in the logical pathway as they may be compromised due to the inability of the indicator to measure what it is supposed to measure. If information that is required to be measured by the indicators is difficult to obtain, the output would not be able to be measured accurately and therefore we would not be able to ascertain if the short term goal has been achieved. This is important because, as mentioned in the previous section, there is a multi-step process where the short term goals have to be achieved first before the long term goals can be obtainable. This follows then that the indicators should relate to those long term goals for it to be meaningful and show that the short term outputs have a related impact.
This leads to the criteria that the indicators must be relevant. For an indicator to be relevant, it must be able to establish a relationship between what the indicator measures and the theories that led to the development of the short and long term outcomes. For instance, one of the short term goals is the attainment of children attending school for a higher number of years whereas the long term goal of this is to see more of them obtaining better jobs after aging out of the program. ‘Better’ jobs in this case can mean high-skilled labor. A suitable indicator for this could be to measure the number of years the children have attended school or received education. The theory behind this is that the longer children are in school, the more likely that they would be educated up till the tertiary level which enables them to fulfill high skilled labor jobs that may require a tertiary degree as a prerequisite.
5. Time Bound:
The time factor needs to be considered in the formulation of indicators because it may be considered a constraint. Such scenarios include but are not limited to: The time spent on data collection while efficiently using the resources available to do so must be reflected in these indicators. The time lag incurred between the actual output and expected output needs to be considered. A time frame indicating when the indicators would measure the output.
Definition of Evaluation
According to UNICEF, evaluation can be defined as a process utilized to determine the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and impact of actions taken to attain specific goals in a systematic and objective way. It is therefore a tool that is used to improve both current activities and future planning, programing and decision-making. One can think of it as a tool for improving current and future processes in the program implemented.
Based on the definition of evaluation, we can then evaluate the success of the project by first stating the criteria used to construct the evaluation. Criteria that could be used to guide the appraisal of the program includes, but are not limited to:
- Relevance: The value of this program should be evaluated with regards to whether it addresses the needs of the stakeholders (i.e. the orphans involved, the organizations that have implemented the program) and whether the UN Millennium Goals and various UN Conventions have been met during the implementation of the program. For instance, for an organization that has chosen to adopt the program, are the needs of the orphans in line with the values of the organization after implementing the program and are these in line with the international and local regulation requirements with regards to child adoption laws and child rights?
- Efficiency: Has the program achieved the intended results while utilizing resources available in the most economical way possible?
- Effectiveness: Was the program output satisfactory as compared to the expectations set?
- Impact: The various outcomes, both negative or positive, should be analyzed. Other perspectives such as the economic, social, political effects on individuals, communities, societies and the impact on the national level should be taken into consideration as well.
- Sustainability: What is the likelihood of this program continuing its operations independently in the various organizations once support from ONETrack International has been withdrawn? Can this likelihood be measured? Additionally, would this program be emulated in other organizations in the region?
An evaluation report should contain the following:
- Findings: What are the facts (quantitative and qualitative) that could be ascertained from the outcome of this program?
- Conclusions: A general statement that relates to the findings section. Causal relationships can be stated here as well.
- Recommendations: Suggestions on how to improve the processes in the future and to be more thorough and specific, to also include suggestions of improvement in particular situations with specific contexts and circumstances.
- Lessons learned: Lessons can be drawn from the conclusion section which is generally stated to include the lessons that would have a wider impact on the community, society, nation, region and perhaps even the international community.
Types of Evaluation
There are two broad categories of evaluation which are elaborated below: formative and summative evaluation.
1. Formative Evaluation:
Formative evaluation is almost similar to the monitoring segment because it is implemented during the program’s development in order to establish the direction of the program and identify methods that can be improved to achieve the program’s outcome. Some difficulties that can be experienced from this evaluation includes transforming the outcomes of this evaluation into innovative solutions and therefore improvements to the program. There are two segments that can compromise formative evaluation and they are elaborated below:
- Needs Assessment:
Is used to determine the needs of the organization by identifying the any gaps that hinders the program from achieving its goal. These gaps includes but is not limited to those in knowledge, practices or skills. Firstly, the alignment of expectations of both the organization and program outcomes should be laid out.
- Process Evaluation:
Process evaluation is used to determine and measure the direct outputs (i.e. outreach, number of children successfully enrolled in school etc.) of the program implemented and whether the intended outcomes were achieved. By utilizing the outcomes, improvements with regards to the processes of implementation can be ascertained. Such evaluation can be conducted throughout the lifetime of the program.
2. Summative Evaluation
The Summative evaluation encompasses two types of evaluation: outcome evaluation and impact evaluation. These evaluations should be conducted once the program is implemented and is useful to know if the goals of the program are being achieved. One can therefore decide, based on the achievements of the program up while it is still being implemented, whether it should still continue its expansion or to be discontinued. The outcomes of these evaluations can thus be used to justify the expansion or discontinuation of the program:
- Outcome Evaluation:
Outcome evaluation measures the effects of the program on the target population by assessing how much progress has been made to address the problems that the program seeks to address due to the implementation of the program. The outcomes to be measured should be changes observed in the short term and medium term that results from the implementation of the program in terms of changes in perhaps attitude towards child institutionalization, etc. The outcome component from the logic model can be used to design this part of the evaluation.
- Impact Evaluation:
Impact evaluation measures how the program affects long term outcomes, whether these effects are intended or not. These impacts should encompass the overall effects on the community, organization, society and environment. In order to conduct the impact evaluation, there is a need to establish what was the situation before the program was implemented, i.e. comparing the differences in outcomes with a group of children where the program was not implemented against a group of children where the program was implemented. Ultimately, through impact evaluation, objectives of lesson-learning and accountability can be realized.
Purpose of Evaluation
Evaluation is usually conducted towards the end of the program or even during the midpoint of the program’s progress. Therefore, evaluation can be used to:
- Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the strategies outlined to be implemented in the program.
- Allowing the coordination between different target groups to be made transparent in order to ensure that the tasks of these respective groups are completed and whether it fits the overall agenda to accomplish the goals laid out.
- To allow accountability to be made possible regarding the target group’s contribution.
- To provide information on whether the strategies outlined are sustainable in the long run and therefore, the program can be sustained in the future.
In order to allow these objectives to be realized, it is important to ensure that stakeholders are well informed to make the appropriate choices, greater team work with partners, ensure that commitments or goals have been met (short and long terms), honor your team’s work and show relevant stakeholders within the community why they should continue to remain invested in the vision and goals of this program.
SCOPE AND PURPOSE OF M&E
Review of Logic Model
A logic model is a developed at the beginning of the implementation of ONETrack International’s Transition to Home program. It is designed to ensure that the expectations and objectives of the program are aligned across stakeholders and program managers.
The expectations and needs of internal and external stakeholders should be ascertained to ensure understanding, ownership and the use of data collected is in line across the board. Therefore, a clear understanding of stakeholders’ priorities and how they are affected by the program’s implementation is essential. Besides their priorities, their constraints should also be clarified so that the goals stated can address both these priorities and constraints. These objectives should also be modified according to the local context so that these goals are feasible and therefore the program is credible and would be accepted in the respective communities.
Examples of key stakeholders and informational needs:
- Project/program management
- Partners (bilateral or local)
- Government and local authorities
Scope of major M&E Events and Functions
The scope of major M&E events and functions refers to the scale and complexity of the monitoring and evaluation of the program. The M&E process can range from one that is relatively simple and being reliant on internal resources and capacities to one that is highly complex with differing activities and requiring expertise and resources. There are factors that affect the complexity of the M&E processes which are (but not limited to) the following:
- Number of outcomes
- Type of outcomes
- Scale of the intended impact
- Geographic scale (i.e. accessibility to the program areas)
- Demographic scale (i.e. specific target populations and their accessibility)
- Time frame
- Available human resources and budget.
In order to determine the overall complexity of your M&E system, you should identify key activities that you would like to have throughout the entire process to give an overview of the system and any additional components like further plans for funding, additional technical expertise required that you would like to include along the way.
Monitoring and Development Process
There are twelve main components of the entire monitoring and evaluation system that are required for it to function efficiently and effective:
- Organizational structures with M&E functions
- Human capacity for M&E
- Partnerships to plan, coordinate and manage the M&E system
- M&E frameworks
- M&E workplan and costs
- Advocacy, communication and culture for M&E
- Routine program monitoring
- Surveys and surveillance
- National and sub-national databases
- Supportive supervision and data auditing
- Evaluation and research
- Data dissemination and use
The logic model was developed at the beginning of the implementation of ONETrack International’s Transition to Home program so that all stakeholders, partners and program managers can understand goals, expectations and processes of the program and the way it is conducted throughout its lifecycle. It is thus a reference point for those involved in the program implementation. This model is meant to show the processes involved in the specific pathway taken during the program in order to achieve its objectives. Therefore, this model aims to identify the issues of this program to improve it and to omit items that are no longer relevant as the program progresses to reach its objectives. The dynamic relationship between resources, activities and goals are then reflected in the model.
The components of the model includes the input, output, expected outcomes, assumptions, means of verification, indicators and other external factors involved during the lifecycle of the program along with illustrating the assumptions, rationales and purposes of this program. These would be discussed in greater detail below. A description of the main problem at hand and the target audience of the program should also be mentioned. It should also be noted that the logic model should be amended as the program progresses.
It is essential to include the resources required for the development of the program to budget the necessary resources before its commencement. These resources can include, but are not limited to, the contributions, staff needed and investments that are needed to go into the program. There could already be resources that are available to the organization and/or resources that are yet to be acquired. These can be categorised into a ‘wish list’ of items and can include intangible items such as connections that need to be built with the relevant people in the community, region and country.
The outputs produced by the implementation of the program include the activities, services, events, and products that reach the program’s target beneficiaries. Outputs list the end product of the organization’s program and they represent a sign of progress to achieve the program’s goals. Unlike outcomes, outputs are not utilized to measure the value of the impact or value of the program to the beneficiaires. With regards to ONETrack International’s Transition to Home program, outputs can include the number of children who have transitioned from the care of orphanages into the care of their families and/or relatives. They can also include the number of children who have received medical care and education, etc.
The outcomes of the program represent the benefits received by the beneficiaries due to the outputs of the program and serves as indicators of the success of the processes adopted by the program. It is essential to differentiate between the outputs and outcomes components of the logic model. Therefore, while the outputs focuses on how the goals of the program are being achieved, the outcomes would focus on what the program is trying to achieve. In the case of the Transition to Home program, the output of more children transitioning from orphanages into the care of their families and relatives has resulted in a short term outcome of lower population of children inside orphanages.
Outcomes can be categorized into short, mid and long term goals. The inputs and outputs described should systematically lead to the achievement of the short term and mid term outcomes while the long term outcomes should ultimately lead to the solution to the overall problem. In order to determine if the long term outcomes has led to a meaningful and better situation as compared to the situation before the implementation of the program, a baseline should be established on the targeted areas before the commencement of the program, i.e. how many children in orphanages had access to clean drinking water before the implementation of the program, etc.
The aim of assumptions being made is to ensure that the relevant elements are already in place before rolling out the program. Assumptions are usually identified before the inputs are listed and they are important to allow for identification of factors that are outside of the control of the program if it fails.
The assumptions made must be made on the condition that they are:
- Outside of the project’s control and they must exist or take place for the program to be successful.
- These conditions may be actions of certain groups, or project stakeholders.
- Certain economic or social conditions, such as the absence of conflict.
- Political conditions, such as stability.
- Conditions of climate.
Indicators serve as data to be collected to be used as evidence to measure the effectiveness of the outcomes of the program by determining whether the performance standards set for the program have been reached. They can measure any intangible changes in situations or groups and tangible products produced from the activities. The data collected has to be compared to the baseline data to measure the changes experienced due to the implementation of the program. Indicators need to be based on a few factors:
- Independent: they measure only the objective, purpose or result to which they are linked
- Factual: they are based on factual measurement
- Plausible: it must be believable that they are measuring the change attributed to the project
- Objectively verifiable: we can verify whether they have been achieved
Theory of Change
The Theory of Change (ToC) represents the various pathways that can be taken to address the causes of the problems outlined (i.e. institutionalized children), identify solutions and guide the program manager to make decisions as the program progresses in order to achieve the objectives of the Transition to Home program. These can include pathways that are not even directly related to the program. The ToC is meant to be a flexible instrument, as opposed to the rigid logic framework, to be used to plan and monitor the measures taken during the program, taking into account the conditions of uncertainty of specific contexts. It also takes into account the underlying assumptions and risks that can be revisited as the program unfolds to ensure that the program is on the right path of achieving the desired goals. However, its function is similar to that of the logic model in the sense that they are both required to provide accountability and transparency to stakeholders involved in the processes.
In order to develop the ToC, its methodology should be outlined to understand the components required to create it. This includes:
- Desired Change:
The change that the program aims to reach should represent a convergence of relationships, conditions and results that the program manager would like to achieve due to the action of the prograe in the current and/or future contexts. The kind of change that we would like to see in the orphan sector would influence the specific sector that the program manager would be focusing on when implementing the program, i.e. the temporal, relational, structural, geographic, social, cultural, economic, political, institutional dimensions. Therefore, it is likely that the Transition to Home program would focus on the social, cultural and institutional aspect of society to ensure that the culture of the community is retained by ensuring that the orphans are transitioned into the care of their families. It also addresses the social aspect by ensuring that these orphans have their health care and educational needs met.
- Underlying Assumptions:
Assumptions should be able to connect the outcomes with the conditions, that the program will be dependent on, that has to be identified prior to the implementation of the program and establish the risks involved when outlining them. In other words, the assumptions laid out should be relevant to the achievement of the outcomes while accounting for other factors that are out of our control. These assumptions should also be able to explain why these outcomes would be able to lead to the desired change we want out of this program. The flexibility of the ToC is such that we are able to revisit these assumptions and modify them when they are no longer realistic or reasonable in achieving our targets. If these assumptions are not defined clearly, it would be difficult to determine what factors the success of the programme would rely on.
- Change Indicators:
The indicators of change in the ToC framework are not the same as the output indicators used in the logical framework. These indicators of change should be formulated in a way that would allow us to understand the context at that moment and the effects that we can gain from our interventions in that context. In this way, the indicators would put us in a position that would allow us to understand how the changes we have made are happening or not and what are our contributions to that change. Therefore, each outcome at every subsequent level has their own respective indicators of change. The relative importance of the effects of the outcomes allows us to prioritise the indicators of change accordingly to track and monitor the relevance of these outcomes. The aim of these indicators is to ensure that the actions we implement have the desired effects produced from the outcomes obtained in order to know if the interventions are done not for the sake of implementing them. When constructing these indicators, we should consider the degree to which our actions are contributing to the outcomes and ultimate goal.
Indicators measure the project impacts, outcomes, outputs and inputs due to the implementation of the project to assess the progress of the program and compares the outcomes of the programme with a baseline so that the success of the program can be ascertained. It enables the establishment of the relationships between these factors to identify gaps in the project’s progress that may hinder the attainment of the project’s objectives.
Core indicators are used to understand the inputs and outcomes of a program.
Quantitative indicators measure the outputs of the program that can be easily defined, documented, counted and compared. They comprise of numbers and facts that can be verified.
- Output indicators: Output indicators would measure whether the goals of the program are attained and adds more details on the program. However, output indicators mainly provide us with the information on whether the planning of the program has been executed but they are not able to measure the effects of these outputs. They can also fall under process indicators which measures the programs activities and outputs.
- Outcome indicators: These indicators refer to the measurement of the results of the outcome of the program or rather the impact of the of the program. These indicators would be useful in determining the reasons for implementing the program in the first place and why certain actions were conducted, or not.
- Input indicators: Although it may be obvious that indicators should be tracked, it is important to determine if the amount of inputs that are utilized are also used at the right time.
These indicators are useful in assessing the success of the program where it is not easily quantifiable. These factors that are not easily quantifiable are used to answer the whys of different situations and the different contexts. This may, however, be useful because the implementation of the program involves the changing of the children’s lives and it may be insufficient to capture these changes via only numerical means. This is especially useful in measuring the impact and evaluating the long term effects of the program from the perspective of different groups of people and age groups, i.e. evaluating children’s rights with respect to the empowerment and development. For example, the future prospects that children feel by being given an opportunity to further their education. Additionally, these qualitative indicators would be significant in identifying any constraints to the implementation of the program and any hindrances to the success of the program which may not be apparent initially.
Data collection is required to conduct the monitoring and evaluation process. However, when collecting data, there may be a conflict of interest or ethical considerations that may arise and has to be considered
When implementing this data collection methods, the following questions should be posed:
- Would the data collection methods you are using (e.g. qualitative or quantitative tools or both) be sufficient to capture the diverse opinions of all participants regardless of their comfort levels with sharing personal information?
- As the participants would be children, have the literacy and level of comprehension been considered in the design of your collection methods? You may want to consider alternative methods or a combination of them when collecting the data to address these possible obstacles.
- Is there a need to consider how to encourage the children/host families to express their insights especially in a context where it may not be conventional or comfortable for them to do so? And if so, is there a possibility that you would need to pose the same question in a different way?
- Have you considered if the questions you would be asking have been modified to suit the specific group of people you are asking?
Questions to consider when deciding how the data should be utilized:
- How will the data derived from the M&E plan be used to update internal and external stakeholders of the progress of the program?
- How will this data be used to assist internal stakeholders to tweak existing processes to ensure that the program is on course to being successful?
- Ultimately, how would this data be useful in pushing the periphery of existing similar programs and therefore achieving the intended goals?
Overview and Some Important Points about Charity Roles and Regulations
Understanding of accountability and transparency in charitable institutions
Accountability is about being responsible to someone for actions taken; about being able to explain, clarify and justify actions. It implies that someone has a right to know and hold an organization to account; and that the organization has a duty to explain and account for its actions. Charities have this duty as they have a privileged status because their purposes must be for the benefit of the public.
Transparency is about being easy to understand, and being open, frank and honest in all communications, transactions and operations. It is possible to be accountable by providing a lengthy and technical explanation of every detail, but if this information is not easily understood by the audience, and if key facts are hidden by the sheer volume of information then the information is not presented in a transparent form. Accountability and transparency go hand-in-hand, and involve being aware of who charities are accountable to, what the important pieces of information are, and how they can be communicated most effectively.
-Charities must be honest and truthful, and comply with the law.
-It is best practice for charities to respect the reasonable requests of donors and other stakeholders, and operate in order to give donors, beneficiaries and other stakeholders a better understanding of how the charity works, its clients, and it’s fundraising.
Accountability is seen to be important for the charity sector in maintaining the confidence and financial support of the public by giving an account of charities’ activities. For accountability to be successful it needs to be easily accessed. This includes the need for performance accountability where charities assess and report on their performance to ensure that they are making a positive difference in their beneficiaries’ lives. Charities need to be proactive in communicating the success of their outcomes and outputs to attract funding and to differentiate themselves from other charitable organizations. Donors and funders also need to ensure that they are supporting financially viable charities who are prudently managing their future and achieving great success in their activities. Above all, it is important that donors and funders donate to a good charity, not just to a great cause.
HOST FAMILY RESPONSIBILITIES
ONETrack International places vulnerable children in safe home environments that are run by qualified caretakers. Our primary goal is to pair orphans/vulnerable children (OVCs) with immediate biological family members within their communities of birth. We work with the community, the child, and local specialists to make reintegration (the placement of OVCs) possible, and provide financial and material support to ensure that a suitable caretaker is able to provide for the needs of the vulnerable child. We know that raising a child can be difficult for the unprepared, which is why we offer a support and resources to the host families in our programs. In return, we expect the host family to provide a place within their existing households that is beneficial to the wellbeing of a child. Cooperation on the part of the host family is the key to achieving a successful and safe placement of a vulnerable child, and host families are considered partners.
The host family is at the center of the reintegration process. The host family is the program participant with the most bearing over the child’s future after the initial placement. It is the host family that will have to take care of all the basic needs and daily activities of the child. It is also up to the host family to create and facilitate an environment that is safe for the child. Given this relationship between the host family and the child, there are some expectations of how a host family must act while participating in OTI’s program.
- OTI expects the host family to meet the basic social, educational, and hygienic/health needs that a child has.
- OTI expects the host family to refrain from behaviors that constitute neglect or abuse toward the child.
Host families are required to meet these expectations while in ONETrack International’s Transition to Home program. OTI’s field teams support the facilitation of those things that a host family needs assistance with in order to welcome additional children into their households (in the form of funds, materials, supplies, and things of that nature).
Host Family Social Responsibility
A host family must provide the child with:
- A supportive and nurturing home environment
- The same treatment as given to every other child in the household
- The same treatment as given to every other child in the community
- The opportunity to participate in the family’s daily life and activities
- The opportunity to interact with other family and community members
Host Family Educational Responsibility
A host family must provide a child with:
- The ability to regularly attend school
- Reasonable guidelines/expectations of their grades and graduation
- Support for school activities
- The supplies needed for educational success
Host Family Hygienic/Health Responsibility
A host family must provide a child with:
- The expectation to practice basic hygiene
- Hygienic supplies (clothes, shoes, toothbrushes, etc.) to practice basic hygiene
- All the vaccinations, immunizations, and checkups common to their regional standards
- A clean household that does not create a health risk
- Regular meals and nutrition
Prohibited Host Family Behavior
A host family is not allowed to:
- Physically, mentally, emotionally, or sexually abuse a child
- The World Health Organization (WHO) identified the above behaviors as forms of violence against children and has released guidelines on how to identify these behaviors. (1)
- Violate the child labor policies of ONETrack International that prohibit an OVC from working until an acceptable age
- Encourage a child to engage in illegal activities (ie. extortion, theft, or violent actions)
- Encourage a child to partake in substance abuse (ie. alcohol and drugs)
Host Family Supervision
ONETrack International has an accountability system to ensure that a host family is consistently meeting program expectations. The committee of community leaders and other stakeholders (set at the beginning of each new project) should put in place a number of accountability systems so that the community could oversee the reintegration project. This setup allows OTI to flag any irregular or unethical behavior within our programs. There are also teams on the field that are capable of monitoring the day-to-day activities of a host family. Additional monitoring both remote and in-person is conducted by OTI’s Monitoring and Evaluation team, which is tasked with evaluating the program’s success.
Education is an important resource that enables upward social mobility and the ability to escape poverty. Providing a quality education is an investment in the wellbeing of a child, a local community, and even an entire country. An education can provide children with the tools they need to surpass many difficult circumstances and a generation brought up by a good education system can uplift the living standards in the whole community.
“Everyone has a right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” – Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948(1)
ONETrack International recognizes the guidelines of the UDHR by supporting educational programs that provide quality education. On top of ensuring that our children can attend school, we provide the necessary resources for academic success and encourage the development of inclusive learning environments.
Many world events, such as the emergence of Covid-19 in 2020, have presented unique and difficult obstacles to the education of many children around the world. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has reported that around a million young learners have had their education impacted after the closure of schools in 131 countries due to the pandemic(2). This data tells the story of a lot of missed class days for children that have come to rely on schools as their pipeline to social interaction, critical knowledge, necessary meals, stability, and many other important components of their their childhood upbringing. Some children have since been able to return to schools while those who are in more vulnerable and disadvantaged communities have continued to go without a basic education.
Covid-19 has caused a huge disruption in global education that must be mitigated before any positive educational developments can be lost and ONETrack International is working harder than ever to ensure that the children under our care will not experience education disruption for long.
What developing countries need most is an informed, engaged population able to bring benefits to their community. Education produces such citizens by intellectually and socially stimulating children daily. It is a school that introduces a child to concepts that may not come from the immediate home while also challenging the child to think bigger.(3)
Early Childhood Development
Early childhood education (ECE) is necessary for the upbringing of engaged and informed children in society. Development programs geared toward providing this education are more than just prep for later education. They are an experience onto themselves that give children a head start toward developing their literacy and stem skills. These programs also help children develop social and physical skills that can serve as a foundation for their lifelong well-being.
UNESCO defines early childhood as the period from birth to eight years old.(4) This stage is recognized as a time of remarkable growth influenced by the surroundings of the child. Multiple studies have shown that investing in education during this stage of human life ultimately yields high returns in educational outcomes and health outlooks.
A 2018 study conducted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education found that participation in ECE leads to the reduction of future academic concerns. Led by Harvard, researchers from five different universities analyzed 22 high-quality studies administered between 1960 and 2016 to determine the impacts of ECE on medium and long term educational outcomes. Their analysis found that participation in an ECE program leads to significant reductions in special education placement and grade retention.(5)(6)
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also recommended investment in ECE programs and has provided guidelines to identify a good ECE program. The CDC has recommended greater investment on the basis that ECE programs can improve child development and act as a factor preventing adult disease and disability. This organization has also recognized that ECE programs can minimize school readiness gaps between low-income and economically well off children. According to the CDC, all ECE programs should incorporate literacy, numeracy, cognitive development, socio-emotional development, and motor skills. The method of ECE program administration and its additional benefits can vary, but it should include the above-listed skills to provide a better foundation for young children.(7)
ECE programs are an investment in a child’s future and they must be made accessible to those from a variety of backgrounds to be effectively utilized. It is essential to make ECE programs available to children from low-income backgrounds since they stand to benefit the most from these programs. ECE programs should also be further developed to be inclusive enough that traditionally disadvantaged students (girls and children with special needs) can reap some benefits.
Education often thrives under stable conditions and languishes when a community has instability. World events that disrupt education (disasters, conflicts, political strife, etc.) can destroy infrastructure, reduce community capacity, contaminate resources, and reduce local human capital. This in turn directly impacts education in a variety of negative ways. The local school may have been destroyed during the disaster. A whole community of educators may have been among those displaced by the event. The parents of the students may have lost their main source of income from the disaster. The student could be traumatized or otherwise impacted by a sudden disaster. Etc.
Preparation is key to ensure that children don’t suffer from educational disruption during or after a disaster. The initial concerns that come up after a major disaster are a lack of resources and capacity. A possible lack of resources could be preemptively circumvented by providing a community with surplus educational tools beforehand. There should be a stock of textbooks, writing utensils, desks, and other regular classroom necessities readily available. Training and planning for an emergency response ahead of time can mitigate the damage of a disaster to the school environment.
Girls have been historically and traditionally denied educational access to the greater detriment of entire countries. The education of a community’s girls is a developmental priority that brings returns to other sectors of society. According to the World Bank, better-educated women tend to be more informed about healthcare, have fewer children, actively participate in the formal labor market, and earn higher incomes. All these outcomes can bring a community out of poverty and establish a foundation for greater progress.(8)
UNESCO estimates that 132 million girls worldwide do not attend school, including 34.3 million of primary school age, 30 million of lower-secondary school age, and 67.4 million of upper-secondary school age. These statistics present an alarming picture of the future of a large portion of the world’s population. It has led to women representing a small portion of the world’s researchers and frequent exposure to worse working conditions than male counterparts.(9)
Nevertheless, girls’ education is more than just getting girls into school. It is also about ensuring that girls can learn in a safe and academically challenging environment and that girls are afforded the same resources and protections that should be standard in any school. Investment should be made for enrolling girls in school and providing an education that empowers girls to exercise their agency.
Literacy and Stem Skills
The purpose of an adequate education is to impart a child with skills that will help them throughout their lifetime. Basic literacy, math, and science skills are crucial to mastering many career paths that are essential to society. Also incorporating these skills in the daily life of a child can help build their confidence in their abilities. A child that is comfortable in their own ability to handle basic tasks will be driven to seek professions that are necessary for a community. The child that learns to read and count today can be the leader of tomorrow. Hence, families, communities, and countries benefit when the children can read and compute calculations.
The United Nations (UN) has reported that 617 million children and adolescents are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics.(10)
This global problem could be resolved through the promotion of literacy and stem programs in the educational setting. Literacy and stem programs may already be in the curriculum, but they often lack support measures for when children fall behind. Already present literacy and stem programs would be improved through the support of better tutoring and remedial programs for students that need extra help. Education can also be continued in the home. The classroom is seen as the main mechanism of education, but a family provided with books and academic tools can reinforce formal education.
School Health and Nutrition
Education and public health are fundamentally tied together. A beneficial education requires that the local population is healthy. The prevention of disease outbreaks, promotion of proper nutrition and hygiene, and coordination of regular sport and exercise programs help further an education agenda. These actions educate children about healthy lifestyles, which improve their learning readiness and potential for academic achievement. Children that live a healthy life also see a decrease in mental health problems that could hurt their academic performance.
The Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action promised that 12 years of free, publicly funded, equitable quality primary and secondary education would be provided(11). However, many developing regions of the world continue to face huge challenges in providing their schools with basic resources.(12)
A lack of access to electricity, water, internet, technology, and other vital resources needed to widen an inequality gap leave many schools behind. To make an educational setting ready for students there must be some investment in the facility and the appropriate school supplies. An educational facility should be kept in the best material conditions. The area surrounding the educational facility must also be made safe for students to encourage attendance. The classroom must be provided with water, lighting, desks, and other basic supplies to keep children safe. Digital tools such as computers and tablets alongside the traditional pen and pencil should also be considered to prepare students for a highly digitized world. Communal resources such as restrooms and eating rooms should be kept in usable condition. Finally, an educational facility should be routinely cared for to demonstrate to students that education is a valued resource.
Education in Emerging Markets
Education is one of the greatest tools available to alleviate generational and endemic poverty. It is a mechanism able to move a child from one social stratum to another. These characteristics of education are an invaluable resource for developing countries that seek to become more competitive in the global marketplace. More skilled workers lead to the creation of high-quality products that result in greater economic returns. The leaders of developing countries recognize this fact, which is why this century has seen an increased push in educational investment. It generates the skilled workforce and ideas that make a labor force competitive in a globalized world.
Child Protection Plan
Child Protection Policy
Our vision is to create a culture in which all orphaned children have the opportunity to grow as respected members of families and become productive citizens who will impact and lead their community towards a better future. This vision begins with the goal of ensuring that all orphaned children are protected from abuse, neglect, exploitation, and all other forms of violence. We believe that all children have equal rights to survival, protection, health, and education to enable them to lead full and productive lives.
The purpose of this policy is twofold. First, it ensures that all partners, contractors, volunteers, donors, and families participating in the Transition to Home program are committed to: safeguarding children from violence; and undertaking activities which contribute to our vision of protecting the children in our programs. Second, it details the procedures which are in place to prevent and deal with any violations to this policy as well as stipulates that a failure to do so will result in immediate contract termination. Also, anyone that will be engaging with any children in our program in any capacity are required to familiarize themselves and agree to ONETrack’s safeguarding protocols and procedures, and agree to uphold these policies, committing to children’s rights and protection at all times.
We take our duty to protect children very seriously and to ensure that anyone who represents or works alongside our organization does not harm, abuse, or place any child at risk. We believe in empowering children in their own protection and promoting their active engagement in all activities. We commit to ensuring that children’s best interest and safety are paramount at all times. We promote respect, safe practices, positive environments, diversity, equality, and inclusion in all that we do.
We recognize that the orphaned children with whom we work are a particularly vulnerable subset of the population. For that reason, we commit to advocating on their behalf and ensuring their wellbeing while empowering and nurturing them. The impact of all stakeholders on a child’s growth cannot be overstated or underrated. Protecting vulnerable children’s wellbeing and rights are not just ONETrack International’s pledge: it is at the forefront of all that we believe and do.
ONETrack is committed to ensuring that all stakeholders are aware of their responsibilities by educating them of our policies; the receipt of a signed acknowledgement form prior to commencing work with our organization; and the continued education of all stakeholders on the requirement for child protection in international and national laws. One of the first steps to preventing additional emotional harm is to make clear to anyone interacting with vulnerable children, that many have experienced trauma to different degrees and so interactions must be necessary and well thought out – or they should not take place at all. Violence, the threat of violence, or abuse of any sort are never acceptable ways to deal with any child. Protecting them from violence and abuse can take the form of many different actions, including but not limited to: education, youth groups, active reporting, advocacy, support, and mentoring.
It is important to have an Incident Reporting Policy, so that anyone involved in a program has an outlet for reporting breaches in safeguarding protocols. Just as important, all stakeholders (including beneficiaries) should be made aware of the process of reporting and encouraged to do so. Beneficiaries must be made aware that reporting administrators of the program for transgressions will not negatively affect their ability to receive further support from the organization.
ONETrack is committed to working with local practitioners, families, institutes, governments, and others to train, educate, and engage stakeholders as they work to uphold the protection and rights of children. Some incidents that you may encounter are due to a lack of education and not necessarily an inherent desire to willfully harm a child. In these situations, ONETrack is dedicated to providing guidance and education to nurture a positive and respectful environment which meets all obligations of child protection policy and international law.
Critical Response Policy
If you witness an act of violence or an obvious abuse of a child’s basic human rights you should immediately notify both the local police and program representative. If you are able to intervene, and it is safe to do so, you have an obligation to protect the child. Recognizing the particularly vulnerable nature of the orphaned children who participate in a Transition to Home or any program, it is imperative that any action contrary to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN Declaration on the Protection and Welfare of Children, or the Hague Adoption Convention be immediately and appropriately addressed.
Behavior Protocol Guidelines
The following behavioral protocols are based on universally accepted and culturally appropriate ways of interacting with children that are generally accepted. Each region may have additional local or culturally appropriate behaviors to consider.
-Limited physical contact and only if appropriate and when required: adults must avoid being in compromising or vulnerable positions with a child
-Use non-violent, positive, and nurturing methods to manage children’s negative behaviors
-Show respect for children and their rights
-Be cognizant of appearance and perceptions through language, behavior, actions, and relationships with children
-Maintain accountability for your actions at all times
-Accept responsibility for your actions, language, and behavior
-Act as representatives of the organization at all times
– Follow the two adult rule whenever possible; that is, have two adults visibly present when supervising children
-Respect the privacy of children and their communities
-Sexual relations with a child or behaving in an inappropriate physical manner
-Language, behaviors, or actions that could be construed as sexual or violent in nature
-Participating in or condoning illegal, unsafe, or abusive behavior or actions with a child
-Participating in or condoning traditional or cultural practices that are harmful to a child
-Participating in or condoning any form of child labour or action which contributes to limiting a child’s rights and freedoms
-Inappropriate, abusive, or culturally insensitive touching, language, or behavior with or around a child
-Spending unnecessary or excessive time alone with a child, including in a vehicle, unless necessary and always with their guardian’s consent
-Abusing or exploiting any child
-Posting any personal information, pictures, or details about a child on social media without consent or explanation of its use to the child and their guardians
-Exchanging personal contact information with children for purposes unrelated to the program
Convention on the Rights of the Child: Overview
This Convention is a human rights treaty based in International law that outlines children’s rights in the following areas: culture, health, society, civil space, as well as political and economic environments:
– A child is any human being under 18 years of age, unless stated otherwise in national legislation
– States that are party to the Convention have a responsibility to respect, protect, and ensure the rights postulated in this convention for all children in their jurisdiction, without discrimination, including the following acknowledgements:
- Importance of international cooperation to improve children’s living conditions
- Primary consideration must always be in the best interest of the child
- Respect the rights and duties of parents, extended family, and/or community as dependent on or reflective of local customs and legalities
- Guarantee inherent right to life – ensure a child’s survival and development
- Legal guardians have primary responsibility for upbringing and development of the child
- Take legal, administrative, social, and educational measures to protect children from all forms of physical and mental violence, injury, abuse, neglect, and exploitation
- Restrict involvement of children in military conflicts
- Prohibit the sale of children, child pornography, and child prostitution
- Safeguard children’s rights to express their opinions and have their opinions taken into account
- Ensure no child is deprived of the right to access health care or education
- Every child has a right to develop physically, mentally, socially, spiritually, and morally
- Protect children from economic exploitation or any work that is harmful to them, including child labour
- Safeguard the right of the child to rest, play, and participate in cultural activities and the arts
- Protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse
- Educate adults and children on the provisions of the Convention
- Promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of any child victim
- Ensure no child is tortured, or exposed to inhumane or degrading treatment
- Ensure a child’s criminal convictions do not carry a sentence of life imprisonment or capital punishment
Child Protection Policy: Behavior Protocol Guidelines
Below are some of the commitments that an organization might require of the partners, contractors, volunteers, donors, and families participating in their programs; organizations might require that they read and sign the a policy declaration prior to working on any project that deals with children. All stakeholders would be expected to protect and promote children’s rights by abiding by these or additional protocols at all times.
1. I will not engage in physical, emotional, or verbal violence or abuse towards children.
2. I will not tolerate any form of violence or abuse towards children.
3. I will immediately report all incidents that I witness or hear about which may involve the mistreatment, abuse, or harm of a child.
4. I will ensure that all my interactions with children are appropriate and that I do not engage in any situation where a negative perception could be alleged.
5. I will not exchange inappropriate personal information with children.
6. I will not dress inappropriately or conduct myself in any way which could be considered culturally inappropriate while visiting or engaging with children or the local community.
7. I will not engage in any verbal or physical act which could be interpreted as sexual in nature or which may make any child uncomfortable, including: pornography, derogatory comments or pictures, gestures, or written communication.
8. I will not post any information on social media related to my work with the organization including, but not limited to: children’s pictures, videos, or their personal information.
9. I will show respect for children’s rights and cultural considerations at all times.
10. I will make it clear to all beneficiaries of my program (both children and host families) as well as to any staff or volunteers that they can contact the organization (or independent safeguarding service) with any concerns and provide them with a method to do so.
Noncompliance with this protocol will be taken seriously. Failure to comply with all tenets of this policy will result in immediate contract termination. The organization reserves the right to refer criminal offenses to local police and/or social services.
Child Health Plan
This page will discuss how to care for a child’s health, from their nutritional requirements, to personal hygiene, drinking clean water, and caring for common illnesses that they face.
Not getting enough nutrients can lead to malnutrition, this is when children suffer from low weight, stunted growth, and when they are at a greater risk of developing infections and illnesses that could become fatal. In fact, malnutrition is estimated to be the cause of more than half the deaths of children in developing countries every year.
Children can become malnourished of macronutrients and micronutrients, both of which are needed to achieve healthy growth and development. Macronutrients are foods that make up a large part of a person’s diet, and include proteins, carbs and fats. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals that are needed in small amounts to help the body function. Oftentimes, the malnourishment of macronutrients goes hand in hand with the malnourishment of micronutrients. In addition to a healthy and varied diet, supplements can be given to supply the needed amount of micronutrients.
Here are some guidelines for child nutrition once they are on solid foods:
Ages 2 to 3: Daily guidelines for girls and boys
Calories 1,000-1,400, depending on growth and activity level
Protein 2-4 ounces
Fruits 1-1.5 cups
Vegetables 1-1.5 cups
Grains 3-5 ounces
Dairy 2 cups
Ages 4 to 8: Daily guidelines for girls
Calories 1,200-1,800, depending on growth and activity level
Protein 3-5 ounces
Fruits 1-1.5 cups
Vegetables 1.5-2.5 cups
Grains 4-6 ounces
Dairy 2.5 cups
Ages 4 to 8: Daily guidelines for boys
Calories 1,200-2,000, depending on growth and activity level
Protein 3-5.5 ounces
Fruits 1-2 cups
Vegetables 1.5-2.5 cups
Grains 4-6 ounces
Dairy 2.5 cups
Ages 9 to 13: Daily guidelines for girls
Calories 1,400-2,200, depending on growth and activity level
Protein 4-6 ounces
Fruits 1.5-2 cups
Vegetables 1.5-3 cups
Grains 5-7 ounces
Dairy 3 cups
Ages 9 to 13: Daily guidelines for boys
Calories 1,600-2,600, depending on growth and activity level
Protein 5-6.5 ounces
Fruits 1.5-2 cups
Vegetables 2-3.5 cups
Grains 5-9 ounces
Dairy 3 cups
Ages 14 to 18: Daily guidelines for girls
Calories 1,800-2,400, depending on growth and activity level
Protein 5-6.5 ounces
Fruits 1.5-2 cups
Vegetables 2.5-3 cups
Grains 6-8 ounces
Dairy 3 cups
Ages 14 to 18: Daily guidelines for boys
Calories 2,000-3,200, depending on growth and activity level
Protein 5.5-7 ounces
Fruits 2-2.5 cups
Vegetables 2.5-4 cups
Grains 6-10 ounces
Dairy 3 cups
Maintaining proper hygiene can reduce the chances of children developing illnesses or infections, and lead to having good overall health.
Hand washing is one of the key ways to reduce spreading and contracting different diseases.
In order to properly wash hands, soap should be applied and rubbed into alather all across the hands, between the fingers, and beneath the finger nails. This should be continued for about 20 seconds.
Hands should be washed before and after eating or handling food, after using the bathroom, after caring for someone sick, after touching a wound, after changing a diaper or cleaning up after a child, after coughing or sneezing, after touching an animal, and after touching garbage. If neither soap or water is available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be used. Soap and water should also be used to wash the face, body, and hair.
To help reduce the risk of tooth decay and oral infections, teeth should be brushed for two minutes, twice a day, and on all sides in small strokes. Toothbrushes should be replaced every three or four months, or whenever the bristles become frayed. Only water that is considered safe should be used for brushing teeth.
While not absolutely necessary, flossing can also help reach in spots that brushing can miss and further reduce the chances of suffering from tooth decay or an oral infection.
In regards to menstrual hygiene, teaching girls about their periods and how to manage them is crucial to minimize their school absences, embarrassment, and risk of infections. It is important to provide access to proper menstrual hygiene products.
A vaccination is used to strengthen the body’s immune system against certain diseases. Often found in the form of an injection or mouth/nasal spray, they introduce either a dead or weakened form of a pathogen to the immune system without actually infecting the person. After having interacted with this specific pathogen, the body is now able to recognize it in the future and fight off the real disease if they happen to become infected.
Vaccines are not just important for protecting individuals from diseases. If enough people in a community receive vaccinations, then they have what is called “herd immunity”. This helps protect people who cannot receive vaccines, such as infants, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems. If individuals cannot catch the disease due to vaccines, then this also means they cannot spread the disease to the people around them.
Common vaccinations for children might include measles, chickenpox, group A meningitis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, meningococcal, polio, hepatitis B, haemophilus influenzae type B, yellow fever, rotavirus, HPV, and pneumococcal.
Many parts of the world lack an adequate supply of clean water. One of the biggest dangers in consuming contaminated water is the ingestion of illness-causing bacteria and parasites, which can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and in many cases lead to death. Children, whose bodies and immune systems are still developing, are especially at risk of dying from water-borne illnesses. It is estimated that nearly 80% of illnesses in developing countries are a result of contaminated water.
Not only does providing clean water help reduce illness and fatalities, it has also been shown to reduce poverty by creating a healthier environment which can improve the economy and reduce tensions that can arise as a result of a limited amount of clean water. Here are a few methods to make water safe for consumption when there is not a readied source available:
1. The SODIS Method
The Solar Water Disinfection, or “SODIS”, method is relatively simple. It involves placing clear water (meaning free of mud and other sediments) in a clear container and placing it in the sun for at least 6 hours. The heat and radiation kills the pathogens in the water, making it safe for consumption. If clear water is unavailable, table salt can be added to remove mud from the water. The salt will bind to the particles so that they settle to the bottom of the container and can be easily separated from the clear water.
2. Rainwater Collection
Rainwater can be caught on a roof surface and directed into a clean container to use for drinking water. Using a mesh to strain bugs or large particles out of the water as well as boiling it can further reduce the risk of contracting an illness.
3. Fog and Dew Collection
Nets can be hung vertically to catch water droplets that then roll down into clean collection containers. Using a mesh to strain bugs and large particles out of the water and boiling it can further reduce the risk of contracting an illness.
4. Atmospheric Water Generators
The premise of these machines is to extract water from thin air. It cools down the air, which dehumidifies it and allows the water to collect in a container. It is a similar concept to how air conditioning units work, only instead of just letting the water drip off of the unit it is collected for consumption.
5. Reverse Osmosis
This method is very useful when dealing with salt water. It uses pressure to force water through several different types of filters, removing bacteria, viruses, dirt, salt, and many other types of substances. While this method results in extremely clean water, it also tends to be one of the more expensive options.
6. Filter Straws
These reusable straws contains a cloth filter which strains out nearly all bacteria and parasites. It lasts about three years and costs only a few dollars.
Adding chlorine can kill off bacteria and parasites. After adding it and stirring, let the water sit for a minimum of 30 minutes before drinking.
Treating and Preventing Illnesses
Children are especially susceptible becoming ill, and are more likely to suffer from complications and fatalities due to their illness. Therefore, it is crucial to know how to prevent and treat the most common illnesses that also lead to the most deaths in children: pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.
PLEASE CONSULT WITH A DOCTOR IF YOU OR A CHILD IN YOUR CARE CONTRACT ANY OF THESE ILLNESSES; THE SUGGESTIONS LISTED BELOW ARE BASED ON COMMON PRACTICES, BUT ONLY YOUR DOCTOR WILL UNDERSTAND YOUR INDIVIDUAL CIRCUMSTANCES AND CAN PROVIDE INSTRUCTIONS ACCORDINGLY:
Pneumonia is a lung infection that can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. The infection causes parts of the lungs to fill with fluid, which makes breathing difficult. Since many children in developing countries do not have access to treatment for pneumonia, it is the cause of approximately a third of deaths in children under 5 across the globe.
- Methods to prevent pneumonia:
1) Get vaccinated. Vaccines that prevent diseases that can cause pneumonia include influenzae type B, pneumococcal, pertussis, chicken pox and measles.
2) Avoid smoking and second-hand smoking.
3) Cover the face when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of bacteria that can cause pneumonia.
4) Hand washing with anti-bacterial soap, especially after using the bathroom, before cooking and eating, and after coughing or sneezing.
- Methods to treat pneumonia:
1) Antibiotics can be used to clear up infections caused by bacteria.
2) Antiviral medications can be used to clear up infections caused by viruses.
3) Drink lots of fluids and get lots of rest, especially if the infection is caused by a virus.
4) Avoid smoking, second-hand smoke, and even wood smoke. The smoke can irritate the lungs and make healing more difficult.
5) Do not fight the urge to cough, as this is how the body works to clear the lungs of an infection. Just ensure that the mouth is covered when coughing, and that hands are washed regularly.
6) Hot beverages can soothe sore throats.
7) If the pneumonia is especially severe, then intravenous fluids and oxygen therapy will need to be administered.
Diarrhea is the second leading killer of children around the world and can stunt a child’s growth. It is caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites that find their way into the body and cause loose stools, sometimes accompanied by vomiting, fevers, and abdominal pain. Deaths resulting from diarrhea are often caused by severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
- Methods to prevent diarrhea:
1) Wash the hands with soap, especially after using the bathroom and before cooking and eating. Educating families on proper hand washing and implementing handwashing education in schools is important.
2) Avoid contaminating drinking water with feces by performing cleaning and hand washing elsewhere, and setting up bathrooms a good distance away from any drinking water supply. Open defecation results in higher incidents of contaminated drinking water, so setting up clean and safe bathrooms is crucial.
3) Utilize rotavirus and measles vaccines, which prevent contracting the two viruses that commonly cause diarrhea.
- Methods to treat diarrhea:
1) Oral rehydration therapy is used to hydrate and correct electrolyte imbalances. Hydration kits contain water, sugar, and salts such as zinc, potassium, and sodium.
2) Supplements of probiotics can help balance out the digestive system with beneficial bacteria.
Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite that is spread through mosquitos. When bitten by a mosquito, the parasite is transferred to the host and causes symptoms such as fever, chills, and other flu-like symptoms. In more severe cases, it can cause organ damage, neurological issues, blood abnormalities, organ failure, and death. Even after being cured, relapses of malaria can occur. Certain medications can be used in the case of a relapse.
- Methods to prevent malaria:
1) Wear long sleeves and pants to reduce the chance of getting bitten by a mosquito.
2) Use a bug repellant (preferably without DEET, as that can be harmful to the liver) on skin or on clothes, or even around the home.
3) Sleep under a mosquito net to block mosquitos. Bug repellant can be applied to the net to increase its effectiveness.
4) Reduce the amount of stagnant water that is used for mosquitoes to breed in.
- Methods to treat malaria:
1) Use antimalarial drugs, which can be accompanied by medication to reduce symptoms such as fever and nausea.
2) Drink plenty of fluids to help the body fight off the illness.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious disease that occurs when the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosisenters the lungs and begin to grow, eventually spreading to other areas of the body. Symptoms normally include chest pain, coughing that is accompanied by presence of blood and/or phlegm, weakness, fever and chills. Since the bacteria are in the lungs, TB can be spread when the affected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. It is diagnosed through either a skin or blood test.
It is also possible to have latent TB, where the body fights off the bacteria on its own and therefore the bacteria becomes inactive. The person will still test positive for TB, but does not suffer from any symptoms and cannot spread it. However, this can still become an issue if the person’s immune system becomes compromised, which will allow the bacteria to begin multiplying and make the person ill. Since children have a weaker immune system, they are at a higher risk of having latent TB become active.
- Methods to prevent tuberculosis:
1) If possible, avoid people infected by TB.
2) For children and infants, it is advised that they only receive a TB vaccine if they are not already infected with TB and are continually exposed to other people infected with TB.
3) Covering the mouth when coughing and sneezing, and practicing handwashing afterwards.
4) If someone is diagnosed with latent TB, there are medicines that can be taken to prevent it from becoming active.
- Methods to treat tuberculosis:
1) Antibiotics are the only available treatment, and must be taken at the same time every day for 6-9 months to ensure that all of the bacteria have been killed.
2) If the patient has already had TB once before, then they may need to take a different course of antibiotics if the bacteria has become resistant to the set of antibiotics that had been used on the previous infection.
HIV & AIDS
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) attacks the cells in a person’s immune system, making it very easy for the affected person to become sick and even die due to an illness as simple as the common cold. It can be spread through sexual contact, drug equipment, pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.
If left untreated, HIV can progress into Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), where the body is left with very few white blood cells to fight off different illness. While neither HIV or AIDS are curable, there are still methods to prevent and treat these diseases.
- Methods to prevent HIV and AIDS:
1) If a woman becomes pregnant and either has HIV/AIDS or is at risk of being exposed to it, then she should begin taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) medications to reduce the risk of passing the virus to their baby. ART medications are safe to take while pregnant, and do not cause any ill effects in the unborn baby. If a mother is treated with ART early in her pregnancy, then the risk of passing on HIV to their baby is less than 1%.
2) The baby also receives ART for 4-6 weeks after they’re born to further reduce their risk of contracting HIV.
3) Mothers who test positive for HIV or AIDS should avoid breastfeeding and pre-chewing food for their baby.
4) C-sections will further reduce the risk of HIV being transmitted to the baby.
5) Parents and guardians can reduce the risk of children being assaulted, and therefore prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, by always knowing where they are at all times and ensure that they are only around trusted adults.
- Methods to treat HIV and AIDS:
1) ART medications are the only effective way to treat HIV and AIDS. Patients who test positive for HIV or AIDS should begin taking ART medications as soon as possible and must take the recommended dose every single day.
Psychosocial Support & Special Needs
1. Understanding the Importance of Psychosocial Support for Children in Alternative Care
One of the ways that determine a person’s quality of life is their ability to form healthy relationships with not only other people but also with themselves. This refers to their psychosocial well-being, which is defined by psychological scientists as the “inter- and intra-individual levels of positive functioning that can include one’s relatedness with others and self-referent attitudes that include one’s sense of mastery and personal growth.” A child’s psychological wellbeing is deeply embedded in having a healthy family and a supportive environment within their community of origin. Their ability to form these positive support systems and self-awareness consequently contributes towards a successful lifestyle for the young adult leaving the alternative care system.
Children who enter the alternative care system have, to some degree, had their psychosocial wellbeing negatively impacted. They’ve experienced life-changing events, such as the loss of a parent or separation from their community of origin, that can be highly stressful at their age. Some children may experience anxiety, suffer from attachment problems, sleep disturbances, and many other behavioral issues that heavily threaten their mental health and development. Careful consideration of these experiences is important in understanding how all stakeholders can positively contribute to the futures of children in alternative care.
When psychosocial support is needed, an assessment of the child’s wellbeing must be conducted in order to scope out the type of issues affecting the child, what resources are available to the child through their family or community, and how those resources can be strengthened for the benefit of everyone involved. Mental health interventions, such as therapy, psychiatry, or psychological counseling should be provided by trained professionals after the assessment and should reflect cultural relevance. These interventions are meant to empower children and allow them to feel included with the changes in their life. This encourages them to express their opinions and feel that they are actively contributing to the betterment of their quality of living.
With the right measures and actions towards protecting a child’s psychosocial wellbeing, the child is enabled to grow up and become a more resilient, independent, and healthy adult. Proper support allows the child to experience far less psychosocial stress in their lives, have strong support mechanisms throughout their lives, and become self-confident. It also makes them less likely to participate in acts of delinquency, unhealthy behaviors, or more passive displays of distress such as social withdrawal and difficulties forming relationships.
2. International Laws and Expectations Regarding Psychosocial Support
Internationally recognized organizations that are responsible for setting the standards for alternative care solutions for children and promoting their rights have all emphasized the importance of providing children with proper psychosocial support. They encourage the use of psychosocial activities within the lives of children that promote the children’s development, their relationships with others, their sense of control over their lives, and increase their confidence. The guidelines are directed towards all stakeholders supporting alternative care for children, such as caretakers, local agencies, state actors, and international agencies. Below are summarized excerpts from international guidelines and laws for providing psychosocial support to children in alternative care settings, that protect children from vulnerabilities and help them overcome adversities in the long-run.
3. a) Caretaker Responsibilities in Providing Psychosocial Support
Caretakers of children are the most closely involved in their psychosocial wellbeing and development. They have a responsibility to try to prevent distress in the children’s lives and respond to their psychosocial needs. As caregivers, they must try to promote stability for the child by showing them that the child consistently cared for.
First and foremost, caregivers should try to meet the day-to-day needs of children under their care, including any medical or health-related requirements, in order to build a sense of routine in the child’s life. The child should be given as balanced a diet as possible and have access to see a medical professional regarding any physical or psychosocial health concerns. Caregivers should also help the child to take any prescribed medicine, routine medical treatments, and immunizations.
In addition, children also require a lot of attention, affection, and reassurance when it comes to addressing their development. Babies and infants, especially, will require a lot of physical attention and should be alongside their caregivers as much as possible. Caregivers should try to plan some time every day as family time and allow everyone to talk about any event; they should not try to problem-solve but simply listen and give comfort. It is also important to be as patient as possible with children so they feel comfortable talking about events from their past, concerns for the future, and even just about their feelings or natural responses.
Caregivers should always involve children and provide opportunities for them to make and influence decisions, particularly regarding events or issues affecting them. Simple activities such as planning days with them can help children have a template for planning long-term life decisions and feel comfortable with the idea of setting goals to accomplish. They can also assist children in keeping in contact with family and friends once they leave the system so children will have a constant support system in their lives to look to.
3. b) Agencies’ Responsibilities in Making Sure Psychosocial Support is Provided
Agencies involved in providing alternative care solutions, also play a crucial role when it comes to psychosocial support because they not only act as a support system for the children in their care but also their families. Families may struggle to cope while having the responsibility for the care and protection of vulnerable children. Oftentimes, families are even unaware of the proper way to support their children. Agencies can help parents and alternative caregivers deal with their own distress, re-establish their capacity for good parenting, and re-affirm that they are not alone in this process.
There are a number of ways that agencies can positively contribute to the psychosocial wellbeing of children and families. International organizations encourage agencies to establish culturally specific programs and activities that build families’ awareness of constructive coping methods to employ and harmful practices to avoid. Examples of these include individual casework with families, group work, using media to convey information, or community-led initiatives. The degree of formality of such events can depend on the situation or community and is up to the agency and participants.
Agencies that provide alternative care solutions are also responsible for providing caregivers with access to basic services, which help alleviate the burden of financial strains. Many low-income households in developing countries often refrain from participating in alternative care because they simply cannot fully afford the care for a child, therefore agencies can provide an escape from this distress that would allow families to direct more of their attention towards the welfare of their child rather than income. Helping families have access to and awareness of appropriate social, health, legal, economic, and housing support is also important for enabling families to have social security and safety nets to lean on.
Finally, the largest responsibility agencies have is to monitor and promote children’s and their families’ psychosocial wellbeing. Regular family visits, check-ins, and opportunities to discuss problems and issues in an open and honest manner helps prevent families from breaking down. They can lead community events or outreach initiatives that encourage openness among members to share experiences involving psychosocial struggles and create a network of families helping each other, including both adults and children. They can also work with community stakeholders to conduct training and awareness sessions on issues regarding protection, sexual and gender-based violence, child rights, and available solutions and services. The essential aim of agencies is to act as a reliable support system for families participating in alternative care to provide them with the comfort they need to have healthy lifestyles.
4. Other Essential Factors Affecting Psychosocial Support
Children in alternative care already have to cope with personal grief when they enter the system, but they also have to endure additional stressors that arise from having to change their lifestyles and losing a home — making the situation even more difficult. Some strenuous situations include having to move to a new home or area, significant interruptions in their education, separation from their community of origin, financial strain, and even stigmatization. Positive psychosocial support often depends more on the maintenance of these additional factors that signify a child’s quality of care.
One of the strenuous factors is food security. Stable food security is obtained through the ability of a household to be able to provide enough food for the child. Malnutrition has been documented as a major factor that affects a child’s wellbeing, and severe child hunger has been associated with higher levels of psychosocial distress among children. Having an established means of food security is positively associated with a child’s motor development, mental development, and also cognitive ability in the long-run — which is why it is essential to pay attention to and monitor a child’s nutritional needs.
The physical place where a child lives, or the quality of shelter, also influences the psychosocial development of the child. A good shelter should allow the child to feel safe, provide security, comfort, and protection from external threats such as the weather. A stable shelter is also a place where a child has lived for at least the past six months, providing a “home-like” feeling. In addition, children should have access to adequate health care services that are age-appropriate, including proper immunizations, health education, other preventative measures, and appropriate medical care when ill. Having adequate healthcare is a large contributor to a child’s overall development and wellbeing, as improved health leads to improved functioning and quality of life.
Lastly, a child must have an identified caregiver in their life to help provide any other psychosocial support they may need and help build an emotionally secure environment. A child must be able to establish a nurturing relationship with their caregiver and always feel open and comfortable around them. Positive experiences with caregivers tend to promote the development of a sense of worth and self-esteem for a child and enable them to build an appropriate social-emotional connection with others. Without these experiences in their early childhood, the long-term development of children may suffer and they may grow up to have emotionally straining interactions as adults. The presence of consistent loving care is an important element in the health and psychosocial well-being of children in alternative care.
Transition to Home for Special Needs Children
1. Challenges Faced by Special Needs Children and Harms of Institutionalization
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) defines disabled or special needs persons as “those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. Children with special needs face countless challenges in obtaining an ideal alternative care solution. Many of them end up with institutions for various reasons, which is an extremely disadvantageous situation for them to be in.
Family poverty, stigma, discrimination, social exclusion, and lack of community resources and services for children and families with special needs all play a role in leading children to institutionalization. Parents of special needs children are often not involved in the decision to institutionalize their child, and in some cases and depending on their community, some healthcare staff encourage parents to place their child in an institution. Parents sometimes do not have the resources to properly provide for their children and become desperate — placing them in institutions. When a child has a psychosocial disability, the situation becomes much more difficult to understand, and many parents feel as though they have no choice but to place their child in an institution. This is because children with psychosocial disabilities need a range of services and support in order to live their lives, and parents require financial assistance to support their child’s needs and often don’t have the facilities or education to understand the needs of children. The human rights approach to children with disabilities puts emphasis on removing the barriers that prevent the full inclusion of such children, and their families, so they can be free of the harms of institutionalization in their futures.
The best place for a child to grow up is within a family. However, with the stigma around special needs children, it is commonly believed that institutions are a better home for them. This is almost never true, and growing up within a family is, in fact, equally as important for children with special needs because institutional environments perpetuate much more harm than good. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), institutional environments act as facilitators of violence and neglect for children with disabilities in many ways. Many institutions for children around the world are neither registered nor licensed to provide the expertise necessary for special needs children. The lack of registration also makes it almost impossible to monitor the work of these institutions and the children being affected by them. In addition, many institutions are overcrowded, have small rooms and wards, provide little contact between staff and children, thus creating an environment that is more abusive than caring.
This causes institutions to become impersonal, as staff often see their roles as general caretakers rather than sources of psychological care and support. Children often spend long periods in a room with no interaction with others, they may be physically restrained by being tied to their cots, and are exposed to physical violence. Children with psychosocial disabilities are especially at risk of sexual violence and emotional abuse, and may even be inappropriately given psychotropic medication for their disability. Staff at unregistered institutions often are either lacking in numbers or in training or both — providing improper treatment to children.
Children who spend a greater part of their lives in institutions have more prominent difficulties in reaching developmental milestones, however, a child who is placed in a family-based environment within the first six months of their life will have a substantially higher chance of optimal development. The lack of a quality relationship with a parent or caregiver leads to a higher chance of worsened mental and behavioral problems. Children with psychosocial disabilities in institutions also often develop attachment disorders.
2. International Laws and Expectations Protecting Special Needs Children
As an organization supporting the rights and needs of all children, regardless of their special needs, ONETrack International aims to prevent and eradicate all the challenges special needs children have to face and protect them by following and promoting the international standards set in place by UNICEF and WHO.
Based on The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, WHO lays out guidelines for protecting the rights of children with disabilities:
- The right to identity, birth registration, and the right of a child to be cared for by their parent.
- Children with disabilities should never be institutionalized solely on the grounds of disability, and are best cared for in a family environment.
- Freedom from torture or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to live in the community, and to access health-care services.
- The right to education, and for children with disabilities, the right to receive assistance so that they may access and receive that education.
- It is important to provide “inclusive” education — meaningful learning opportunities for all students (with or without disabilities) provided in the mainstream school system, with additional support to the needs of children with disabilities.
- Creating an inclusive educational environment requires changing the educational culture from one that discriminates against children with disabilities to one that welcomes and embraces diversity and differences.
- Early childhood intervention, consisting of multidisciplinary services, is recommended for children, usually up to 3-5 years of age, facing developmental challenges.
- This includes psychosocial support, physical and occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, nutrition support and other interventions that involve parents or caregivers in therapeutic activities.
- Parenting programs exist to equip parents and caregivers to meet the needs of their child, while peer support provides opportunities to share experiences with other parents and to learn that they and their children are not alone.
- Monitoring by independent authorities of families and communities involved in supporting children with special needs.
UNICEF additionally outlines, in more specificity, the guidelines protecting and promoting the rights and needs of children with disabilities in alternative care:
- Agencies should provide support to children, and their families and carers to prevent children with disabilities and other special needs being placed in alternative care where they could live with their families.
- This is because children with disabilities and other special needs are often placed in alternative care unnecessarily.
- Where this is not possible, alternative care should meet the needs of children with disabilities and other special needs.
- Policy, Guidance, Planning, and Assessment
- Develop strategies and services to ensure that children with disabilities are not placed, and do not remain, in alternative care on the basis of their or their parents’ disability alone.
- Provide integrated planning and support across services including health, education, child welfare, social protection, and housing to meet the needs of children with disabilities and other special needs and their families.
- Ensure that children with disabilities and other special needs are not placed in institutions and that this includes children aged 0-3 years. A range of care options appropriate to the needs of individual children should be provided as alternatives to institutions and where children cannot live at home.
- Providing appropriate care and support
- Require mechanisms to be in place so that the needs of children with disabilities and other special needs can be fully assessed and ensure that there is input from specialist professionals where needed.
- Ensure children with disabilities have access to education (including vocational training and tertiary education), rehabilitation services, occupational therapy, healthcare, and child welfare.
- Provide support for families caring for children with disabilities and other special needs. This could include financial support, daycare and respite care, education, health, community support, and rehabilitation services in order that parents and the extended family can care for their children.
- Provide planning, short term, temporary respite care for children with disabilities as one means to prevent placement in long-term formal care.
- Provide support including financial support so that foster carers and carers in family-based care appropriately care for children with disabilities. Where appropriate, children with disabilities should continue to receive support as they proceed more into adult life.
- Ensure that attention is given to the importance of early childhood development and early intervention to ensure that the needs of children with disabilities and other special needs are met.
- Require appropriate physical access to be provided within homes, residential facilities and services supporting children and their families.
- Ensure that children with disabilities and other special needs are fully protected by having child protection measures in place wherever they live.
- Provide appropriate care for children with disabilities in emergency settings.
- Require planning, resources, and support to be available to children with disabilities and other special needs when leaving care and aftercare.
- Promote awareness and counter stigmatization and discrimination
- Challenge and develop measures to counter discrimination and stigmatization of children with disabilities and other special needs and their families. This should include training and awareness-raising for carers.
- Promote awareness for the rights of children with disabilities and other special needs and encourage the extended family, community and civil society to provide informal support.
- Collect and analyze data and undertake research to better understand the needs of children with disabilities and other special needs and to inform alternative care service.
International human rights law recognizes the difficulties children with special needs face when entering the alternative care system and places detailed guidelines on how organizations around the world are responsible for maintaining and protecting the rights of these children. If these expectations are not met, these challenges will persist for children for generations, leading to continued low quality of life. ONETrack International is dedicated to abide by and promote these guidelines in all of its projects with the aim of providing appropriate care and support for special needs children, and an upbringing that is inclusive and free from stigmatization.
3. Factors Affecting Special Needs Children that Require Monitoring
Providing proper care and support for children with special needs requires many considerations by all the stakeholders involved. Different children, all have different needs and need support at varying levels and ways. Stakeholders must understand all these factors and monitor them throughout the lives of these children so that they can implement the ideal conditions for the wellbeing of the child. Here is a simple breakdown of the different types of special needs that children may need, with details obtained from the Arrow Child & Family Ministries:
Primary Medical Needs
Some children enter the alternative care system with a serious ongoing illness or chronic condition that requires expert attention and the use of medical equipment.
The characteristics of these type of special needs children include one or more of the following:
- Occasional to frequent exacerbations or intermittent to intensive interventions in relation to the diagnosed medical condition
- Moderate to serenely limited inability to perform daily living and self-care skills
- Daily to 24-hour/day access to on-site, skilled caregivers with demonstrated competence in the interventions needs by children in their care
Developmental Delays / Intellectual Disabilities
Some children in the alternative care system experience developmental delays or intellectual disabilities, either before entering the system or during it.
The characteristics of these children include one or more of the following:
- Minor to severe difficulties with conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills
- Minor to severe impairment in communication, cognition, or expressions of affection
- Lack of motivation or the inability to complete self-care activities or participate in social activities
- Inability to respond appropriately to an emergency
- Multiple physical disabilities including sensory impairments
Children with emotional disorders oftentimes remain in residential treatment centers or emergency shelters while waiting for a family willing to invest the time and effort necessary to help them. These children with emotional disorders such as mood disorders, psychotic disorders, or dissociative disorders, and who demonstrate three or more of the following characteristics:
- A Global Assessment Functioning of 50 or below
- A current DSM diagnosis
- Major self-injurious actions, including recent suicide attempts
- Difficulties that present a significant risk of harm to others, including frequent or unpredictable physical aggression
- A primary diagnosis of substance abuse or dependency and severe impairment because of the substance abuse
Due to these various needs, many of these children end up in hospitals or other similar institutional settings when what they really need is a dedicated, skilled, and nurturing family. A child with medical or rehabilitation needs may require regular interventions from a skilled caregiver who has demonstrated understanding and knowledge of the child’s needs. This does not mean that this caregiver can only be found in an institutional setting, as family members can be trained and given the resources to provide for their child.
Guidelines indicate that these children need a structured supportive treatment setting, where caregivers are provided with specialized training to be able to give therapeutic support and any intervention necessary to improve the child’s functioning. This can include actions such as routine guidance and supervision, affection, reassurance, and involvement in the day-to-day activities of the child — providing them with a sense of development and security. Caregivers should also always have the freedom to reach out to and contact professionals for guidance and establish regularly scheduled appointments to keep track of the child’s wellbeing.
4. Community Engagement and Tackling Stigma & Discrimination
Community attitudes and actions heavily influence the wellbeing of a special needs child, which is why it is essential to engage the whole community in helping to break down the barriers that contribute to children’s exclusion. Inclusive local communities with strong social networks not only improve the quality of living for the children but also the entire community itself. When communities do not understand disability, they can become less inclusive and make it seem impossible for a family to be willing to foster a child with disabilities. Proper engagement requires making sure that all members of the community understand the rights and needs of children with disabilities and are willing to help enforce and promote those rights.
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Youth Development & After Care
1. The Significance of Early Childhood and Adolescent Development
Youth development is a process in a child’s life that prepares and guides them through the challenges of adolescence and adulthood in order to help them develop their full potential. It is a multi-faceted approach that assists youth in developing social, ethical, emotional, physical, and cognitive competencies. An investment in youth developmental factors is a direct investment in the successful future of a child. Studies indicate that positive youth development contributes to several long-term benefits for a child, such as the reduction in risky behaviors, higher grades and expectation to going on to forth education, more successful transitions into adulthood, improved social and emotional interactions, a greater likelihood of contributing to communities, and improved mental health.
Renowned international institutions like UNICEF, Council of Europe, and Red Cross have dedicated themselves to establishing meaningful and measurable guidelines targeted towards positive youth development — encouraging agencies to invest every effort into making the alternative care system a positive experience for children and their families. Below are the associated international guidelines that involve promoting positive youth development in alternative care systems:
UN General Assembly Resolution 64/142: Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children
Purpose: The present guidelines are intended to enhance the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and of relevant provisions of other international instruments regarding the protection and wellbeing of children who are deprived of parental care or who are at risk of being so.
- Children must be treated with dignity and respect at all times and must benefit from effective protection from abuse, neglect, and all forms of exploitation, whether on the part of care providers, peers, or third parties, in whatever care setting they may find themselves.
- Attention must be paid to promoting and safeguarding all other rights of special pertinence to the situation of children without parental care, including, but not limited to, access to education, health, and other basic services, the right to identity, freedom of religion or belief, language and protection of property and inheritance rights.
Early Childhood Development
- The formative early years of a child’s life demand a nurturing environment and attentive care
- Optimal brain development requires a stimulating environment, adequate nutrients, and social interaction with attentive caregivers.
- The quality of care within a child’s home environment
- Optimal conditions include a safe and well-organized physical environment, opportunities for children to play, explore, and discover, and the presence of developmentally appropriate objects, toys, and books.
- Within the home, caregivers are tasked with establishing a safe, stimulating, and nurturing environment and providing direction and guidance in daily life.
- Interactions with responsible caregivers who are sensitive and responsive to children’s emerging abilities are central to social, emotional, and cognitive development.
- This type of nurturing care can help children feel valued and accepted, promote healthy reactions, provide a model for acceptable social relationships, and contribute to later academic and employment success.
- Access to early childhood care and education
- Important in providing children with the basic cognitive and language skills they need to flourish in school.
- Investing in early childhood education can be a powerful way to reduce gaps that often put children with low social and economic status at a disadvantage.
- The overall development status of children
- Children develop at different speeds and may reach developmental milestones at different times.
- Despite variations in the pace and rate at which children develop, all children have an inherent right to develop to their fullest potential. The Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly highlights the importance of early child development, stating that a child has a right to develop to “the maximum extent possible” (article 6), and that “States Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development” (article 27).
UNICEF, Moving Forward: Implementing the ‘Guidelines for Alternative Care of Children’
Support the rights of children and their families
- Take the needs of young children with disabilities and other special needs and their families into account in response to the high number in residential facilities
- Provide support to families who need it so that children aged 0-3 years can remain in the family. This may include: daycare and respite care, financial and welfare support, parenting education and counseling and access to appropriate housing
- Explore ways of communicating changes in care to young children in ways which are appropriate to their age and capacity and providing them with support as part of this transition
- Provide guidance so that children aged 0-3 years are placed in family-based settings with their siblings
Ensure that children and their families participate fully
- Provide training, guidance, and support to carers so that they can support the participation of children and their families
- Supporting families to prevent abandonment and relinquishment
2. Developmental Challenges Children in Alternative Care Face
There are various sorts of challenges that children face before entering alternative care, during alternative care, and even after when they’re independent and living their own lives. They are faced with complications ranging from physical health, mental health, to developmental problems during a period in their lives where brain development is most critical. For every effort to be made to protect children from these challenges, it is important to understand where these issues are rooted. Only then, can guidelines be established that allows agencies, families, and communities to develop practices that serve as a healing process for a child.
In order for a child to be psychologically healthy, they must be able to form a relationship with a caregiver who is nurturing, protective, fosters trust and security, and acts as a figure of permanence for the child. Young children stepping into alternative care might have gone through significant emotional and cognitive disruptions that have the potential to impair brain development. This is why it should be the first priority to ensure that children are provided a stable and permanent environment that fulfills a need for continuity in their lives. The disruptions caused in their lives prior to an alternative care solution have ingrained children with a sense of uncertainty and instability, thus the feeling of having a home and ability to attach themselves to a caregiver reinforces security and trust for them.
Attachment to a primary caregiver, however, shouldn’t only be measured by placement in a permanent home, but also by a relationship between the caregiver and child that fosters the development of emotional security and social conscience. A child attaches themselves and sees a caregiver as a parent who provides attention towards the child’s day-to-day needs of physical care, nourishment, comfort, affection, and stimulation. The inability to form this type of connection for young children reflects heavily on their behavior in their adulthood, as their inability to trust and love translates into negative reactions to future situations.
Interruptions in the continuity of the child’s caregiver can also potentially have detrimental impacts on the development of the child. They can add stress to the child’s brain development and contribute to inadequate parenting, inhibiting the child from developing a sense of self in the long-term. It leads children to perceive their sense of time exclusively on the present and not the future — letting them see life as temporary phases rather than with permanence. Therefore, the assignment of a primary caregiver who provides the child with psychological support should be cautiously considered and given a lot of importance, as disruptions in the continuity of caregivers have a more adverse impact.
The early childhood and adolescent years in an individual are some of the most cognitively formative years when it comes to development, and can be especially challenging to navigate for children in alternative care.
Early childhood is a period in a child’s life that spans up to 8 years of age and is critical for cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development. The child’s brain during this stage is highly responsive to their environment and experiences, and optimal brain development for a child requires a stimulating environment encompassing adequate nutrients and positive social interactions with primary caregivers. As children grow older and enter adolescence, they experience tremendous growth and development. Adolescents explore the ideas of their identity, set future goals, advance new skills, and take on new roles and responsibilities. At the same time, their hormones contribute heavily to physical changes and emotions as their brain experiences a growth spurt.
The most important challenge to note when it comes to development for children in alternative care is that all children develop at different speeds and levels due to the past disruptions in their lives. The level of a child’s literacy-numeracy skills, physical development, social-emotional skills, and brain development may not always correlate with their age and what is considered to be normal child development. In addition, normal child development is relative across different cultures and environments, as expectations and parenting styles vary among countries, cultures, ethnicities, or religions. However, the differences in the rate of development do not take away from the child’s right to develop to their full potential. It simply requires all stakeholders to be more mindful of these differences and tendencies.
Youth entering alternative care have often previously experienced abuse or neglect to some degree, and as a result, patterns of impulsive and risky behaviors can potentially be more pronounced. Their past experiences may have negatively affected their limbic system, which acts as a first responder to threatening situations, causing children to be more susceptible to impulsive behavior. Especially during their teenage years, youth may appear to be physically mature however may still not have fully developed brains to make informed decisions and control their emotions. The adolescent brain is actively engaging in strengthening connections among brain cells (synapses), that help teenagers to more easily absorb new information and skills. Part-taking in the right activities and developing the right habits regularly will not only effectively help shape a child’s decision-making skills, but also weaken the negative tendencies that their past experiences have affected them with. Participants responsible for the development of a child, such as parents or caregivers, must be made aware of these tendencies and encourage youth to participate in positive risk-taking behaviors and activities that result in growth opportunities.
The challenges of youth development can often persist as adolescents are transitioning into adulthood and need to have well-developed self-esteem and self-efficacy skills that allow them to navigate multiple adult contexts, including education and employment, and family and friends. The points stated above all contribute towards a child’s understanding of self, their environment, and act as a behavioral compass for them to consistently make informed decisions.
3. Transitioning out of Alternative Care and Aftercare
The final step in developing sustainable alternative care is the transition period to aftercare. According to a UNICEF report, Moving Forward: Implementing the ‘Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children’, preparing a child for leaving care into aftercare support is an essential part of an effective alternative care solution. When little to no importance is given to this transitional period for children, the consequences in all parts of the world are often very detrimental. Some of these consequences can include homelessness, substance abuse, offensive behavior, incarceration, etc. — all of which indicate the failure of the alternative care system of preparing a child for a successful future.
The international guidelines for Aftercare Support by UNICEF highlight the implementation of practices while children are in the alternative care system that properly prepares them for adulthood. They insist that the aftercare process begins during the child’s care and should be a gradual and supervised process that involves careful planning and following up with children and their families.
Successful transitions are built on the following foundations:
Good quality placements that provide young people with stability and continuity of care.
A positive experience of education.
Assessing and responding to young people’s health and emotional needs.
Preparation in self-care, practical and interpersonal skills.
Although seemingly simplistic, it is extremely tough to form successful transitions for children in alternative care. Studies have shown that some of the biggest barriers that exist for children leaving care are the absence of supportive relationships, educational challenges, housing instability, and economic challenges like unemployment. Research indicates that there are apparent trends in the challenges faced by young people after care, however, there are also implementable solutions that can prevent these challenges from existing in the first place.
One of the most prominent and basic challenges for youth leaving alternative care is problems with physical or behavioral health and general wellbeing.
Many former alternative care youth have reported going through a higher incidence of health problems than non-alternative care youth, including hospitalization due to illness, accidents, injuries, drug use, or emotional problems. Mental health disorders are also significant for youth leaving alternative care, including depression, dysthymia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social phobia, alcohol abuse or dependence, and substance abuse or dependence.
The lack of basic wellbeing measures for youth often translates into their relationships, forming a lack of social connections and positive interactions.
Many youths in alternative care are unable to form positive, supportive relationships during their time in care which inhibits their brain development and leads to unhealthy behavior in the future. The lack of a mentor or non-parental adult during their care can lead to psychological damage, alcohol and substance abuse, and possible misconduct. As children entering the alternative system, many of them have had turbulent experiences with adults in the past, which is why developing strong relationships during their time in care and before leaving care is important.
Studies have shown that permanent relationships with positive adults are a powerful protective factor against negative outcomes and can provide the right support to youth as they transition to adulthood. Youth who have formed connections with mentors, such as teachers, or other non-parental adults have reported to enhance their outcomes in terms of education/employment, health, as well as decreased participation in unhealthy behaviors.
One of the largest challenges to exist for youth leaving care is problems regarding unstable housing or homelessness, as well as educational and employment opportunities.
Prior to being placed in an alternative care solution, children may have already missed many days or even months of school, setting them back from other children their age. During their time in care, youth also have a tough time meeting educational standards, especially while trying to adjust to all the other challenges they have to face at the same time. This tends to discourage them from pursuing future educational opportunities, such as college.
Alternative care youth are also known to have limited work histories and job training opportunities. Many have a hard time holding a steady job after ‘aging out’ or lack the incentive and academic preparation to attend a higher education institution or training program. They are then limited to only obtaining employment through lower paying wages, making them vulnerable to poverty and the inability to establish complete independence.
The lack of growth opportunities often results in unstable housing or homelessness issues for youth transitioning out of alternative care. Without the right opportunities, they become less likely to be able to pay a mortgage or rent, and more likely to experience homelessness within a year of ‘aging out’. This exposes them to risks associated with living in poverty or even violence.
Finally, the collection of all these challenges occurring together can lead to youth’s involvement with the justice system, in addition to having lesser access to forms of public assistance.
Youth in alternative care who have a history of abuse and/or neglect are at a higher risk of becoming exposed to or involved in crime. This could occur due to a lack of support networks, low employment skills, and unstable living arrangements. Public assistance is also limited in its reach of supporting youth after they have ‘aged out’.
Despite the many difficulties faced by youth transitioning out of alternative care, there are also many preventative and protective measures and practices that parents, agencies, and coordinators of alternative care solutions can conduct to ease the struggle. As mentioned, the process of transitioning into adulthood and self-sufficiency is gradual and requires steps and actions throughout the developmental years of the child and not just the last couple of months before they leave care. It is important to note that regardless of their adverse histories, youth in alternative care are extremely adaptable to any lifestyle and completely capable of developing healthy relationships and demonstrating positive behavior.
Many child welfare organizations stress that youth are more likely to succeed if they are exposed to protective factors, which are conditions that buffer risks and improve the likelihood of future positive outcomes. Some important examples of protective factors include self-regulation skills (being able to manage or control emotions and behaviors), relational skills (the ability to develop positive bonds and relationships), academic skills, and a positive school environment. Agencies, youth coordinators, and parents of children in alternative care can all work together to create these circumstances for a child. By helping them strengthen their sense of self and confidence, youth will be more likely to model the positive behavior instilled in them, rather than resorting to unhealthy behavior. Some simple actions that can be implemented are modeling a positive outlook, helping them build connections, encouraging goal setting, viewing challenges as learning opportunities, teaching self-care, and providing opportunities to help others.
Parents or caregivers of youth in alternative care also play an important role in the aftercare and transitioning to adulthood process. They are integral in encouraging positive behaviors for young people, as they can help propel the young adult’s growing independence and even act as a guide and support system as the youth explores and navigates their way through new experiences. By giving them opportunities to show responsibility, balanced with continued support, and involving youth with decision-making and planning processes, caregivers and parents can instill values of independence within youth. Parents also should become a part of the youth’s transition plan, by helping them through activities that build new skills and knowledge, allowing the youth to carry out their plan. A transition plan is a valuable tool for youth leaving care and addresses specific needs for aftercare, including health and mental health services, health insurance, housing, education, employment, and community support. In correspondence with the transition plan, caregivers can help by preparing youth to take care of their ongoing physical and mental health needs. This plan should be made in partnership with the youth so they are themselves aware of all the challenges they may face and are prepared to tackle them with resiliency and planning ahead. Finally, caregivers should always try to consult agencies that are experts in youth development in alternative care so they can all work together to build a strong foundation for the youth’s future.
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