Thanks to support from the Inter-American Development Bank and the Korean Poverty Reduction Fund, Whole Child has begun its national program in El Salvador. This program is designed to elevate the quality of childcare so that more than 7,000 of the country’s most vulnerable children will have the opportunity to develop to their full potential. After formalizing our partnership with the government of El Salvador’s Institute for Integral Development for Children and Adolescents (ISNA), we initiated a groundbreaking national study in partnership with Duke University to evaluate all childcare centers financed by the government, their personnel, and the children in the centers. The study will serve as a baseline to measure the impact of our assistance in coming years, which will include providing five levels of training to more than 10,000 people and working with 208 centers to improve their environments, materials, and management to favor child development.
For the baseline evaluation we are using an innovative new childcare assessment tool, WCI-QCUALS (please see our publications page for more information), which we developed with Duke University to meet unfulfilled evaluation needs unique to limited-resource childcare settings. The tool is designed to assess quality of care by evaluating practices essential for children’s well-being, health, and development. It is now being used as an electronic application for Android platforms smartphones and tablets, which we are looking forward to making more broadly available in the near future.
Following the baseline study, we are providing WCI-QCUALS to the Salvadoran government along with the tablets and training needed to evaluate the childcare centers on an ongoing basis. We are passionate about giving governments the capacity to regularly evaluate the quality of childcare at no charge, which is critical to sustainability and to ensuring high quality of care. Our evaluators are also using complementary tools (including the Battelle Development Index) to measure children’s weight and height and children’s development milestones. Together, the evaluation tools used will provide an unprecedented breadth of data to measure the impact that our training and technical assistance has on the quality of childcare as well as on children’s psychological, emotional, and physical development.
To initiate the baseline evaluation process, in February 2015 our team of evaluators from the Central American University, Whole Child personnel, and ISNA staff visited all 208 centers that we are evaluating, whose 4,000-plus staff members care for the country’s most vulnerable children. Over the next two years we will train orphanage and childcare center staff as well as parents and government authorities, while mentoring them through the process of improving programs to better meet children’s developmental and social-emotional needs.
Our first effort will be with 10 pilot centers, collaborating with the Central American University to support teaching, learning, and the sustainable application of best practices in early-childhood systems of care through a University certificate program for management in early-childhood care starting in March. Early-childhood interventions have a well-documented return on investment, which are even more critical in developing countries as they helps break the cycle of poverty by leading youth to having more stable, successful and productive lives. These interventions will help not only the children currently in these centers reach their full development, but future generations as well.