Nationwide Collaborative Strategy
Whole Child International’s program has benefited from nearly a decade’s worth of program development, third-party evaluation, and research. One lesson from this process has been that while our direct work with caregivers and their administrators is important, other relationships are crucial to the initial success, sustainability, and long-term effectiveness of our work. The result is a program that looks different than was originally imagined, but one that we believe will create an important model for the implementation of similar reforms in global development.
Collaboration with Government
Early-childhood programs have been shown to have the potential to generate government savings that more than repay their costs and produce returns to society as a whole that outpace most public and private investments. Whole Child offers this kind of return on investment for governments, who in turn can help fully integrate childcare best practices across systems of care and ensure that all stakeholders have adequate knowledge of these practices.
Whole Child’s program has been designed to work from the beginning with full cooperation of government ministry authorities who are responsible for oversight and regulation of caregiving for children. We partner with national authorities to assess their challenges and resources and advocate for meeting children’s basic emotional needs while elevating the overall quality of childcare. Ultimately, we aim to incorporate our principles into the country’s regulatory framework. Working with the government ensures that our work is sustainable and cost-effective, and that creation of capacity through our program impacts the childcare system across the country in the long term.
Whole Child is delighted to be working with the government of El Salvador to take our program in that country to scale. The project will involve the implementation of our program in 204 childcare centers and 13 residential care centers across the country.
In addition to our collaboration with local universities and governments, Whole Child works to partner with other organizations where our efforts can make a direct impact. For instance, in our work in Nicaragua, we have partnered with a Nicaraguan nonprofit organization called Los Pipitos, which meets key program needs while squeezing another level of impact out of our budgetary dollar.
Los Pipitos is a Nicaraguan association for parents of children with special needs, comprised of 15,000 families and representing 75,000 people. Los Pipitos’ chapter in Esteli, in northern Nicaragua, runs a youth center that teaches woodworking and other trades, ultimately producing very high-quality simple objects with national wood, nontoxic paint and stains, and the beauty that comes from doing good work well.
Generally the objects that best meet the needs of developmentally vulnerable children are the simplest – balls, blocks, bowls, and furnishings that provide just the right amount of stimulation to engage the imagination without overwhelming a group of children at play. Today’s standard children’s toys – emblazoned with superheroes, logos, flashing lights, and superfluous sound – don’t do the trick. In fact, they often can get in the way of the child/caregiver relationship. For Whole Child, this means we can’t rely on donations of used toys and need to budget for the creation of items for play and exploration.
Happily, the Los Pipitos Esteli partnership ensures that Whole Child can provide high-quality appropriate wooden toys and furniture to our partner organization, and that we can help provide crucial job training in the process.
Government Officials Are Key Partners
Initially Whole Child’s program consisted of a caregiver training program and a separate series for orphanage administrators. Other stakeholders, such as key social workers and government ministry personnel, were invited to observe. Over the ensuing years, the major-stakeholder training program has taken on much more importance. Today, policymakers and overseers of childcare systems are a crucial constituency, taking part in Whole Child’s training programs taught on the university level.
Collaboration with Academia
To read about our partnerships with academia, which help build the human resources necessary for our work, please see the “Building Knowledge” page.