This is the first of a five-post blog series introducing Whole Child’s new project in El Salvador.  Today, we begin with an overview of the initiative. The next three posts will introduce you to the project’s three main components. The final post in the series will be a post explaining the connection between the project and the ongoing migration crisis at the US/Mexico border.

On November 13, 2018 in San Salvador, the U.S. Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and Whole Child International formally launched the Protection and Quality of Care for Children project.  The project, a $7.4 million investment over five years — $4.9 million from USAID and $2.5 million from Whole Child International — will support the Salvadoran government to further strengthen its capacity to provide care, protection, and development for vulnerable children and their families.

The collaboration involves supporting government efforts to assess key aspects of the national child protection system including social-service workforce capacity, case management, the quality of residential care, and transitions from institutional to family-based care.  Assessment results will be used to refine and implement national policies and practices to improve children’s well-being and safety. Safety of children is a preeminent concern given the levels of violence in El Salvador. Through the training of care center workers and by working directly with families, the project will help ensure that children receive developmental support in safe, nurturing environments.

This is a public-sector capacity-building project focused on care reform.  Whole Child has years of experience in El Salvador working in collaboration with government departments responsible for the care of vulnerable children.  ISNA, the government department in charge of the “comprehensive development of children” has been and will be our main partner. We are well prepared — and honored — to continue this partnership.

Given the project’s emphasis on strengthening systems and human capacity, Whole Child is expanding the range and depth of technical support available to the government under the project through an alliance with the USC School of Social Work.

The project in a nutshell focuses on an objective of fundamental importance to El Salvador: Increased capacity of the government of El Salvador to protect and care for children most at risk of being victims or perpetrators of violence.

Project activities are organized around three key results necessary to achieve the objective:

  1. Strengthening systems to support children without adequate family care.  This entails, among other things, supporting government efforts to assess El Salvador’s deinstitutionalization experience to date, assess the quality of public and NGO residential care, and map case management and supervision.
  2. Increasing knowledge and skills in childcare best practices in 200+ public sector Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centers and in the 30 remaining public and private sector residential care centers.  This entails, among other things, training key personnel from ISNA and other government departments, training and mentoring all levels of residential care staff, and training and mentoring field supervisors who oversee care in the ECCD centers.
  3. Institutionalizing family-based-care best practices.  This entails, among other things, developing policies and protocols to enable the transformation of residential care to include family-based care; training ISNA and protection center staff on new case management practices and protocols; and piloting approaches to transition institutional care facilities to focus on family-based care.

The three posts that follow in this series will go into a bit more detail on each of these three project components, and one additional post will put it into the context of the migration “crisis.”