This is the third of a five-post blog series introducing our USAID-funded “Protection and Quality of Care for Children Project” exploring its three principal components, and putting it all into a wider context. (Jump back to Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

The second component of the project focuses on building the capacity of ISNA, the Salvadoran government’s ministry of child services, and its training school to plan, deliver, and sustain a comprehensive national training and mentoring program which will help improve the quality of care and developmental outcomes among El Salvador’s most vulnerable children.

Training and mentoring focus on the range of people involved in planning and delivering quality care: the caregivers themselves, their mentor-supervisors, technical leaders, academics, policymakers, members of the judiciary involved in child welfare and protection, and, of course, parents.

Training content focuses on key topics related to best policy and practice in child development, childcare, and child protection including the neuroscience of early child development and the buffering effect of nurturing care relationships that create resilience to the toxic stress of an environment of extreme violence. The mentoring component involves one-on-one follow-up on the results of our assessments of residential care centers and support for early childhood caregivers in the early childhood care and development (ECCD) centers.  It is a key step towards improvement of care after the initial assessments are carried out in Part 1.

Five best practices for quality childcare in limited-resource settings are at the core of all training and mentoring:

  • Responsive relationship-centered caregiving.
  • Continuous primary care.
  • Small groups.
  • Freedom of movement; and
  • Individuality and identity.

Prior work by Whole Child and partners in El Salvador demonstrated that a key challenge to improving care quality is to effectively improve communication between supervisors and caregivers. Therefore, training of supervisors and directors will include a substantial focus on best practice in mentoring — developing capacity to support behavior change in respectful and productive ways which helps ensure best care practices are maintained.

The training program will not only increase the use of best caregiving practices, but it will strengthen the critical mass of practitioners and policymakers equipped to champion national care reform more broadly by, for example, strengthening the social service workforce, carefully moving children from institutional care to family-based care, and strengthening systems to monitor their care in families — which will be the subject of our next blog post.

The next post will explore the third component of this project, “Family-Based Care Practices” — a series of interventions that will help residential care centers expand their social services and train care center staff to provide desperately needed case management in a country that has far too few social workers to respond to its citizens’ child protection needs. (Jump to Part 4 — “Family-Based Care Practices.”)