This summer I am working with Save the Children’s monitoring and evaluation team in the El Salvador office. For the past month, I have coordinated the midline evaluation of a package of programs focused on early childhood care and development. Over the last several weeks, four teams made up of surveyors and nutritionists have collected data from several dozen communities where Save the Children is implementing a collection of programs called the Essential Package.
The Essential Package was originally developed by several organizations, including CARE and Save the Children, to address the needs of young children and their caregivers affected by HIV/AIDS. It was mostly implemented in sub-Saharan Africa but is now being piloted in El Salvador, where poverty and significantly high violent crime rates affect young children and their caregivers. This midline evaluation will measure the impact of the Essential Package and highlight areas where it can be better adapted to the Salvadoran context.
We are currently gathering data on early childhood development and nutrition, as well as family practices regarding health and education. Save the Children is carrying out this study with input from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education. For example, all measurements of height and weight are conducted in the field by nutritionists who received special training from the Ministry of Health specifically for this project.
A caregiver survey, designed with input from the Ministry of Education, is an important part of the evaluation. Here, Mauricio Argueta interviews a young mother in Western El Salvador.
Personnel from the Ministry of Education were trained by Save the Children and are implementing the Essential Package programs in numerous communities. One question that the current evaluation seeks to answer is: How does the impact of the Essential Package on early childhood care and development vary according to whether it was delivered by the Ministry of Education or by Save the Children?
Before beginning the data collection, we met with the head of the department of early childhood pedagogy at the Ministry of Education to discuss the evaluation. The meeting provided the important opportunity to ensure that we collected data of interest to the Ministry, such as the frequency in which young children are left home alone or in the care of other children.
Meeting with government officials, modifying surveys, and scheduling additional training takes time and resources. But Salvadoran policy makers in health and education are the most important consumers of this research. Coordinating with them on educational and health evaluations is an important part of the monitoring and evaluation process at Save the Children El Salvador.
In addition to the survey designed with input from the Ministry of Education, we will measure early childhood development with the Ages and Stages (ASQ-3) questionnaire. This instrument measures the development of children up to five and a half years old in areas such as communication, fine motor skills, and problem solving. It was developed in the United States and has also been used in numerous studies in Latin America.
As part of Ages and Stages evaluation, Raúl López observes one measure of gross motor skills in 4- year-olds: The ability to catch a ball with 2 hands.
The data collection process is well underway. The evaluation teams are now well-organized and are able to handle many of the logistical details on their own. As a result, I am getting ready to switch gears. The data collected so far is currently being digitized and we will get our first look at it in the next few days.