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Facilitator Feedback: the key to programme success?

(18 April 2018) A recent UNICEF Innocenti paper, Delivering a Parenting Programme in Rural South Africa: The Local Child and Youth Care Worker Experience, explores the perceptions and experiences of parenting programme facilitators in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The qualitative study builds on previous quantitative research and helps answer the question: How effective is parenting support in reducing violence? Anyone who has ever had a teenager living under their roof understands that raising adolescents can be a challenge. These difficulties become even more pronounced in vulnerable communities, such as the Eastern Cape in South Africa. In 2012, 49% of households in this region had no employed adult, with 80% of children living in income poverty. 33% of children were not living with their biological parents. The area had the highest percentage of assaults in South Africa in 2016. Despite these figures, the Eastern Cape provincial government is committed to change and has invested in community-owned parenting programmes. Child maltreatment is a serious public health problem. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse affects an estimated 95 million children across the world every year. The high prevalence and seriousness of child maltreatment has resulted in a growing interest in parenting programmes. These preventative interventions can improve child and adolescent well-being by increasing positive parenting leading to reduced violence in the home. “SinovuyoTeen Parent Programme” is one such programme.The programme was the result of a collaborative effort between multiple bodies. Child and Youth Care workers of the Isibindi programme were trained by Clowns without Borders to facilitate SinovuyoTeen Parent Programme in 2014. A recent Innocenti study describes the perceptions and experiences of the SinovuyoTeen facilitators. The publication forms part of a suite of papers emanating from an exploration of the effectiveness and scalability of a parenting programme in South Africa. A pre-post study, conducted in 2014, quantifiably revealed the positive impact of SinovuyoTeen in the Eastern Cape, including reducing child abuse and improving positive parenting. This study complements the quantitative results with the narratives of the programme facilitators, without whom the programme could not have been offered.CARE WORKERS: THE KEY TO PROGRAMME SUCCESSThe analysis of focus group discussions revealed four consistent themes:Programme ownership and adaptations:  facilitators provided recommendations, including content adaptions and logistical suggestions.Professional synergies: complementarity existed between traditional child and youth work tasks and SinovuyoTeen activities.Value of trust between child and youth care workers: facilitators had a pre-existing level of trust with the families who benefitted from the programme owing to their child and youth care work in the community.Personal impact on the facilitators as parents: facilitators themselves reported a positive impact on interactions with their own children.These results culminate to highlight the importance of understanding and considering the perceptions and experiences of the facilitators who deliver a parenting programme. Their accounts can contribute to programme improvement, ensuring cultural acceptability and logistical viability, prior to scaling-up the initiative. Additionally, involving facilitators in programme adaptation increases their sense of ownership of the programme, which can in turn affect successful programme delivery.Minenhle Majola, 13, does schoolwork at her home in Matshesi Village in KwaZulu-Natal Province.  Complementing previous work, this study revealed insights that were best captured through qualitative methods, especially focus group discussions among facilitators. This is particularly significant when considering the vital, multi-dimensional role facilitators played in testing SinovuyoTeen while continuing their family support work.“The value of our qualitative work was to hear the voices of a range of people involved,” says Heidi Loening-Voysey, UNICEF Innocenti’s Research and Evaluation Specialist (Child Protection). “You can get a sense of how their professional and personal lives have changed as a result of the programme.” Follow UNICEF Innocenti on Twitter and Facebook to be informed when the full suite of studies is released. You can also view other content related to this topic in the column on the right. Find out more about the World Health Organisation’s Parenting for Lifelong Health programme here. 
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Can you measure the value of sport?

(6 April 2018) Sport for Development (S4D) is an intervention which can potentially deliver positive impact on children’s well-being. However, with little coordination between S4D organisations and a lack of rigorous evidence proving its value, there is a vacuum of concrete information and lessons learned in the sector. UNICEF Innocenti has initiated a new research project looking to fill this gap by building an evidence base to support improved S4D programming and policy to increase the impact of sport beyond the playing field.Sport is a powerful communal experience, bridging boundaries of language, religion and culture; engaging billions of supporters and participants. Beyond physical well-being, UNICEF has long recognized that sport can have many additional beneficial effects for children. In fact, Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child enshrines the right of every child to play and recreational activities in a safe and healthy environment.S4D is the use of sport as an instrument to positively impact social and personal development. Various S4D initiatives aim to achieve different objectives. Some initiatives aim to engage youth in sport to keep them away from harm, while others use sport to provide psycho-social support for children traumatized by war, disaster or exploitation. Still others use sport to engage youth and stimulate positive development of values, attitudes, and behavior. Harnessing the power of S4D has many benefits when designing practices and policies, not least its relatively low cost and easy incorporation into existing programmes at all levels. Visit UNICEF global S4D pageHowever, sport remains an untapped tool for making positive change for children on a larger scale. Currently, a myriad of organizations use S4D initiatives to achieve positive child outcomes. The closure of the United Nations Office of Sports for Development and Peace in 2016 left a vacuum in the sector and reduced coordination between key S4D actors. While there are over 550 registered organisations, there is a lack of rigorous evidence on their impact. Action surrounding S4D outpaces the evidence base to support it. Unlocking the potential of S4D – and the investment to support it – requires quality evidence.During a physical training session, a group of Yemeni child practice self-defence techniques at UNICEF safe space for youth at Markazi camp for Yemeni refugees. Djibouti.  UNICEF Innocenti’s new research project on S4D – supported by the Barça Foundation – aims to close this gap by building a reliable and consistent evidence base. Not only will this research help strengthen evidence on the impact of S4D initiatives, it will also facilitate cross-national learning, and may even help to reinvigorate sport as a development intervention. The research looks to understand how S4D initiatives can most effectively transform children’s lives and promote positive outcomes in four specific areas:EducationChild ProtectionParticipationSocial InclusionAdditionally, the research will identify both limitations and best practices in monitoring and evaluating S4D programmes and initiatives. The aim of this exploration is to identify the most effective initiatives, and the reasons for their success. This evidence base can help to harness the power of sport to transform the lives of children.Girls play football during afternoon activities at the Centre de Transit et d'Orientation, a UNICEF-supported reintegration centre for children associated with armed groups, in Kananga, Democratic Republic of the Congo The universal appeal of sport provides an important advantage for S4D based efforts to motivate, inspire and mobilise communities. UNICEF Innocenti’s research aims to provide a more consistent definition of S4D for the many organisations who are already using sport to improve children’s lives, as well as evidence to help governments position sport as a viable development initiative. S4D can help ensure that even the most marginalized children in the world can reach their full potential.UNICEF Innocenti’s research on S4D is led by Dominic Richardson, Senior Education Specialist, and is supported by education expert, Juliana Zapata.   
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Going from 'protection on paper' to ensuring child rights fully apply to all children

(20 March 2018) The unprecedented streams of displaced people fleeing war, instability and natural disaster toward the continent of Europe starting in 2015 has now ebbed to a steady trickle. Tens of thousands of asylum-seeking children – both accompanied as well as unaccompanied or separated from their parents – are now living across the Euro-zone. These children are mostly living in limbo while immigration machinery slowly churns through their cases. As part of UNICEF’s global “Children Uprooted” campaign and its attendant 6-point Agenda for Action, UNICEF Innocenti has recently completed a technical report analysing legal and procedural standards for asylum-seeking children in Nordic countries and the extent to which they are being correctly applied on the ground.Despite a world-leading record of commitment to child rights, Nordic countries are failing to provide the full range of protection and services required for asylum-seeking children. The new report Protected on Paper? An analysis of Nordic country responses to asylum-seeking children, finds that, despite proper legal and procedural measures being largely in place, implementation lapses expose many asylum-seeking children in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden are exposed to significant risks in the asylum-seeking process, as well as critical gaps in protection, healthcare and education service.   The research project led by Bina D’Costa, lead migration research specialist with the UNICEF Office of Research, was commissioned by the UNICEF National Committees in the Nordic region to get an independent research perspective on the services provided to children during the asylum seeking process. It is intended to support dialogue with the respective Governments on what standards and procedural safeguards must be adopted, adapted and/or implemented, to ensure that the rights of asylum-seeking children are fully respected.“The Nordic countries covered in this report all have well-deserved reputations for protecting children’s rights. Nonetheless, our research reveals significant challenges in the care and treatment of asylum-seeking children across the five countries,” said Sarah Cook, Director of the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti. “This is a powerful reminder that the global community must take seriously the commitment to protect all children’s rights, without regard to their migration or asylum status.”The research embraced a critical, holistic and multifaceted approach using a primary research lens to get data from qualitative research in the countries. Primary data were collected through semi-structured interviews with key respondents in the region. Secondary data were drawn from a review of the literature on refugees and migrants in Europe and in the Nordic states, and from European databases, research and studies. Data obtained from both sources were used to assess national responses to asylum-seeking children by measuring each country’s activities in five child-related domains: general context; asylum procedures; education; health; and child protection, against international best practice standards.Overall Protected on Paper? documents a clear tendency in all five Nordic countries to give precedence to migration law over international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In many instances immigration officers, as opposed to child protection specialists, are tasked to make critical decisions and coordinate urgent care for children. Child protection is not the primary priority of asylum agencies. In addition, in many cases, the child’s legal status substantially determines their access to entitlements. “These children who are seeking asylum in the Nordic countries cannot be allowed to exist in a kind of limbo state,” said Bina D’Costa. “Lack of coordination, poor communication or lack of transparency about where and how children can access essential services should not prevent them from receiving the urgent, time-sensitive care and support that all children deserve.”The new study offers clear directions on how to better integrate children in the protection system with a focus on determining the best interest of the child, a key principle of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, the study reveals that the lack of clear protocols and formats in all Nordic countries to determine best interests leads to poor quality assessments and gaps in good practice, with the result that there is no consistency across the region in terms of who undertakes best interest determination; at what stage of the asylum process; or the purpose and function of the asylum process.Protected on Paper? highlights the importance of having independent mechanisms for providing oversight of asylum services and facilities, including for guardianship. The representative or guardian is often the unaccompanied child’s primary source of support throughout the asylum process. Therefore, it is urgent to ensure that they are both independent and competent through the development of a common set of standards for their recruitment, training, supervision and support by child protection agencies. However, while children are allowed to complain about their guardian, it is not apparent that they have any real say in their appointment. The report recognizes that in Nordic region asylum-seeking children can generally access basic medical treatment, but the extent of the services available to families varies widely between states and municipalities. Moreover, there is strong evidence that a significant number of children in the post-2015 mixed migration movement have been exposed to physical and psychological trauma.Education systems in all five countries adopt an inclusive and gender sensitive education model and teachers working at all levels are familiar with the concepts and practice of inclusive education. However, Protected on Paper? highlights that asylum-seeking children’s entitlements to education do not seem to be fully enshrined in law in all five countries, often due to differences in perceptions and perspectives when it comes to inclusion of asylum-seeking children. As an example, although all five Nordic States try to facilitate access to Early Childhood Education for asylum-seeking children, their entitlement to it is not necessarily safeguarded but rather negotiated between the receiving municipality and the asylum authorities. In addition, ECE programmes based in reception centres do not always meet the same quality standards as community-based services.Children and youth, some of whom are seeking-asylum, playing sports in Sweden.  Protected on Paper? puts in evidence the lack of basic data at central government level about asylum seeking children held in detention. All five States allow detention of children for return purposes, and the criteria to justify and enable detention are quite broad, and usually relate more to easing authorities’ implementation of asylum decisions than to protecting the child’s best interests. Generally, national law prohibits detention of children under 15, but younger children can be detained with parents, and time limits on their detention also seem somewhat elastic in the Nordic States. In some cases, asylum-seeking children have been forcibly returned with their families, while unaccompanied or separated children deported on reaching eighteen years of age. Selected general recommendations for all Nordic countries:Restate the primacy of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, over migration/asylum law, and make an explicit commitment to apply the same rules and standards to asylum-seeking children that apply to all other children, for the entire period they remain in country.Ensure that law, policy and practice stipulate the referral of all asylum-seeking children to child protection authorities immediately upon arrival, and that such a referral becomes an integral element of the registration process. Remove all barriers to asylum-seeking children’s rapid enrolment and full inclusion in mainstream schools and early learning programmes. Ensure that access to equal health care, including mental health care, for all asylum-seeking children serves to integrate asylum seekers into mainstream national health systems, in countries where relevant. For all child protection facilities and services, eliminate any residence requirement for users of services, to ensure that they are accessible to asylum-seeking women and children when needed. Revise guardianship services and establish a code of good practice to ensure that both guardianship and legal representation are available to every asylum-seeking child immediately upon arrival.
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THE ADOLESCENT BRAIN

(6 March 2018) Our Adolescent Brain: A Second Window of Opportunity multi-media page offers a wealth of content to help you unpack and disseminate the findings presented in our new compendium. You'll find podcasts with the experts, infographics, a web video and more. Also check our blog section below for a the post "Positive and Negative Spirals and the Plasticity of the Adolescent Brain by Nikola Balvin, one of the editors of the publication.
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UNICEF RESEARCH BLOGS

A ‘toxic cocktail’: How life on the margins can exacerbate children’s vulnerability to violence

by Alina Potts, Lanie Stockman
(2018-04-06) For too many children, the places where they should feel safe—at home, at school, in their communities—are the first and most frequent sites of violence. The ...

Progress in measuring global school enrollment gaps for children with disabilities

by Suguru Mizunoya
(2018-03-21) It is estimated that a total of 264 million primary and secondary school-age children are out of school globally, and it is a commonly accepted notion that children with ...
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