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M&E Tools Focused on Incorporating Children and Youth in Program Monitoring

OVC Voices: Recap from the CRS OVC Forum
Posted on July 17, 2008 by Jennine Carmichael
Posted on: CYES Network

M&E Tools Focused on Incorporating Children and Youth in Program Monitoring

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Orphans and Vulnerable Children Forum hosted on 25-26 June 2008 by Catholic Relief Services. The event showcased CRS’s work in OVC programming and, of particular interest to me, the tools the agency has used in monitoring and evaluating program effects on children. The following overview of key sessions on this topic is meant to provide some background for others who are interested. I would also like very much to hear from practitioners and researchers what tools you find effective for monitoring and evaluation and impact assessment with children.

Engaging with Children in Research and Project Design

Child Protection Needs
In the “Promising Practices for Child Involvement” session, Shepherd Mupfumi and Daphyne Williams addressed the need to include children in OVC research and project design, while at the same time protecting them from harm. Children’s lack of power in research settings due to their youth and limited capacity to provide informed consent is compounded when working with OVC by factors such as the loss of one or both parents, poverty, displacement, and stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. (An overview of risk and ethics in human research is available here, and background on the ethics of research involving children can be found here). In large part due to the HIV/AIDS crisis, development practitioners have grown increasingly sensitive to the importance of child protection within ethical research design.

Child Protection Mechanisms
CRS employs a variety of mechanisms to protect children in project research and implementation. For example, in rural Zimbabwe, CRS partners work with Child Protection Committees composed of child representatives, caregivers and community representatives throughout the program cycle, seeking their input on decision making, project design, implementation and monitoring (see Mr. Mupfumi’s presentation, “Involving Children” for further detail). This is in keeping with the agency’s “Do No Harm” principles, which mandate that risk to OVC must be assessed and addressed throughout the project cycle. CRS has also instituted guidelines for HIV-related research in field projects. These include recommendations about when it is necessary to seek external review of proposed research activities, as the agency, like most non-profits, does not have its own internal review board (IRB) process. (Refer to Ms. Williams presentation on the “Do No Harm Implementation Strategy” for more information.)
Tools & Techniques for Involving Children Directly in M&E

In a subsequent session, “Making a Difference: Documenting Results” the focus was on specific tools used to gather information from children themselves. Featured tools included:

* The Child Status Index (CSI) Tool
* CRS’s OVC Wellbeing Tool (OWT)
* The “Station Days” data-collection methodology used by CRS in Zimbabwe.

The Child Status Index (CSI)
Karen O’Donnell of Duke University Medical Center presented the CSI. The index was developed in response to OGAC’s need for a simple, child-centered tool that would show change in child well being over time, identify current and future child needs, and guide longer-term program interventions. The CSI uses a community-based, participatory methodology to gather data on children’s food and nutritional status, shelter and care, protection, health care, psychosocial well being, and education and vocational skills. See Dr O’Donnell’s presentation on the OVC Forum resource sitefor further detail on the CSI methodology and indicators.

OVC Wellbeing Tool (OWT)
Shannon Senefeld presented the results obtained from the CRS OWT during a pilot which incorporated the tool into 5 PEPFAR country evaluations. In conjunction with other measurement tools, the OWT, a self-reporting tool for the 13 – 18 year-old cohort, helped identify issues important to children. For example, through the OWT, OVC in institutions in Haiti reported stronger and more consistent feelings of self-worth and self-confidence than children in communities because they felt connected to their peer group, whereas many children living in communities were more likely to feel isolated from their peers. The OWT also helped identify gender disparities in OVC well being – while orphans overall suffered more negative nutritional impacts, maternal orphans fared even worse, and boys overall had better nutritional results than girls. For more information on the OWT, download CRS’s presentation on the tool at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City in August, or download the OWT at CRS’s website.

"Station Days" Methodology
Finally, Joyce Tamuka Chitemere of CRS Zimbabwe presented the “Station Days” methodology, which provides OVC aged 5 to 18 with information and material assistance while also collecting quantitative and qualitative data about their well being. On a quarterly basis, “Station Days” brings children to a central location (such as local school) where they pass through a series of stations, providing information and receiving care. For instance, at the station where children’s weight and height is measured, staff perform small personal care tasks for the children. School performance is assessed by reviewing children’s exercise books. Interactions with counselors and elders both provide and check the effectiveness of psychosocial support. On a quarterly basis, the CRS Zimbabwe program uses this approach to sample approximately 180 OVC per day, involve their technical staff more directly in monitoring and evaluation, and provide the children with an opportunity for self-expression and direct input into program goals. The “Station Days” methodology has been effective at raising awareness of issues affecting children but is not without risks, including encountering emotional triggers (particularly in the counseling stations) and raising children’s expectations (staff have found that children anticipate that their feedback will be quickly incorporated, which is not always feasible).
Learning More

All in all, the day offered insight into a number of tools and current initiatives to improve M&E for child-focused programming by using methods that directly involve children. To see what else was covered and/or learn more about the sessions I described above, visit the OVC Forum resource page, where both presentation slides and video of the presentations are archived. Have you used any of these tools or techniques? What was your experience with them? What other tools for involving children in M&E and research have you used?

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