Getting to the Use of Data to Promote Appropriate Care for Children

By Ismael Ddumba-Nyanzi, Dawne Walker, and Fils Uwitonze, Data for Impact

Participants at a workshop in Rwanda. Photo by Ismael Ddumba-Nyanzi.
Participants at a workshop in Rwanda. Photo by Ismael Ddumba-Nyanzi.

For the past decade, Rwanda has taken measures to reform its care system to ensure that children without parental care receive appropriate care. These steps reflect elements of Rwanda’s Strategy for National Child Care Reform, which draws on several international legal instruments and global commitments. These include the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990), the United Nations Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (2009), and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2008). The strategy aims to prevent family separation and support the transition of children from institutional to family- and community-based care, which have been shown to be better for child development than care in institutional settings. Since 2013, more than 3,353 children in Rwanda have been supported to transition from institutionalized care to family-based care. But there is more to do.

Stronger administrative data collection and reporting systems are needed to improve the availability and use of data, including high-quality data and case-level information, to improve provision of child protection and care services. Data are necessary to better understand outcomes for children in care, and thereby inform decision making for policy, improved care practices, and professional development―all in the service of supporting the care provided to children and young people who cannot live safely at home.

What is the best way to improve such data systems and the use of data? Through experiences working on projects on children living in adversity, child protection, and orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), we have seen many instances where information systems are not developed based on the needs of the project or stakeholders, but solely on the need to report up the chain.

Data for Impact (D4I), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), aims to approach data challenges differently, supporting local partners that play the major role in care reform. D4I is working in Rwanda to address the need for relevant high-quality data to help the country target interventions to improve child protection and care for the most vulnerable children and their families. We are working with the National Child Development Agency (NCDA), the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, and all in-country child protection stakeholders to understand their information needs; strengthen the collection, management, and use of quality routine data to support effective case management; formalize responsibilities and reporting; and develop processes to coordinate staff and resources among all partners to monitor progress. The key principle guiding D4I’s work in Rwanda is a commitment to promoting country ownership, sustainability, and collaboration. This means implementing activities with participatory capacity-strengthening approaches and attending to emerging local needs.

For example, we recently worked hand in hand with NCDA’s team to organize a stakeholder workshop to identify areas and opportunities to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) capacity of stakeholders involved in care reform and child protection, and to assess existing management information systems for child protection and care. The gathering also sought to identify priorities and requirements for integrated and reliable management information systems. We will continue to work collaboratively with the NCDA as we work with our Rwandan partners to design the roadmap for strengthening the functionality of existing information systems and build capacity for better data quality and greater data use. Partnership is the path to sustainability.

Ismael Ddumba-Nyanzi is a child protection monitoring, evaluation, and research specialist, with a particular interest in alternative care for children, family reintegration, and prevention of family-child separation. He is a Resident Advisor for Palladium on the USAID-funded D4I project, based in Kampala, Uganda.  His most recent work includes facilitating the participatory care reform assessment process and supporting Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to strengthen the collection, management, and use of routine data to improve the provision of alternative care services in Uganda.

Fils Uwitonze is a monitoring, evaluation, research, and learning specialist with ten years of experience with USAID-funded evaluations focused on education, children and community health systems, agriculture, and livestock. As M&E Resident Advisor, he currently provides overall leadership and technical support for Palladium on the D4I project in Rwanda. In this role, he leads the in-country implementation of the project’s M&E framework and workplan, develops stakeholder engagement tools, and conducts in-country M&E capacity assessment.