CTs and Early Childhood Development

Programming gaps

programming-gapsAlthough one might expect CTs with a focus on early childhood objectives to contain innovative components focusing on early childhood, most of these CTs simply transfer cash to mothers, provide some sort of education to mothers or parents, and encourage or require children to receive medical care. There may be room for early childhood-focused CTs to experiment with other strategies related specifically to young children’s development, such as variations in training on parenting of young children (i.e., encouraging interaction between parents and children in play sessions vs. counseling services), the provision of stimulating toys or books for the household, referral of caregivers to social support services when necessary to address depression or anxiety, formation of locally led preschools or day cares that provide employment to local mothers and free other adults to pursue non-household work, and more. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is clear that earlier interventions generally are more cost effective than interventions for older children. Many early childhood-focused programs assist children who are nearing school entry, and there is a relative lack of programs that assist the very youngest children. CTs may be an important means of filling this gap, as they often link households to health services that can be adjusted to encourage positive early childhood development through proper health care, nutrition, early stimulation, and positive parenting practices. (Support for this integration is available through UNICEF’s Care for Development program.) Since they often already work with multiple sectors to focus on disadvantaged groups, many CTs may be able to adapt relatively easily to reach and assist very young, disadvantaged children, for whom the returns may be very high.