Child Protection through Data Use
Yvonne Otieno, MEASURE Evaluation PIMA Communications Advisor
The United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Children sets out four pillars for children’s rights: survival; development; protection; and participation. These are echoed in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which Kenya ratified and domesticated through the Children Act of 2001 and the Kenyan constitution.
Protection addresses the right to protect children from performing work that is dangerous or prevents them from attending school or inhibits their overall development.
Kenya’s child protection system strives to put the UN-defined rights into action. It works to promote the well-being of children through prevention of violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation, ensuring that in such cases prompt and coordinated action is taken. But effectively implementing both remedial and preventive actions requires that groups working to protect children have access to high-quality, relevant information.
The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) in Kenya, under the Ministry of Labour and Social Services, is the technical implementing arm for children’s rights and services. The Children’s Act of 2001 mandates the DCS to maintain up-to-date records and data on the management of children’s services in the country and provides the basis for a Child Protection Information Management System (CPIMS).
Officials working to develop the CPIMS recognize the challenges facing different governmental institutions in their use of data for decision making. Despite the widely recognized role for strong monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems in government policy and strategy documents and a high demand for evidence-based decision making, departments generally face challenges that include weak organizational and individual M&E capacities and inadequate information use at data collection points. Importantly, M&E systems have also been mostly viewed as a reporting function, with many viewing them as an accountability requirement primarily driven by external donors.
However, this perception is changing, with an increasing number of government institutions, including the DCS, embracing the need for data for informed decision making. This is evidenced by the active participation of multiple stakeholders working in child protection nationally who attended a recent workshop in Nakuru, Western Kenya, to discuss the upgrading of a national CPIMS.
The workshop was organised by the DCS with support from the USAID-funded MEASURE Evaluation PIMA (MEval-PIMA) project, a five-year effort to support the Kenyan Government to build sustainable monitoring and evaluation capacity to use evidence-based decisions to improve the effectiveness of the Kenyan health system. MEval-PIMA is supporting the DCS in the current upgrade of the child protection information management system. CPIMS’s phase II development. Phase I of the project was developed by GTZ and UNICEF.
According to Mr. Ahmed Hussein, Director of the DCS, a functional CPMIS will greatly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the department’s collection, analysis, storage, and sharing of child protection data. This is necessary not only for day-to-day case management but also for understanding existing needs, identifying priority areas for action, and matching resources with planned activities.
“For this agenda to be successfully completed and sustained, there is urgent need for all practitioners to be actively involved in implementation, monitoring, and ensuring that the system remains sustainable,” remarked Mr. Hussein at the workshop in Nakuru.
His positive sentiments were echoed by Ms. Jacinta Murgor, a Senior Assistant Director in charge of administration and finance at the DCS. “The CPMIS will be key in informing policy issues,” Ms. Murgor said. “For example, we are currently developing the national children’s policy and have noted that there are emerging issues like cyber bullying and child pornography that require online child protection. With a functional system we can flag up these issues, know the different areas of support from implementing partners, and advocate for resources and personnel.”
The existing gap in information on children’s services has consequences, which is why improving the availability of reliable information is so important. According to Mr. Robert Buluma, a statistician at the Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics, for the past three years, the Kenyan Economic Survey – which is used to inform national resulting budgets – was published with no data from children’s services. This gap may have resulted in under-allocation of needed resources for the young, including for child protection.
“For Kenya to realize its Vision 2030, data is key,” Mr. Buluma said. “Without data on children’s issues, it is difficult to know the status or argue a case for more resources for children.”
Participants in the workshop on improving a child protection information system conducted a field visit to a Charitable Children’s Institution in Nakuru.
The Nakuru workshop was a highly participatory engagement that included field visits to four key data collection points: the Child Protection Unit at Nakuru police station, a charitable children’s institution, a children’s remand center, and the sub-county’s children’s office in the town.
The workshop – at which stakeholders gave their input on system user requirements, data flow processes, and relevant indicators – concluded with the development of a work plan with a supporting budget. There are plans to hold a forum with officials from Kenya’s 47 counties where the results of the workshop, including the child protection indicators to be used, will be disseminated and further refined.