Author: Susana Guevara Salas, Consultant
The Child Welfare Services (PANI, for its abbreviation in Spanish, Patronato Nacional de la Infancia) has been undergoing a reform since 2004. This institution is responsible at the national level for guaranteeing children's rights. The evaluation began in December 2007 and was finished in early 2008, creating a series of recommendations for the future direction of PANI, and UNICEF cooperation.
The main objective of the evaluation is to establish and document the impact that the institution's reform has had in management and providing integrated child care services in Costa Rica, as well as UNICEF cooperation in the reform.
The specific objectives include:
1) Evaluate the impact that reform has played in the services offered by PANI at the local, regional and national levels
2) Determine the level of accomplishment of PANI's Institutional Reform within the 4 strategic areas outlined in the original reform proposal (integrated protection model, organization and structure, human resources, and work environment)
3) Establish the impact of UNICEF contributions to the reform process
The evaluation used basically a qualitative approach through document analysis , interviews, group interviews and participative workshops. A representative number of PANI employees (local, regional and national) participated in the process, as well as representatives from NGO's and other local child protection actors. During the evaluation, interviews were also held with service receivers (parents, guardians and adolescents). The evaluation also took into consideration both urban and rural location of the PANI offices.
Findings and Conclusions:
The evaluation sought to make recommendations for improved services offered by PANI as well as better cooperation between UNICEF and PANI. The main recommendations are as follow:
Institutional Reform Process:
a) Complete all foreseen actions in each area of the reform in an articulated and coordinated manner with the Institutional Strategic Plan.
b) Consolidate the progress and achievements of the reform, adjusting them to the Institutional Strategic Plan. It is more convenient to validate a proposal after beginning implementation that continuing try to perfect it before implementation.
c) Complete the reform in the pending areas.
d) Establish an institutional entity with sufficient decision making power to implement the required changes. This entity would need the support from all political levels within PANI.
e) Share and validate the proposal for a more decentralized organizational structure, allowing for internal participation (regional and local offices).
f) Strengthen human resource competencies in management, social management and technical aspects for better implementation of services. Also strengthen competencies at the local level, prioritizing leadership, facilitating and promotional strategy skills.
g) Promote capacity strengthening through innovative strategies such as experience exchange (between PANI offices and other institutions), internships and information technology training.
h) Establish norms and protocols for empowering the Local Offices in their management role in strengthening inter institutional networks.
i) Empower Local Offices to allow for the implementation of plans developed based on local diagnostic, as well as project designs, with the goal of better responding to local needs.
j) Validate the proposal for the service platform and protection modules before implementation and make the corresponding adjustments based on a participatory evaluation with local offices.
k) Elaborate a supervision plan from the Central - Regional - Local levels for quality control of the local services and institutions that provide protection services.
l) Update protection strategies involving shelters, especially involving adolescents so that these strategies will be more integral and permit acquiring valuable life skills.
m) Revise and complete information systems of interventions, assuring compatibility with new approaches.
Future UNICEF cooperation with PANI:
n) Orient cooperation to achieve incidence in public policy that favour children, especially at the local level.
o) Strengthen at the local level include: a) Include the local governments in Child Protection Systems so that they can become leaders, b) Strengthen capacities in formulating, implementing, follow up and evaluation of local public policy according to the local diagnostics, c) Support the updating of local intervention plans, d) Strengthen Local Protection Boards providing them more self reliance and intervention capacity.
p) Promote experience exchange between State institutions, NGO's and universities in order to improve services offered by PANI, especially to the most vulnerable populations.
q) Support knowledge sharing from other countries on the importance for local office interventions, especially in the following areas: indigenous populations, child labour, commercial sexual exploitation, corporate social responsibility related to children, adoption systems and protection systems.
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