Community of practice for social systems strengthening to improve child well-being outcomes

Findings from Wave 1: Tracking Child Wellbeing of Early Grade Learners and their Families



This Community of Practice (CoP) intervention research project is a multi- and trans-disciplinary collaboration between researchers and practitioners across different sub-fields, including social work, sociology, psychology, education psychology, education, mathematics and language curriculum specialists, mental health, nutrition, primary health care, community nursing, public health and school health care services. The CoP study targets children and their caregivers who receive a Child Support Grant (CSG) in the foundation years of schooling, namely, Grade R and Grade 1. Investing in children’s nutrition and health, improving their emotional and social wellbeing and schooling outcomes are important social investments in the human resources of a country (Patel et al., 2017). These early interventions tailored to meet children’s needs in poor families could lead to children securing better jobs with higher incomes in adulthood and the creation of more stable families and communities (Patel et al., 2017; Richter et al., 2018). In addition to social protection measures, collaboration between key sectors is assumed to be instrumental in accelerating child wellbeing outcomes, building capacity and developing contextually relevant innovative solutions.

In initiating the CoP we were interested in understanding, firstly, what constituted the most appropriate cross-sectoral interventions to step up child wellbeing outcomes, and secondly, how these interventions could be delivered across the health, education and social welfare sectors. We were also interested in evaluating the viability of the CoP approach for strengthening social sector systems to improve child wellbeing in urban communities.

The study began with the establishment of an Advisory Level Community of Practice (ALCoP) made up of academic and research partners who are responsible for the overall leadership and management of the project. The ALCoP developed the digital child wellbeing tracking tool (CWTT) which was pre-tested and first administered between October and December 2020 (phase one). During phase one, the CWTT assessed the levels of risk experienced by the child and his/ her family. Children were conveniently selected from one Grade R and one Grade 1 class from the participating school in each community, all of which are quintile levels 1-3 schools in low income communities. Parents and caregivers in each of these classes were invited to participate in the study. Across all 5 schools, a total of 162 children and their families participated. Schools were situated in Meadowlands, Ivory Park, Doornkop, Malvern and Alexandra. Based on the results from this phase, intervention plans were developed for all children identified as being at high or moderate risk. This strategy entailed the establishment of Local Level CoP’s (LLCoP) at each of the schools, which included key community stakeholders (that is, social workers, teachers, nurses and parents). Collaborative discussions were held between members of the ALCoP and the LLCoP to develop suitable interventions which included referrals to support services and specialised care. Following the intervention, it was planned that phase two of the child wellbeing assessments would be implemented between August and September 2021. In this research report we present the baseline findings from Phase one.


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