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A young Mexican in pre-school.
















ECD is the necessary first step to making life better for children but, in itself, it is not enough.

Costs and funding

The cost of an ECD programme depends on the nature and extent of the services it offers. In general, centre-based programmes cost five times more than home-based ones, and the more comprehensive the programme, the more it costs. Food supplies in the form of meals and snacks can account for up to 40 per cent of a programme’s costs.

India’s Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) was estimated in 1994 to cost 27 cents a day for each child. During the same year, the Hogares Comunitarios de Bienestar programme in Colombia, operating in 55,000 sites and offering full day care including food, was estimated to cost 38 cents a day. Other programmes may cost much less, because they involve fewer components or because the voluntary participation of the community is greater.

There are various ways to finance ECD. In Sweden, for example, the programme is totally publicly funded. In some countries, such as Colombia, the national Government assumes most of the financial responsibility for implementing ECD, although parents pay half of the caregivers’ stipends in addition to their social security contributions. In India, where parents’ contributions are minimal, the national Government finances most ICDS activities, except for food, which is paid for and administered by state governments.

On the other hand, in Kenya’s Early Child Education programme, the national Government finances only the training of caregivers, while local governments provide and maintain care centres and parents pay the caregivers’ stipends. In 1993, parents in Bolivia’s Integrated Child Development Project paid a flat monthly fee of $2.50 for their first child, with decreasing amounts for each additional child enrolled. In Thailand, loans paid back to village loan funds, which are financed by an NGO, are funnelled into a capital fund to support early childhood development programmes in the community.

Although new monies are needed to guarantee every child the best possible start in life, adequate care for babies and toddlers does not necessarily call for massive expenditures or the creation of new programmes. Resources to improve the cognitive development of young children through stimulation, play and affection can be found within the community. Sithuwama, Sri Lanka’s home-visiting programme, illustrates cost-effective early childhood care. Volunteers trained in early childhood development are the backbone of the programme. Each volunteer, a respected woman from the community, works with five families. She spends time in the homes, teaching parents how to help their children grow physically and develop mentally.

A multisectoral approach, in which health, education, nutrition and development components come together, can add to a programme’s cost-effectiveness. But more important than saving money, this convergence of services focuses on the whole child rather than a compartmentalized child and, in so doing, reinforces and complements how a child develops.

ECD’s positive influences resonate throughout a society. Creating early childhood services not only provides infants and toddlers with good care, it also frees girls from looking after their younger siblings and opens up opportunities for them to attend school. It also frees mothers for entry into the labour market. It creates new job opportunities for people providing household day care or involved in home-visiting programmes. The child benefits from receiving basic services as well as from playing, singing and dancing. The family benefits from added income. The community benefits from additional jobs and workers for the labour market.

ECD — No single formula

There is no single formula for success in implementing early childhood care programmes. Experience has shown a variety of ways that are especially effective when used together:

1. Educate and empower parents and caregivers.

2. Deliver services directly to children using home visits, home day care, integrated child development centres and formal and informal learning activities.

3. Promote community partnerships to improve the physical environment and the knowledge and practices of the community, allowing common action and expanding the base for political and social negotiations.

4. Strengthen national resources and capabilities.

5. Increase demand and awareness of policy makers, planners and the general public.

6. Develop national child and family policies that allow parents increased time to meet their child-rearing and childcare responsibilities and that encourage increased possibilities for childcare by grandparents and other adult family members.

7. Develop legal and regulatory frameworks that increase awareness of rights and the availability of legal resources among both women and children and that promote more effective use of legislation and improved compliance.




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