Katie West Slevin l Palladium - Feb 06 2023
How Can We Help At-Risk Kids in Moldova? Data May be the Answer

As a result of D4I’s work to improve data use for improved child protection and care, six-year-old Alexandru is receiving specialised services through a centre for children with disabilities. Photo: D4I Moldova.

Due to persistent poverty, scarce jobs, and low pensions and social benefits, 2,000–3,000 Moldovans migrate abroad each year in search of prosperity. This out-migration results in high rates of family separation, with children being left with grandparents, neighbours, or with no care at all. Alcohol use, domestic violence, stigma associated with disability, and other risk factors also contribute to family separation, placing a high burden on the country’s social services. In addition, the war in neighbouring Ukraine has added a further strain on the country’s social infrastructure with the influx of almost 48,000 Ukrainian refugee children remaining in Moldova.

USAID’s Data for Impact (D4I) project, whose work in Moldova is led by Palladium, is helping to strengthen the capacity of Moldovan authorities, at national and local levels, to collect quality data, analyse it more effectively, and use it to make better decisions to improve child protection and care.

The D4I team worked alongside Moldovan authorities to create a list of 70 indicators to help monitor child protection policies and practices, including those aimed at monitoring alternative care arrangements, violence against children, adoptions, repatriations, abductions, and how well cases are managed. Their work has empowered government agencies and territorial social assistance structures to apply evidence when making critical decisions around child protection and care.

The project has also facilitated regular data review meetings, conducted trainings, and developed resource materials that have helped to remove barriers to data use and cultivate a data use culture within the country’s social assistance sector. “Prior to the D4I project, data was primarily used for reporting rather than decision making,” shares Camelia Gheorghe, D4I’s Chief of Party in Moldova. “Much of the data utilised was poor in quality and therefore understandably unused by decision-makers, or the data became available too late to be used in routine decision-making processes.”

As part of its next phase, D4I is helping Moldova to develop an automated child protection information system to support case management and give case workers and decision-makers real-time evidence to further ground their decisions. “Through [the child protection information system], Moldovan case managers will receive better information about available services, enabling them to make quicker, more informed referrals,” adds Gheorghe.

Even in its nascent stage, D4I’s behind-the-scenes work to strengthen data collection, analysis, and use is having a tangible impact on the lives of Moldova’s children. The project worked with the General Directorate for Social Assistance and Family Protection in Moldova’s Stefan Voda district to improve the services of the Confidence Centre, the only service provider for children with disabilities in a southeastern corner of the country that is home to almost 50,000 residents.

During a D4I-facilitated data review meeting, stakeholders reviewed data on children living with disabilities in their area and the services available to them. As a result, the district’s social assistance and family protection directorate developed an application, backed by evidence, to the European Union and Soros Foundation, successfully winning a grant of EUR 60,000 to expand services for children with disabilities.

"D4I also contributed to improving the quality and efficiency of the services provided by the Confidence Centre explains Aurica Cebotari, head of the Stefan Voda General Directorate for Social Assistance and Family Protection. ”The purchase of a special minibus provides children with special needs from the villages of Stefan Voda rayon with better access to the Centre's services."

For Alexandru, a six-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, the expansion of services has been life changing. Living in rural village, 18 km from the Confidence Centre, Alexandru was previously unable to access services, was isolated, and could barely move. Now, with the introduction of the minibus and additional equipment and staff, Alexandru is thriving.

He receives therapy from a team of specialists and is developing mobility, speech, and greater independence. "It's an enormous, titanic task to make even the smallest progress in working with these children,” says Lina Stepanov, a psychologist at the Centre. "For some, it may seem a small, insignificant thing—a sign, a gesture, made by the child, but for us as specialists, for the child's parents, it is an unbelievable victory,"

“At the end of the day, we want the children to do better,” Gheorghe reflects. “That’s why we’re here, to serve the children.”

D4I is jointly funded by the United States Agency for International Development and works across five countries employing tools that facilitate case management, long term data tracking, and data integration across agencies to support this goal. For more, read 'Education for Moldova's Refugee Children' or contact info@thepalladiumgroup.com.