Research Consultancy: Children’s Entry Into State Care in Jamaica

Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) is seeking an experienced consultant to conduct research on the entry of children into state care in Jamaica. The research is part of a multi-part study on residential childcare institutions in collaboration with UNICEF Jamaica. This component examines the entry process and system of placement from a child rights and child development perspective with a view to providing technical guidance on improvements to system design and management.

Timeline: 3 months

Background:

The Jamaican state cares for vulnerable children through various institutional arrangements ranging from family-based care (e.g. foster care) to formal institutional care (e.g. children’s homes and places of safety). This research focuses on the latter – institutional/residential childcare – which is formally established facilities in which children live for varying time periods.

Institutional care in managed by the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) (formerly the Child Development Agency). The CPFSA owns and operates a small number of facilities and supervises, financially supports, and monitors the remaining majority which are privately-owned and operated.

Governments and experts across the world overwhelmingly agree that institutional childcare produces the comparatively worse outcomes for children and are expensive to operate. Jamaica’s government has already committed to reducing the proportion of children living in institutions relative to those living in family environments to better protect their rights and enhance their development.

A chief driver of admission to institutions and a key factor in the quality of care that children receive is the system of placement. Evidence-based systems with strong assessment procedures and criteria-based decision-making have decreased the institutionalization of childcare and improved familial reintegration. Further, system designs that integrate rigorous evaluations provide a better quality of care by enabling governments to better plan for children’s diverse needs and more reliably monitor their progress. Simply, the balance of global evidence has demonstrated that system design directly impacts the management, cost, and outcomes of state care for children.

As such, this research seeks to improve understanding of Jamaica’s system of placement as a component of the overall childcare system. This research will inform evidence-based advocacy and provide direction for strategic planning among governmental, non-governmental and international development partners.

Scope of Work:

The research consultant will be part of a research team and will conduct research on children’s entry into state care using a mixed method approach. The expected actions include:

  1. Producing a research report (or reports) on children’s entry into state care that conclusively:
  • Examines the process by which children enter various forms of state care in Jamaica by assessing the placement system from the first point of response to the assignment of a living environment, including any child assessment/evaluation procedures that occur. The research will assess the appropriateness of children’s placements to ensure that their best interests are met with due regard to varied psycho-social, health, development, educational and other needs.
  • Investigates the reasons for children’s admission to residential childcare facilities (children’s homes and places of safety) over time. The research will quantitatively express the circumstances that result in children’s admission using standard statistical methods and identify trends using various qualitative techniques to produce an authoritative description of the factors that drive children’s placement.
  • Describes and evaluate the nature of children’s participation in the placement process and their preparation for life inside residential childcare facilities using participatory methods.
  • Analyzes the extent to which placements are reviewed, the processes that govern such reviews and their effectiveness.
  • Provides evidence-based and technically sound recommendations for reform that are specific, measurable and actionable.
  1. Participating in project steering committee meetings as needed
  2. Participating in public awareness events if requested, and where reasonable, make presentations.

Methodology

The researcher will conduct primary and secondary data collection and analysis using a mixed-method approach that includes but is not limited to:

  • Analysis of quantitative and qualitative administrative data on the population of children in residential care including but not limited to: datasets of court orders committing children into state care; administrative records/logs of admissions to facilities; social enquiry reports describing the reasons for intervention by child protection officers.
  • Key informant interviews among child care stakeholders including personnel from the courts, child care facilities, and the CPFSA
  • Analysis of policy documents and other administrative records including but not limited to the CPFSA Placement Policy, Service Manual(s), and available documentation of placement decisions in order to understand the administrative process of placement.

Ethical Considerations:

The researcher will remain impartial and adhere to the principles of child rights during the process. The research methods and analysis should give due consideration to disparities that may occur as a result of gender, location, socio-economic status or other social factors.

At all stages, the research process must adhere to ethical and human rights principles for the conduct of research involving human subjects, including confidentiality of the data and privacy of the respondent. Informed consent of all participants is required. For adults, verbal consent is required. For children, written consent from a parent/guardian is required. All participants will be informed of their right to discontinue their participation at any point and approaches for ensuring confidentiality will be described.

Deliverables:

Deliverable Completion Dates Amount Payable
Inception Report including work plan and methodology Two weeks after commencement 15%
Interim Report Six weeks after commencement 15%
Advanced Draft Report Eight weeks after commencement 20%
Final Report Ten weeks after commencement 20%
Final Report approved Twelve weeks after commencement 30%

Desired Qualifications/Experience:

The anticipated data sources include primary data in the form of case files, existing secondary data such as datasets, key informants and other participants, and formal policy documents. Consequently, the researcher must be experienced in conducting document reviews for quantitative and qualitative purposes; key informant interviews and focus groups; and general policy analysis. The research consultant must also possess:

  • At least a graduate degree in the social sciences, public administration, public policy or relayed fields
  • Proven track record of research (and an available sample of previous work)
  • Ability to communicate with a broad range of stakeholders
  • General understanding of child rights principles or the child welfare sector in Jamaica or in-depth understanding of and experience with comparable systems
  • Commitment to human rights for all children and all adults, without exception

Application:

Individuals, groups of individuals, and organizations can apply by submitting a concept note, inclusive of estimated costs, and CV(s) to Elizabeth Denny, Administrative Officer at admin@jamaicansforjustice.org by June 16, 2018. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted. For further information, contact JFJ at +1-876-755-4524/4533.