The quality of the personnel who promote early stimulation activities in households is key to improving child-rearing practices. It is the work of these individuals that ensures that mothers, fathers, and caregivers have information on appropriate stimulation strategies, the importance of play, and interactions. The Roving Caregivers intervention provides home visits during which families learn about the importance of early stimulation, secure emotional attachment, and connections with their children. Initially conceived as a program for school dropouts in Jamaica, the program was transformed into one that involves community workers offering training on care practices in homes in rural areas. The program has been implemented in other countries and has had positive results for younger children.
Quality information on care practices can be difficult to access for low-income families, and even more difficult for dispersed rural populations that do not have formal childcare services. Given that younger children spend a large part of the time with their caregivers, those caregivers need to receive information about the use of play and household resources for the development of the children in their care. If parents or caregivers to not have access to adequate support and guidance, the development of the children can be negatively affected.
Roving Caregivers is a service program that provides training to parents and caregivers through home visits during which they discuss parental practices and offer information on techniques for early childhood stimulation. During the training sessions, the Roving Caregivers – community workers who themselves receive training in order to carry out the visits – teach parents about the importance of play, songs, rhymes, and other activities to strengthen the connection with their children. The home visits are conducted five times a week and are complemented by a monthly group meeting. The program started in Jamaica as a method to train youths who did not complete their schooling but was then transformed into a program with a new identity that includes home visits. The modality was adapted to other counties in the Caribbean such as Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Belize.
Evaluation and Impact
A quasi-experimental impact evaluation of the program followed up on approximately 400 children up to 24 months old in St. Lucia. In 2006, half of the children lived in communities where the Cuidadores Itinerantes was being implemented, and the other half lived in communities without the intervention. The good news: the study found that the program improved the motor development and reading and writing skills of younger children. Looking to pending challenges, the study indicated that the intervention did not show improvements in in older age cohorts.