Tuchan (Our Home): Children reared by their grandparents
The presence or proximity of grandmothers and grandfathers is a key and moving characteristic of Latin American families. However, in some homes they are required to play the double role of grandparents and parents, which can be challenging both for them and for their grandchildren. These families with absent parents are known as skipped-generation households. Tuchan is the first project in the region to examine parenting roles, caregivers’ skills effectiveness, and social advancement strategies in these homes by looking into early learning results. The goal is to gain an understanding of the features of skipped-generation households in the Northern Triangle and to find a cost-effective program to provide support to these children. All this will soon help us empower the real Tuchan sages: grandmas and grandpas.
Death, violence, and migration are three major and painful causes of the absence of parents from some homes in El Salvador. Unfortunately, the same is true in the rest of the Northern Triangle and other countries in the region. Children raised by their grandparents or other household members usually have excruciating stories that make indelible marks on their development and on their whole lives. While grandparents can play a key role closing the gaps left by absent parents, much remains to be learned about the characteristics of this situation. Furthermore, the skipped-generation household impact on school performance has not been studied sufficiently in Latin America, and there are scarce systematic records of the phenomenon as well. But the studies that do exist indicate that skipped-generation children are prone to show cognitive and development delays and more emotional and behavioral problems than their peers, and tend to leave school earlier and display more learning and school-related difficulties.
A terribly painful story can become a moving story over generations, but there is still not enough information available. To try to begin to understand this situation, a survey of 25,000 homes was conducted in the communities of San Salvador and Soyapango, El Salvador. In addition, two interventions were carried out, which were adjusted to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic requirements: i) a low-cost model with social-advancement strategies that include information in child development and daily activities aimed at improving early reading and math skills in young children (a mobile app was created to provide families with information on these subjects); and ii) a virtual training and mentorship model for caregivers that included home tutoring and self-learning activities. It is worth noting that the training model is based on activities for parents that have proved effective at improving children’s behaviors and skills in low-income contexts with adults with low educational levels.
Evaluation and Impact
To identify homes where the caregivers are not the parents, a survey of 25,000 households was conducted in San Salvador and Soyapango. Results showed that in 1 of every 3 homes with children, at least one of the parents is absent. In addition, an experimental impact assessment will be conducted, randomly allocating 2,750 homes to three groups: i) one group will be assigned to the low-cost model; ii) the second group to the more expensive model; iii) and the third will be the control group. In addition, the cost-effectiveness of the two types of interventions will be assessed in order to collect evidence that will be used to support this population in El Salvador and generate knowledge for the rest of the countries in the region.