In India, Anganwadi centers are responsible for providing supplementary nutrition, preschool education, health education, and referral services to families with young children. During implementation in two districts of Central India, Stepping Stones improved the quality of Early Childhood Development (ECD) services at Anganwadi centers through staff training, the application of a family centered curriculum and through the use of public-private partnerships.
The training opportunities are provided to both Anganwadi workers and program volunteers. Anganwadi workers are trained in early education practices through partnerships with private preschools. Volunteers are trained and certified before assisting Anganwadi workers with lessons. The involvement of volunteers increased the amount of one-on-one interaction children receive.
Additionally, Anganwadi Centers are incentivized to participate in partnerships with private preschools due to the opportunity to receive special recognition as an Anganwadi Plus Center. The project created enhanced curricula for early childhood development and implemented a positive parenting program through group sessions and home visits to optimize health service utilization. The project aimed for improvement on cognitive and behavioral measures for children in the intervention group compared to control group and the improved attendance of children at Anganwadi Centers (AWC) from 30% to at least 50%.
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CEI approaches in action
Home Visits targeted to vulnerable families.
Positive Parenting Package through Group Sessions and Home Visits to parents of enrolled children.
Stepping Stones started in April 2015 with an enrollment of 50 Anganwadi centers serving the local indigenous population. A baseline survey was conducted in all 50 villages and randomization was done to sort intervention and control villages. The tools used for the baseline survey were a Developmental Milestones checklist-II, Profile of Socio-Emotional Development, Early Childhood home-inventory/home scale coding, Maternal Depression Agency, memory game/windows task and a household questionnaire.
In addition, with the help of partner preschools and Anganwadi workers an Enhanced Preschool Curriculum for Anganwadi centers was developed. The curriculum was pilot tested and necessary additions/corrections were made. In the beginning, the final package of intervention was implemented in 7 Anganwadi centers; within 2 months it scaled up to all 25 intervention Anganwadi centers.
An application request for Transition-to-scale was submitted to the funding agency and this innovation received the Transition-to-scale. Now this project will be expanded to neighboring blocks of current intervention areas and an additional 25 Anganwadi centers will be added.
Current transition-to-scale will target 100 Anganwadi centers from remote rural areas to deliver Enhanced Anganwadi Curriculum and Positive Parenting Package, in a phased manner. It will target a population of approximately 50,000, including around 1,000 under-5 children. The project will be implemented through partnership with 4 private preschools and 2 higher education institutes in corresponding districts. Efforts will be taken to improve governmental offerings of ECD services provided in remote rural areas of Central India.
Monitoring & Evaluation
The project is continuously monitored in the field by supervisory visits to the AWC/AWW in both control and intervention areas. Supervisors tracked progress by review of the register and random selection of clients for additional interviews to assess satisfaction and participation. In addition, a core part of the intervention was the monthly meetings to review and discuss AWC/AWW performance. These revealed additional challenges to implementation that require attention. The proof of concept for Stepping Stones was evaluated by a cluster randomized trial. The design aimed to assess program effects on behavioral and cognitive development of children in the indigenous population in India. The program tracks attendance of children, involvement of parents, and the commitment of Anganwadi workers to the program. Rapid cycle analysis and a problem solving strategy was followed for quick changes needed for the program.