Description: the GROWS survey captures population-based child protection and well-being outcomes in a given community, district, or other catchment area using locally defined indicators of child well-being, child protection, and social norms related to priority issues that emerge. To date, the GROWS surveys have been used cross-sectionally in selected districts in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire, but the methodology was designed to be easily repeated so that it can be used to track changes in a given area over time.
Methods: The method has two main phases that build upon one another. The process starts with ethnographic interviewing (we used a tool developed by John Hubbard, but similar alternative tools can be used instead) during which community-generated information is collected. This phase works towards identifying local definitions of violence against children, child protection risks, and—importantly—protective factors and assets; a basic salience analysis also allows community members to establish the key indicators for risk and protective factors that they believe should be monitored. We recommend a short training of two days for survey enumerators on general qualitative and ethnographic interviewing techniques. The results of this phase are not meant to be statistically representative, so the sample size may be smaller, perhaps around 200 people per department. This ethnographic interviewing method enables researchers to:
- gather information quickly and systematically about community-identified needs, problems, beliefs and strengths when implementing programs with new populations or communities; and
- develop culturally relevant indicators for community perceptions of child protection and well-being, using context-specific language.
Survey design: The data gathered from the ethnographic interviews are qualitatively analyzed using grounded theory (Straus & Corbin 1998), and the research team translates the local definitions that emerge from the data into a survey to be administrated in a representative way. Responses from the ethnographic interview are open coded and grouped through an iterative process. Ideally this coding is done with more than one researcher, at least one of whom is from the survey area, to establish reliability of codes and maintain fidelity of contextual meanings in terms. This analysis leads to categories of grounded outcomes and indicators that community members themselves think are important for tracking the well-being and protection of adolescent boys and girls (between 13 and 17 years old) and young boys and girls (5 to 12 years old) in their communities. These outcomes and indicators are further analyzed to explore which outcomes and indicators are most frequently mentioned as indicative of child protection and/or well-being in both age groups by the community sample. Information gathered from this stage informs the organization, phrasing, and content of a survey designed to assess the child protection and well-being of the community or population from which the ethnographic interviews were conducted. Depending on the broader needs and aims of the research project, existing, established surveys may also be consulted and inform survey design.
Survey: finally, we use a multi-stage sampling frame (Enumerating Area level, Household Level and in each household, an adolescent and or caregiver) to administer a quantitative survey to collect data that is representative at the level of each department. We recommend a five-day training for survey enumerators, and it can be helpful if some of these enumerators took part in the ethnographic interviewing phase. We recommend recruiting a team of enumerators well balanced in terms of gender equality and native speakers of local languages for the project sites. During this training, the survey is pre-tested in some districts culturally similar to the data collection areas and validated with child protection workers from the country before its administration at population level. The survey results may be recorded via smart phone or tablet, depending on the context. We highly recommended using an electronic survey rather than handwritten as the sample size can be quite large.
We have, to date, administered one survey to adolescent boys and girls (13-17 years) and a second survey to male and female adult caregivers (18+ years); in the latter survey, caregivers were tasked with answering questions relating to a specific 5-12 year-old in their care. This approach allowed us to understand the experiences of both younger and older children. Other research teams may identify different respondent categories in line with their own measurement needs.
Ethics notes: In each country, the survey administration included a referral protocol for individuals who demonstrated signs of distress or who requested a referral during the data collection process; these referral protocols were reviewed by social work administrators, who worked with their colleagues in the survey sites to ensure that social service workers were available to respond when referrals were made during the data collection process. Social work and demography professors in each country—as well as UNICEF representatives—reviewed the tools for ethical concerns, and the surveys were adapted when potential ethical concerns arose. The research processes have been undertaken under the purview of the relevant in-country Ministries and in collaboration with the social work training institutes.
Additional components: Following the survey itself, the methodology also allows us to bring in other elements of a child protection system at the local level – the implementation of legislation/polices and the budget allocations and spending; the prevention and response interventions actually carried out; and the number and types of cases managed. This element can allow us to test the strength of a child protection system in one area at population level – and then track changes over time.
GROWS Survey in Action: