Information will be available from four main sources: the government, the
local community of NGOs (national and international), the academic community
and international organisations.
Some background information will be essential in order to contextualize
actual data on children:
* national ideas about children and their place in society, including
local, ethnic and socio-economic variations;
* legislation affecting children;
* qualitative and quantitative data on the child population as a whole,
and about particular at risk groups;
* government policies for an affecting children;
* the employment and unemployment situation for adults, including regional,
urban/rural and ethnic differences;
* economic and social factors affecting children;
* family structures and the position of women, including group variations;
* the education system;
* child health;
* attitudes towards street and working children and other vulnerable groups;
* policies, programmes and services for street and working children and
other vulnerable groups.
Where is the information?
Both IGOs and international NGOs can be rich sources of information. Apart
from the data collected for the reports State of the world’s children, and
the more recent Progress of nations, the local offices of UNICEF normally
produce Situation analyses of women and children and/or children in especially
difficult circumstances. In addition, local offices carry out studies and
researches of various kinds, many of which are not published, but it is
worth the trouble to look at them, among other reasons because they are
sources of information about contacts in the worlds of government, academic
life and NGOs.
Other intergovernmental organisations with special interests in themes related
to childhood are ILO (especially if there is an IPEC office in the country)
and WHO (not only Mother and Child Health but also other sections such as
Tropical Disease Research, Accident Protection Unit and the Programme for
Substance Abuse). UNESCO is obviously a source of information on education,
and also on leisure, and the UNHCR is now focussing more on the needs of
refugee children. The World Bank, IMF and FAO among others carry out research
on topics that affect children, directly or indirectly.
The most important NGOs for this project are aid organizations, especially
those that have their own research departments. Childwatch has been in contact
from its earliest days with the Save the Children Alliance and now works
closely with Plan International. It is likely that other international NGOs
with offices in specific countries will be important sources of information.
International children’s rights organisations will also be useful when it
comes to examining indicators of civil and political rights. Where there
is a national section of Defence for Children International close collaboration
All countries collect information about children, although this is never
as complete as it might be. It is often scattered around different ministries
and other government agencies. It is overwhelmingly concerned with two age
groups, children under five years old and young people over the age of 15
years. The first concentrates on health aspects, and the second on employment/unemployment
and problem areas such as delinquency, sexuality and drug use. Because information
is scattered around different sources, seldom centralized even for specific
issues (such as child health) and often not collected with children in mind,
the information-collecting net will need to be spread very wide and innovative
approaches are required.
Although the legal situation of childhood is often laid down in a Code for
Minors and/or Children and Families, specific laws, such as those affecting
children who work, or are outside family structures, can include legislation
* the position of women
* marriage and divorce
* registration of births and deaths
* social security and other welfare systems
* employment, including minimum ages for different types of work
* conditions of work, including factory inspection
* street vending
* betting, lotteries and gaming
Law and order
* public order and right of assembly
* justice, and juvenile justice in particular
* prisons, punishment and detention of juvenile offenders in particular
* alcohol and drug use
Laws affecting particular groups of children
* refugees and asylum seekers
* ethnicity, race, indigenous groups and other discriminations
* military service
Legislation on education, housing and public health affects all children.
The government’s own monitoring systems for such legal provisions, while
almost inevitably incomplete, will be one of the sources of official statistics
Governments not only collect and publish information about children, but
different government departments and agencies carry out research. This may
be at national, regional and local levels. It will be worthwhile investigating
the information available from the following sources:
* Population and census departments
Decennial censuses, household and labour force surveys provide interesting
information about children, even if they are not collected with children
as the unit of analysis. Some census departments can be persuaded to re-compute
their data to provide child-centred material, as in the Childhood as a Social
Phenomenon project of the European Centre in Vienna.
Of particular interest are figures on child deaths and illnesses, especially
for the age group 5-15 years, especially with respect to regional, ethnic
and socio-economic differences. for information on specific violations of
rights, in exploitation or abuse, the information might exist in figures
for accidents and ‘traumatic’ injuries (which could include amputations
or eye injuries for example), child homicides, or illnesses that can be
related to the working environment (respiratory problems perhaps). These
figures will be too global to give precise facts, but they may indicate
fruitful areas for further investigation. Differences by gender, region
and ethnic group are worth noting. Quite apart from other considerations,
it is useful to have some overall figures for the child population as a
whole that can serve as baseline data for comparison with data available
from smaller samples.
* Ministry of health
May have more detailed information than the census office on deaths and
illnesses. Hospital and primary health care services may also have useful
records, particularly admission data and medical histories, including the
information on treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
Information on immunization, breastfeeding, hospital and other health services
available are already widely-used in indicator work.
* Ministry of education
School enrolment, attendance and drop-out figures can be very revealing,
as can data on repetition of grades. Often the best sources for this are
local schools. It is particularly important to look for differences by gender,
region, ethnic group. Seasonal differences and variations between different
school shifts may also indicate child work that interferes with schooling.
Teachers can be wonderful sources of information to help in the analysis
of such figures.
It is also important to look at the school system as a whole. How relevant
is the curriculum to the lives of children from poor families? Do they learn
skills that are going to be useful in getting employment? What are the hidden
costs of school attendance (enrolment fees, books, uniforms)? Is it difficult
for children to get to schools, especially secondary schools? Are the schools
well-equipped? What methods of teaching are used? What is teacher training
like? What are the relationships between parents and teachers and children
and teachers? Do schools provide any benefits, such as free meals? Are there
any special education services for children with learning difficulties or
disabilities? If so, how accessible and appropriate? Most of the answers
to these questions are likely to be negative, but this is still baseline
* Ministry of employment/labour
Background information about the principal sources of employment for adults,
industries, wages, unemployment and underemployment figures (by age, gender
Many ministries of employment carry put studies of what is usually called
the ‘informal sector’, which does not always appear in official employment
statistics. As child labour in formal, waged employment is usually forbidden
by law, most children work in the ‘informal sector’ and it is useful to
have some idea about the local informal work scene. Unfortunately, most
ministry studies only look at the more organized parts of the sector —
such as regular street trading or small workshops — and do not take into
account the really casual work that is often done by children — such as
wandering street traders, shoeshiners or newspaper vendors. But official
information will give plenty of information about the working lives of parents
in poor communities.
Some official sources especially municipal authorities, and occasionally
IGOs, do carry out studies of child workers and street children.
Factory inspectorate records, especially if they include prosecutions for
illegal use of child labour.
* Justice and police departments
Juvenile justice records
Police records, especially at local stations
Probation and detention statistics
Information about prostitution
Prosecutions and detention for vagrancy
Drug and alcohol use
* Ministry of welfare/the family/children
Numbers of children in state care or without families
Child abuse and neglect figures
Family structure and family size statistics and studies
Studies of ‘children at risk’, ‘irregular families’ etc.
A note on access
It is inevitable that many of these data sets will not exist, or will not
be made available. May countries have neither the resources nor the inclination
to collect some of these items. Sometimes the information will exist, but
the terminology will be different. it is important to learn the official
language used in work on children and families, because this changes from
country to country. Sometimes the information will be poor, because of bad
data collection methods, or inadequate analysis or inept presentation.
Official reports and research documents may be gathering dust on a shelf
somewhere, so it is really worthwhile making good contacts and trying to
get access to the shelves. Bureaucrats often don’t know what they have stored
away, or may not understand the importance of certain kinds of information
for your purposes. It is important not to just ask if officials have a report
on child labour or street children, for example, but rather to make sure
that they understand the project is seeking information in children for
general background purposes and hope to be let loose on the archives. looking
for background material on child welfare is far less threatening than asking
about sensitive issues such as street children or child labour.
* UNICEF and government reports are often commissioned from local researchers
in universities and institutes of higher education. There is almost always
a pool of experts on children’s issues that can be contacted. Their skills
may be variable, but it is important to know who the local experts are.
* The most useful academic contacts will be with psychology departments,
schools of education, law and social work, sociology and anthropology departments.
Schools of medicine and public heath are also helpful.
* Further information will probably exist in student dissertations and
theses. Welfare-oriented MA, PhD and undergraduate students in all the disciplines
mentioned above often write their theses on children’s issues, and these
can contain extremely useful information. It is not usually productive to
ask the Heads of Department if there are any theses of this type available.
Copies will be deposited in libraries and it will be necessary to spend
time looking for them, but worth the trouble.
* May have information and research reports of their own
* In some cases, the official country report to the Committee on the Rights
of the Child has been or is being accompanied by an ‘unofficial’ NGO report;
A caveat to use with respect to NGO information is that it is often based
on poor research methods and weak analytical skills. It also frequently
relies on journalistic reports ad anecdotes. Although all sources of information
should be subjected to critical evaluation, this is particularly important
with information collected from NGOs, whose purpose is often more to publicize
their programmes than to carry out objective research.