Parenting Interventions to Prevent Child Recruitment_ Growing Strong Together
Strengthening Protection and Reintegration of Children (SPARC) is another exciting program the IRC has piloted to support Children Formerly Associated with Armed Forces/Groups (CAAFAG).
Why Prevention of Recruitment?
Grave violations against children in armed conflict, including the recruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups, remains a huge protection concern in many countries in Africa, the Middle East, South America and Asia. The Secretary General’s Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC) Annual Report of 2021 shows the widespread nature of grave violations perpetrated by Non-State Armed Groups (NSAGs) such as ISIL, Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab. While a number of violations reported are verified, many other cases go unreported or unverified. In these situations, boys and girls as young as eight years old are exposed to grave violations such as sexual violence, killing and maiming, and recruitment.
Child recruitment was initially understood to be an act carried out by force. However, child recruitment does not only take place through abduction. Emerging research and studies on adolescent’s involvement in armed groups and fighting forces illustrates that often adolescents and older children seem to make a choice to join armed groups. These studies identify ongoing brain and societal development as factors that lead to children being easily recruited and manipulated to join fighting forces, as adolescents are still developing the capacity to make rational decisions and may exhibit an inability to fully understand mortality. While the life-threatening consequences of child recruitment are widely known, in humanitarian contexts such as South Sudan and CAR, boys and girls nonetheless sometimes join armed groups with the knowledge and agreement of their families, who perceive their actions as a contribution to community self-protection efforts.
In line with IRC’s strategy 100, the IRC is committed to addressing all forms of violence occurring in the home and in the community, including violence against children. The idea for SPARC was born out of a keen desire to bridge the current gap in resource and methodology to respond to the needs of formerly recruited children through a dual approach of engagement of caregivers in addition to working directly with the adolescents themselves. As a result, the Growing Strong Together Parenting Intervention Package was designed and developed through a process of formative research, in collaboration with adolescents, caregivers, frontline staff and input from the CAAFAG Task Force, members of the Child Protection Alliance in Humanitarian Action. Moreover, the IRC seeks to uncover additional information to identify the window of opportunity before the tipping point for protection actors to engage children and their families as a preventative measure from recruitment into armed groups.
What is the goal of this Parenting Intervention?
To protect children and adolescents affected by armed conflict from recruitment and children and adolescents formerly associated with armed forces or for armed groups to receive support from their caregivers to reintegrate into families and communities to reach their full potential.
There are two main objectives :
- Gain a greater understanding on the drivers of recruitment as well as barriers and facilitators for reintegration through participatory formative research.
- Develop and pilot a parenting curriculum rooted in formative research findings to support caregivers to protect children and adolescents from recruitment and promote their reintegration following association with armed forces or armed groups.
How will the Parenting Intervention achieve this goal?
Through this intervention, the IRC is building on existing research and previous programming to contribute to emerging learning to further explore the drivers of recruitment. The objective is to ensure that children, adolescents and their caregivers receive the appropriate support to address these drivers and promote reintegration at home and in the community. Using evidence on effectiveness of parenting interventions as a foundation, the Growing Strong Together Parenting Intervention and targeted work with adolescents, was piloted in CAR, DRC, Nigeria. With contribution from members of the CAAFAG Task Force of the Child Protection Alliance, the final product is a publicly available resource to support parents/caregivers.
To better understand why children and adolescents are joining armed groups, the IRC conducted formative qualitative research in Ouham-Pendé, CAR and North Kivu, DRC. Please see the research briefs for CAR in French and English below .
We conducted a desk review of existing Family Strengthening or Parenting interventions for CAAFAG or armed conflict contexts. This together with the formative research findings informed the CAAFAG Parenting Intervention.
Intervention Curriculum/Growing Strong Together: A Parenting Program to support the Reintegration of Children and Prevent their Recruitment
The Curriculum is one of the tools developed for the implementation of “Growing strong together: A Parenting Program to support the reintegration of children and prevent their recruitment”. It is part of a comprehensive resource pack informed by formative research findings in consultations with girls, boys and parents, and from a desk review of over 100 relevant resources.
The resource pack, linked below in English and French, includes:
- The Desk-Review informing the structure and the content of the entire intervention available in English
- The Intervention Curriculum: “Growing Strong Together: A Parenting Program to support the reintegration of children and prevent their recruitment”. Available in English, French and Arabic (A different link found at bottom of page for the Arabic curriculum)
- The Constant Companion: Facilitator’s Guide – this contains implementation guidance for the facilitators delivering the sessions with parents. Available in English and French
- The Family Visits Guide – to support facilitators safely conduct at least one family visit and further support parents/caregivers. Available in English and French
- The Training of the Facilitators (ToF) Guide – please email email@example.com to receive the training guide.
- The Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Framework and Tools – please email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the MEL framework.
Download from the Child Protection Alliance website English here and French here or box view and download here [English and French] In addition to the English and French resources, the SPARC Curriculum in Arabic can be found here –Download here