Measuring the long-term social and economic value of investing in children

What is the aim of this project?

Childonomics is a research project aimed at developing a tool to determine the long-term social and economic return of investing in children. The tool will include an economic model informed by the costs of different services and approaches to supporting children and families in vulnerable situations. By using existing longitudinal data it will explore expected outcomes for children, families and society.  Attention will focus on costs and outcomes associated with systems which rely on institutional care for children with disabilities and children separated from their families in the child protection system. These will be compared to systems which offer prevention, early intervention and family-strengthening services, high-quality family-based care for children separated from their parents, and the possibility of reintegration of children into their families, communities. The approach aims to be as comprehensive as possible, addressing the inter-play between social welfare, child protection, health and education services.

Why is such a project necessary?

The project will strengthen the economic case in support of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the UN Guidelines on Alternative Care. By taking a broad and long-term perspective, the approach will address the inter-play between different services. It will look at long-term societal costs linked to insufficient investment and misdirected funding of outdated care systems, which disenfranchise and further marginalise vulnerable children and families.

This project aims to increase awareness about the costs and benefits of reforming welfare systems among those outside the child rights community.  It will provide a means of engaging in dialogue with Ministries of Finance and those responsible for managing public spending across different sectors. It can also be used to influence private donors and charities which sustain systems that are not compliant with international human rights standards.

What is unique about this piece of work?

There is a growing research community focused on the economics of public health policies and on early years’ investment. So far however an economics approach has not been applied in a holistic way to child welfare and protection systems.

The project brings together economists and experts from the child rights field, child welfare and child protection, education, health, social welfare to explore how economic modelling can strengthen the arguments in favour of systems reform using a child-rights based approach but also looking at the broader picture, always considering the whole child approach.The project will not only be an abstract modelling exercise.  Two country case studies will be selected to see how the model can be applied in practice.

See draft model framework 

The study aims to develop an economic model informed by the costs of different services and approaches to supporting children and families.  By using existing longitudinal data, it will explore expected outcomes for children, families, communities and society at large. The model tests a conceptual framework comparing investments in universal, targeted, specialized, highly-specialised  and intensive services, aiming to build robust evidence around a more preventative approach to tackling poverty and social exclusion and supporting children and families in vulnerable situations. The model framework offers a way of illustrating and discussing return on investment, a way of creating a ‘global model’ that can be contextualised for each country (and facilitate gap analysis).
Why is Eurochild coordinating this project?

Eurochild is a network of organisations promoting the rights and well-being of children and young people in Europe. As project coordinator, Eurochild will engage the wide expertise of its membership and build capacity in the sector to better promote a child-rights approach to reforming welfare systems.

Who else is involved in the project?

The project, which commenced in November 2014, has a project management committee comprising representatives of the donor agency (OAK Foundation), the chief scientific advisor (Maria Herczog), the project coordinator and director.

The project also comprises an advisory board including child rights experts and economists. The advisory board has been consulted on the overall scope of the project and will be involved in reviewing the outputs.


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