Effectiveness of a a child care program on children capabilities under social exclusion. the case of the buenos aires’ child care centers.

Vinocur, Pablo; Mercer, Raul (2018). 'Effectiveness of a a Child Care Program on children capabilities under social exclusion. The case of the Buenos Aires’ Child Care Centers.' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


Context and theoretical framework

Research studies developed in the last decades have confirmed the importance of the first years of life to build some of the basic conditions for health and wellbeing and to get the means that any person needs to participate in social life. Those conditions include: to be healthy, to be educated, to get a decent em ployment, to have the ability to communicate, be loved, and be nurtured along life-course. In terms of the capabilities approach those aspects during early life are crucial to insure an inclusive adulthood.

Those children who are born under conditions of social exclusion have less chances and opportunities to develop their inmate potentialities. The consequence that derives from this difficult context is one of the most important factors that explains poverty reproduction through generations.

In order to control those life conditions that reflect social injustice, some public policies  developed to help families and their children to provide those services that are absent in their rearing practices. Precarious housing conditions, lack of formal education, lack of social networks, unhealthy food, affect the functioning of both parents and children. A comprehensive approach at this stage will provide better chances to enjoy life with freedom.

Early Child Development became an increasing concern in public policies in developing countries, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean. Even though the main responsibility for childcare is under the family environment, the State has a protagonist role to promote, reset and fulfill children’s rights.

The Government of the City of Buenos Aires (GCBA) started in 2009 a Program promoting the creation of early childcare centers focused in children from 45 days to 4 years of age for those families living in slums and neighborhoods in poverty.  The program named “Centros de Primaria Infancia” (CPI) is run byNGO’s in agreement with the local Government to provide an established set of services. The Ministry of Human Development and Habitat (MHDH) has the main responsibility to formulate and implement public policies oriented to promote social inclusion and human development in the City.

Description of the CPI Program

The main characteristics of the Program include: 8 hours per day activities organized by age focused on children with low socioeconomic status and identified through a Social Vulnerability Index built during the registration process. Each Center should hire kindergarten graduated school teachers for each age group, with the aid of an assistant. Teacher:children ratio should not be over 1:13. For infants this ratio should be 1:5. CPI staff also includes 3 part-time professionals: social worker, psychomotricist, and a psychopedagogue. Services provided included: meals, stimulation and play activities and community workshops for parents. The financial support of the program is provided by the MHDH through transfers to the CPIs according child scholarships and the accountability system based on regular supervisions (2 to 4 per month). The supervision also includes a specific nutrition component under the scope of food security and child anthropometry.

At present, the Program has 76 CPI with a population of approximately 10,500 children. After an official request of the GCBA to UNICEF, FLACSO (Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales-Area of Human Development and Health) was selected to do an evaluation of the impact of the CPI Program on the assisted children.


A triangulation method was designed based on document analysis; interviews with the Minister, the Director and the technical team at the MDHH; and the Coordinator and technical teams of 7 CPIs. A survey was done to parents or main caregivers of children at the age of 3 assisting to 13 CPI together with a development evaluation of children between 38 and 54 months of age; an evaluation of the infrastructure; group interviews with teachers, technical teams and parents to evaluate their perception about the program, services, and results. The study was under the approval of the Ethics Committee of the Hospital de Clinicas (University of Buenos Aires). The participation of children and parents was voluntary after signing and informed consent.

Fields of evaluation included: objectives of the Program seen by different actors,, planning and management process at the central level  (MDHH)  and at each CPI, validation of selection criteria of targetting, most important effects of the Program, and aspects of quality of care of the CPI’s.


The evaluation showed positive effects in terms of child development, basically among children who spend more than one year in the Program. The main affected area of development was communication, and in second term cognitive development. In terms of nutritional status, overweight was the most prevalent nutritional problem. The program was not effective to reduce the prevalence of these problems. Most of the CPI have deficiency in the infrastructure that limits the chances of children to have enough space to play, run, and jump. In some ways those CPI reproduces the space restrictions that children have at home. Parents appreciate and value the CPI, even compared with formal kindergarten. This was not restricted to the time spent in the institution but also how warm is the way the CPI teams take care of their children, how much they improved their development, and the quality of the food they receive.

The Program shows weakness in terms of planning/programing at the central and CPI levels. Even though the human resources are well qualified, the weight that the pedagogical activities have during daily activities depend much more upon the CPI’s Coordinator guidance than after the achievements that the Program has defined and the supervision to follow. There is a different and heterogeneous use of the Vulnerability Index for focusing among the different CPIs.

The study concludes that Program has all the conditions to improve its positive effects, through a better planning, through a systematic measurement of results, and a reorganization of priorities, giving more importance to pedagogical activities, utilizing much more the qualifications that their human resources have. Good technical teams are necessary but not sufficient condition to insure quality.

scroll to top