Testing approaches to promote family-based care in Cambodia

R4D is working with Abt Associates and Mathematica to design and evaluate interventions to reduce the number of children growing up outside of safe, nurturing, family-based care in Cambodia.

The Challenge

Global research points to the physical and emotional harms of residential care on the development of children; however, Cambodia has experienced a recent and rapid rise in the number of residential care facilities, placing children at risk of unnecessary separation from their families.

Individual international donors and local Cambodian community members often have good intentions in supporting residential care institutions, but are unaware of the potential harms or community-based care options available.

The Opportunity

Family Care First Cambodia is a multi-stakeholder USAID initiative working with over 26 organizations to develop and test interventions in Cambodia aimed at preventing unnecessary child-family separation. Two organizations, Cambodian Children’s Trust (CCT) and Friends International, are carrying out campaigns to create knowledge and influence behavior among both Cambodian communities and international donors and volunteers away from residential care institutions and towards family-based care.

Rapid Feedback Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning (RF MERL) is a rigorous, yet flexible approach for generating timely and useful data for programs in the early stages of implementation. The RF MERL Consortium, led by R4D, is conducting two Rapid Feedback Experiments to determine which campaign elements are effective and successful. This study will be carried out in close collaboration with USAID/Cambodia and will generate evidence on social behavior change communication campaigns at the community and international donor levels to promote family-based care.

Our Work

Our first Feedback Experiment answers the question – Do community members exposed to a formal social behavior change communication campaign plus social work services have more knowledge about the potential harms of residential care institutions? At the community level, the RF MERL Consortium will partner with CCT to generate evidence on whether adding a formal messaging campaign to their social work model in Cambodian villages is more effective at changing households’ knowledge and attitudes about residential care than social work alone. The information will be used to decide what activities should be scaled to discourage households from sending their children into residential care.

Our second Feedback Experiment answers the questions – How cost-effective is it to post ads on Facebook vs. Google? Which platform results in changes in donor behavior? At the donor level, the RF MERL Consortium will partner with Friends International to generate evidence on the most effective media channels to change attitudes from potential donors about residential care institutions in Cambodia. This information will be used to design Friends International’s advocacy and media campaigns.

This study is one of several pilots R4D is carrying out in partnership with the Rapid Feedback MERL Consortium as part of the USAID Global Development Lab’s MERLIN program. 

Project Findings

These briefs present a summary of the findings from the Feedback Experiment that RF MERL conducted in 2017 and early 2018. We present an overview of the Feedback Experiment, summarize key findings for each research question, and conclude with recommendations.






USAID/Cambodia, Cambodian Children's Trust, Friends International



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