The Program

Estimates suggest that 66% of children in a sample of 24 low- and middle-income countries across the globe experience psychological aggression, such as yelling or name-calling, or mild physical discipline, such as being spanked or shaken. In addition, about 16% of children experience severe physical discipline, such as being beaten with an implement or object. These parenting practices negatively impact children’s development. In response, the Windward Islands Research and Evaluation Foundation, through a train-the-trainer model, supports home visitors to change cultural perceptions and parenting practices to reduce harsh punishment of children and promote healthy brain development.  Program components include:

  • Training existing paraprofessionals with the Ministry of Social Development and Housing, called ‘Roving Caregivers,’ in the Conscious Discipline curriculum. This curriculum develops seven skills among caregivers – including assertiveness, empathy, encouragement, and composure – that promote child safety, positive parent-child attachment, and healthy brain development. 
  • Conducting structured, routine home visits that establish a pattern of safety, connection, and learning among parents and children. Specific activities involve a prayer, a song, a stimulation activity, an activity to build impulse control, and a skill-building exercise for parents. Roving Caregivers use and model Conscious Discipline skills. 
  • Sharing respectful discipline methods with parents, other caregivers, and communities that serve as an alternative to traditional childrearing practices. Through spreading this concept, or “meme,” the program aims to alter cultural attitudes, behaviors, and practices. 
  • Conducting monthly group sessions via a mobile resource unit (the “bus class”) that reinforce home visits. A colorful bus, quickly gaining visibility and national prominence, visits two to three communities per day. Roving Caregivers alert families of when the mobile resource unit will visit to provide toys, books, and further teach, model, and reinforce Conscious Discipline skills.
 
Challenges

The Saving Brains Grenada program has faced several challenges in implementing the program and adapting the Conscious Discipline curriculum to Grenada:

  • Countering traditional attitudes, behaviors, and practices towards childrearing that are less conducive to healthy brain development for young children. 
  • Coordinating the logistics of leveraging an existing program of paraprofessionals. Recruiting, training, and retaining Roving Caregivers can be a challenge given high turnover rates and the involvement of multiple government ministries.
  • Maintaining program fidelity through a train-the-trainer model and numerous actors. The program engaged Conscious Discipline and ECD experts to ensure quality and reliability of the model. The program trained Roving Caregivers, who then make visits to parents and children. Through these various steps, it has been challenging to guarantee that the Conscious Discipline curriculum is accurately and effectively implemented in the training of Roving Caregivers, engagement with parents, and interactions between parents and children to ultimately yield certain cognitive and behavioral outcomes. 
  • Conducting a rigorous randomized controlled trial (RCT) given realities of implementation on the ground. 
 
Success Factors

A few key factors related to program success include:

  • Providing ongoing support to Roving Caregivers. Monthly workshops have promoted team-building and supplemented the paraprofessionals’ initial training by featuring one or two Conscious Discipline skills each session.
  • Building relationships with participating communities. Particularly in carrying out the RCT, building trust between the researchers and community participants is key. 
  • Focusing on the alternative rather than the problem. The program has found that emphasizing the solution (positive parenting practices) rather than the problem (corporal punishment and other negative childrearing practices) resonates more with communities to alter cultural perceptions and practices.