Reviewing methodologies for estimating the number of street-connected children
The Consortium for Street Children (CSC) is a global network of organisations that carries out research and advocacy with and on behalf of street-connected children worldwide, in order to better meet their needs.
There are different estimates of the numbers of children connected with the streets in the world as a whole and across countries, many of which are lacking in evidence and/or based on very different methodologies and approaches to study design and estimation. CSC is well informed and knowledgeable about the research carried out to estimate the numbers of street-connected children and the various counting methodologies used to do this. They were looking for someone with research expertise to assess and review the methodologies and critically appraise the different approaches, to assist CSC in working with other organisations, such as UNICEF, to develop a single approach to take forward and recommend to organisations and institutions trying to produce reliable and robust estimates of the numbers of street-connected children across the world.
Sarah Barry was matched to this project and met with CSC staff at their offices in London for an initial face-to-face meeting. Prior to this meeting CSC staff had sent a number of different reports and academic papers to give an overview of the different counting methodologies generally used in this area. In the initial meeting these were discussed and some of the more technical points of some of the approaches were clarified between Sarah and CSC staff. It was agreed that a literature review would be carried out of all papers in the area and come up with some recommendations as to aspects of study design that should be implemented in approaches to counting street-connected children and the most appropriate counting methodologies to make use of in such studies.
The literature was reviewed to locate as many studies of counting street-connected children as possible and summarised their approaches, the advantages and disadvantages of each relative to one another and the utility of the different counting methodologies that have been implemented. Finally, recommendations were produced for design of future studies.
A report was produced considering four main different counting methodologies that are used to estimate the numbers of street-connected children. Various recommendations were made, particularly around developing a standardised definition of street-connected children and about the counting methods that are used in different situations, with capture-recapture approaches considered to have the greatest utility in estimating the numbers of children connected with the street. It was also recommended that estimates be presented with ranges to convey the uncertainty around them, which is not typically done, and that sampling needs to be carried out on a regular basis to capture the transient nature of this population.
The impact and benefits
Consortium for Street Children wrote: 'One of the challenges facing policy makers and those working with street-connected children is that no one knows how many of these children there are in the world, or in any given country. The counts and estimates that do exist are incomparable due to the differing methodologies and definitions used in data collection. We asked the RSS for support to help us and our partners to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of these methods. The report produced by Sarah concisely reviews four existing methods for counting and sampling street-connected children, and has already contributed to our ongoing work with UNICEF and other organisations, which aims to identify one method to be used consistently across different countries. Sarah is continuing to provide support by looking into the development of a statistical model to be used to estimate numbers of street-connected children where counts are unavailable.'