Tracking Progress Initiative

Step 4

Sources of Evidence for Completing Tracking Progress

The measuring tool should be applied using a variety of sources of qualitative and quantitative data gathered by government and non-governmental bodies, including academic and research institutions. Sources of evidence should be accurate and, whenever possible, independently verified. However, it is recognised that in many countries, a limited range of information is available, some of which may be partial or of uncertain reliability.

The following list contains potentially useful sources. This can serve as a checklist to help identify information where it is readily available. The list can also be used to identify data sources that could be developed when resources permit, through the collaboration of different agencies or other means.

It will be helpful when completing the tool to indicate the type of evidence used as the basis for responses and to point out any limitations as regards frequency, coverage, accuracy and specificity. The following points should be taken into account:

  • Source of evidence: Identify the source of the evidence and which organisations gathered the data. Is the evidence from national or provincial government? What is the type of information (e.g. ministerial decree, national legislation, guidance or protocols)?
  • Timeframe: How recently has the data been gathered and is it gathered regularly? Is information available for more than one point in time to show trends and changes?
  • Geographical coverage: Are there gaps in statistics on children for some geographical areas? Does a service have countrywide coverage or is it confined to one or a few locations? Is it a pilot service or part of a developing programme? It can be helpful to identify examples of good practice that could be made more widely available.
  • Population range and inclusion: Do relevant services include all children and families who need them or are there restrictions by age, gender, ethnicity, faith, special needs such as disability or other circumstances like poverty?
  • Children and families’ perspectives: To what extent have children and families’ views been gathered and engaged with? How representative are such views? Do they include children of different ages and circumstances?

Document sources

Sources of evidence for completing the tool should include the range of legislative and policy documentation produced by governments, official independent agencies, inter-governmental agencies including UN and regional bodies, NGOs and faith based organisations. It is important to note the date that evidence was collected and the geographical areas to which it applies.

  • National legislation and, where relevant, regional/provincial legislation, e.g. Children’s Acts
  • Policy guidance and regulations issued at national and regional/provincial levels as relevant, e.g. minimum standards, national guidelines
  • Strategy documents from individual ministries or a combination of ministries
  • Records of parliamentary proceedings on matters concerning children and families
  • Inspection reports by official independent agencies concerned with the quality of care in children’s agencies
  • Documents on national standards, registration requirements and funding agreements
  • Formal reviews and investigations of children’s services
  • Reports indicating the views of service users including children, young people and families
  • Reports by states and non-governmental organisations to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and other international and regional human rights treaty bodies
  • Reports to, or by, other intergovernmental organisations such as the United Nations (UN), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), European Union (EU) etc.
  • Reports by key national, international or local NGOs and faith based organisations
  • Reliable or trustworthy media reports or outputs which can be validated as accurate.

Types of evidence


Quantitative and qualitative data can offer complementary insights as sources of information on alternative care. Studies that investigate the circumstances, experiences and needs of children and/or evaluate the impact of services are particularly relevant. Research that includes the viewpoints of children and families are also important to consider.

Many studies will provide a snapshot of a particular time. Additional benefits come from longitudinal studies that show change over time. Evaluations of services or providers will provide vital information about the quality of care and outcomes for children. Situational analyses, data mapping or evidence reviews will provide an overview of relevant areas.

It is important that the methodology used by the research is clearly explained. It should be carried out by a reputable body such as a university, specialist research agency or research unit within a larger organisation. Where the reliability of the research is less clear, it is important to note how this information was gathered and the methodology that was used.

Quantitative information

Quantitative information covers, for example: numbers and percentages of children placed in different forms of alternative care; numbers of children not living with biological parents; numbers of children living in kinship care; numbers of children and families receiving support services; types of alternative care placement; the main types of care provider; and expenditure on relevant services. Sources include:

  • National statistics collected or collated by central government and, where relevant, by regional, provincial and local governments
  • National or regional statistics collected by a credible national agency, the court system dealing with children and young people and/or an international body
  • Information about children included in national or regional censuses
  • Representative household surveys e.g. Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) or Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS)
  • Data from professional associations
  • Data from children’s service organisations and ministries where these services are run centrally, including family support services, foster care and residential care providers.

Qualitative information

Qualitative information covers a range of sources which gather the views and experiences of children, families and professionals in qualitative data as part of research, consultation, evaluation or participation activities. Sources include:

  • Interviews as part of research, consultation or evaluation activities
  • Focus groups undertaken for research or consultation purposes
  • Participation activities including those with young people-led groups
  • Views gathered to contribute to state and non-governmental reports to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and other treaty bodies
  • Social media including online discussions or fora on alternative care
  • Evaluation processes which gather the views of a range of stakeholders.

Professional knowledge, informed opinion and consultations

This includes other information where systematic evidence is not available but which provides particular insights about attitudes and perceptions by key stakeholders. It may be helpful to record what is ‘known’ by people working in the field, especially where there is a considerable degree of consensus – what people collectively agree that they know about the system. This should give pointers to the kinds of more specific information that need to be gathered in future. Overviews by relevant professionals may already be available from professional reports or bodies. Information might be available from training and education providers including curricula material.

Useful insights can come from consulting with as wide a range of experts as possible, on a one-off or repeated basis. Experts may include policy makers at national and regional levels, heads of large children’s services, representatives from NGOs, professional groups, service users, youth organisations, relevant researchers and educators/trainers as well as children and their families. Consultation can be carried out by means of events, focus group discussions and/or obtaining views individually.

Gaps in knowledge

One of the benefits of completing Tracking Progress is that stakeholders will get a better understanding of what data and other evidence is available. At the end of the process, those who have been involved in the process can consider how to improve data collection and how this can be taken forward.