The social return on investment methodology provides a way to measure and explain the valuable social outcomes that result from financial investments in child protection infrastructure. Its use by policymakers helps them to exercise sound reasoning, good judgment and fiscal responsibility because it demonstrates that they have ultimately decided to allocate taxpayers’ money where costs are low, returns are high, and risk is basically nonexistent.
CCR conducted a literature review of child protection interventions operating elsewhere to illustrate the subsequent social benefits. The global pattern of positive social change from these investments provides a strong case for Tanzania to make strategic and systematic investments in child protection if it wishes to achieve its development goals.
Why should Tanzania invest in child protection?
When funds for children are in short supply it makes sense to invest in interventions that have been proven to pay for themselves and even return change, literally and figuratively speaking. Financial investments in strong child protection services are entirely recouped by the social benefits they generate.
The benefits of investing now are better known than ever before. Data shows that when funding is dedicated to strong child protection infrastructure it nurtures children’s ability to contribute in significant ways to their society for decades. Financial investments in strong child protection services not only support children, but also the communities in which these children live.
The benefits and savings from intervening when children are young have the longest time to accrue and are cumulative over a child’s entire life. Early intervention programs for at-risk children benefit the participating children and also give taxpayers a good return on their contribution.
The consequences of dealing poorly with child maltreatment cases includes increased risk of the perpetration of violence, depression, smoking, obesity, high-risk sexual behaviors, unintended pregnancy, and alcohol and drug use. All of which are likely to directly or indirectly cost the government money. Inaction translates into missed opportunities to address the needs of at-risk children, which leads to social ills that are expensive and preventable. This creates substantial long-term costs for society. Ultimately, the choice is to pay a little now or pay a lot later.
It is in everyone’s best interest to invest in child protection services.
Investing in child protection improves employment rates
Governments that do not invest in strong child protection infrastructure and whose children do not receive the care and protection they deserve are more likely to have higher unemployment rates – a costly yet often preventable social ill. Strong child protection services improves employment rates by increasing workforce readiness and participation rates.
Investing in child protection boosts economies
Strong child protection services contributes to children’s health and well-being, which is requisite for their workforce participation rates and productivity, which contribute to economic development and prosperity. The World Bank characterizes children as a “potential time bomb for current development strategies.” Children can represent either a threat or an opportunity, and the choice is ours.
Investments in child protection reduces crime
Research shows that investments in child protection infrastructure are likely to produce children who are less likely to engage in criminal behavior. The good news is that proper child protection infrastructure can effectively intervene to reduce criminal behavior and contribute to a safer society. Investments in child protection are a proven crime-prevention strategy because they decrease the incidence and prevalence of criminal activity.
The Numbers Speak For Themselves
The more effective the child protection intervention, the greater and earlier the return on the investment. Even under circumstances when an intervention is only 20% effective, the initial investment is not only entirely recouped, but it also still generates valuable financial and social returns relatively quickly.
For every USD $1 invested, more than USD $10 in social benefits are returned.
For example, in Brazil and Mexico, these investments reduced the country’s poverty gap by 12% and 19%, respectively. A study that estimated the outcome of scaling up child protection interventions in South Africa showed that doing so would reduce the poverty gap by nearly 30%.
If Tanzania hopes to adequately protect its children and enjoy decreased crime, cost-savings, reduced unemployment, a narrower poverty gap, increased productivity, and an improved economy, then it should make sufficient investments in strengthening its child protection infrastructure.