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ICDP – International Child Development Programme

ICDP (International Child Development Program) is a parenting program developed to target parents and other caregivers across cultures. It was developed in the 1990s by Norwegian psychologists, Karsten Hundeide and Henning Rye, with colleagues, and was evaluated by the University of Bergen, Norway, and the University of Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, before the first material was finalized.

ICDP has been introduced to 50 countries in the world. In Norway, it is the most commonly used parenting program, implemented by the Norwegian government (BUFdir) within primary health care, family health care, kindergartens, schools and others in municipalities across Norway, in addition to being the recommended compulsory parenting program in the Norwegian introduction program for refugees.

Globally, ICDP is implemented through NGOs, INGOs, universities and national authorities. ICDP Norway is part of the Norwegian initiated foundation ICDP International based in England. ICDP Norway is the most active of the ICDP organisations in offering ICDP training and implementation guidance in Africa and Asia.

"Where have all the parents gone?"

Parents’ role as the caregiver of their children has until recently barely been promoted in global development work despite the fact that parents or other primary caregivers are the most important providers of a safe and enabling environment for children. Parenting practices predict important outcomes for children (Barlow & Coren, 2017) (Daly et al., 2015). Similarly, the main strategies to prevent child maltreatment comprise parenting programs that support positive parenting, nonviolent discipline, and effective communication (World Health Organization, 2019).

ICDP thus meets the needs voiced through the  Nurturing Care framework (Richter et al., 2018) for early childhood development adopted by WHO, UNICEF and the World Bank. Using this framework, a child’s needs, risks and opportunities for interventions can be conceptualized as five interrelated and indivisible components: responsive caregiving, good health, safety and security, adequate nutrition, and the opportunity for early learning.

The film “The beginning of life” (trailer) by Maria Farina Films and UNICEF describes what stimulates positive development of a child applying knowledge from some of the world’s leading experts on child development, as well as the voice of parents.

From the film "The beginning of life"

Studies of the effect of ICDP suggests that support to parents and caregivers together have positive effects on child psychosocial outcomes, according to caregivers’ perception. In Norway the Public Health Institute (FHI) conducted a RCT study of ICDP (Brekke et al., in review August 2022). According to the study results, there were positive effects on both parents (self-efficacy and emotion sensitivity) and their perception of their child (reduced child internalizing difficulties and increased prosocial behavior), and on the relationship between parents and children (decrease in child-rearing conflict and increased closeness to the child). Studies from Nepal (Skar et al., 2020; Sjøblom, 2020), Bangladesh (Habib, 2020), Bosnia (Dybdahl, 2001), Columbia (Skar et al., 2021) and Mosambique (Skar et al., 2014) indicate positive effects of ICDP. Morever, there is valuable reflections and experiences on many aspects of ICDP, such as its applicability, background and approach (Hundeide, 2001; 2010, Gillespie et al., 2022; Isaeva & Volkova, 2016, Sandvik et al., 2018; Skar et al., 2019), parents’ experiences (Clucas et al., 2014) and education (Berggren et al., 2021; Suleymanov, 2015).

The ICDP caregiver programme

ICDP is a program with a sound theoretical anchoring in an easily accessible and culturally sensitive framework. ICDP has a humanistic value base, based in the conventions on human rights and children’s rights. Through humanistic psychological perspectives the focus is on how humans create meaning and interpret and together with perspectives from development psychology a consequence for ICDP is to understand the child and support the caregiver’s sensitivity and empathy (Hundeide, 2001, 2010).

The aim is thus to strengthen the care and upbringing of children and adolescents through sensitizing and empowering parents/caregivers. Including strengthening the parenting skills. ICDP's philosophy is that the best way to support a child is to sensitize the child's caregivers. The ICDP House with the 3 dialogues and 8 themes for good interaction are simple aids in the sensitization process (Håndbok for ICDP-veiledere, 2016).

The ICDP House - The child in interaction with adults

The ICDP-program targets caregivers primarily in groups and is led by two facilitators. Through principles of sensitization, the facilitator’s role is to sensitize the caregivers in an equal interaction where also the facilitators themselves take a primarily non-expert role. The training of the facilitators itself is also a interactive dialogue that contextualizes the program. The learning methodology is that change comes by combining knowledge, reflection and practice. The philosophy is that every parent bear with them a latent love for their children. The role of the program is to find ways where the caregivers can strengthen og build on that. 

ICDP Norway’s International involvement

ICDP Norway coordinates all ICDP involvement that happens from Norway as a part of ICDP International. As ICDP already has a wide outreach within Norway, different entities see its potential in other countries. ICDP Norway therefore offers trainings and implementation guidance to new start-ups. Implementation in a new country is an important process. To create long term sustainability ICDP Norway promotes developing national ICDP-units, primarily as programs within already existing NGOs. The cultural sensitivity of the program is ensured through national ownership and implementation of ICDP. ICDP Norway also offers guidance to national ICDP-units in ways to strengthen the coordination toward a scaled up national implementation. The vision is that national entities can be part of developing national and culture sensitive capacity on child development and parents shielding roles.

Each country should thus have an ICDP coordination unit with the vision to scale up according to needs and sustainability. To become a national coordination unit, the organisation should have a good national anchoring that can adapt the programme to the local culture and context. It should have a vision of giving training to others apart from its own organisation and preferably have capacity in the area of child development and/or conducting trainings generally. In some cased ICDP can also be regarded as a way to develop this capacity within an implementing partners organisation. The national ICDP-units is also a part of regional and global ICDP movements.

To stimulate these processes ICDP Norway offers implementation guidance based on the experience from other contexts. The clue in each new start-up is to be conscious about implementation from the start – even if the program starts in a smaller project. That means assessing possible long term national units, include a simple plan on what will happen after a project has ended, think about whether and how other entities should be included in the initial training, what role academics and government should play in the long run etc. ICDP Norway offers this coaching process based on the same notion of sensitization as the caregiver program itself, acknowledging that the context will wary and that only true involvement will create an implementation that will bring sustainable change. Our common vision is to show the world’s parents how extremely important their role is!

Norway has had an active involvement in ICDP projects in many countries since the beginning. Historically through big projects in AngolaMosambique, Bosnia, MakedoniaLesothoSouth Africa and Malawi with funding from Norad, Norwegian Church Aid, UNICEF, Blue Cross Norway etc. Today there are ongoing training and follow up from Norwegian side to the following countries:

Nepal (or here) Senior trainer level funded by HimalPartner, Digni.

China (or here) - Senior trainer level funded by NLM, Digni.

Bangladesh – Trainer level funded by Normisjon, Digni.

Tanzania – Projects funded by Helseforetak Bergen og Sørlandet.

Botswana – Trainer level

Ghana – Trainer level

Ethiopia – Facilitator level.

Iraq– Awaiting funding for facilitator training.

Ukraine – Trainer level. Assessing funding/project to ICDP in Ukraine. ICDP in Ukraine have 15 trainers who are presently located both in and out of Ukraine.

Estonia – Facilitator level.

ICDP Norge 2022