Service improves wellbeing for kids in care
Updated November 2023
A three-year evaluation undertaken by the Parenting Research Centre (PRC) has found evidenced-based support significantly increases stability of care placements and leads to better psychological outcomes for children in care.
The LINKS Trauma Healing Service is an example of how evidence-based programs can be used to reduce the risk of further placement changes for highly vulnerable young people exposed to trauma as a result of child abuse or neglect.
The service – which was offered in two locations in NSW – used a combination of four well-known parent/carer and child-mediated programs targeted to the individual needs of referred families.
Key findings from PRC’s independent evaluation
The evaluation was funded by the NSW government as part of the Their Futures Matter Reform. PRC led a partnership with the Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre of Australia and Deakin Health Economics at Deakin University, and found the service had a highly significant effect on placement stability, compared to a matched comparison sample of young people in care across NSW.
Other findings revealed moderate to large effect sizes for those who completed a LINKS program compared to those who discontinued early, with significant treatment effects for carer wellbeing, child and young person post-traumatic stress, school suspensions and contacts with juvenile justice.
There were also greater reductions in ‘risk of significant harm’ reports to child protection authorities when comparing those completing LINKS with the ‘business as usual’ matched comparison sample, although the treatment effect was just non-significant for this outcome.
The estimated cost to deliver LINKS (around AU$12,000 per family per year) can be considered to be largely recouped by the reduced costs to government of fewer placement changes. Therefore, LINKS was deemed to provide a cost-effective solution to the damaging impacts of placement instability.
Furthermore, LINKS was highly valued by carers, and qualitative data about the effectiveness of LINKS aligns with quantitative evidence of its effectiveness.
Our rigorous evaluation provided the NSW Government with clear evidence of the effectiveness and value of LINKS, and was pivotal in informing decisions to scale up the service to two additional sites (Orange and Illawarra). Our evaluation is helping to build knowledge about the value of evidence-based programs as a therapeutic solution for highly vulnerable young people living in out-of-home care, including for the large numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in care.