What works in providing trauma-focused support for children in care?
The Parenting Research Centre is partnering in a new evaluation of a service to reduce trauma for children in out-of-home care.
The LINKS Trauma Healing Service was introduced in NSW as part of Their Futures Matter, a NSW Government reform to overhaul the coordination and delivery of services to vulnerable children, young people and their families.
This new service, delivered by Psychological Services, Department of Family and Community Services (FACS), aims to improve psychological wellbeing and provide children in care with evidence-based, trauma-focused support. There are currently two sites operating: one in the greater Newcastle region and one in the Penrith/St Mary’s area of Sydney.
The service involves specialist teams partnering with children and their families to deliver four different interventions. We have partnered with the Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre of Australia (CIRCA) and Deakin Health Economics at Deakin University, Melbourne, to assess the outcomes of these interventions, including the impact on children’s psychological wellbeing, behavioural and emotional functioning.
Evaluating LINKS’ effectiveness
Dr Catherine Wade, Parenting Research Centre Principal Research Specialist and project lead, said the evaluation team would use a number of methods to measure effectiveness. These include interviews with intervention site staff, analysis of service and outcomes data and in-depth family interviews. The evaluation will assess whether the program has increased stability of care placements as the primary outcome.
“The project will also assess the cost-effectiveness of the LINKS service, to help to determine its efficiency,” Dr Wade said. “Children in out-of-home care are a major priority. So it is fantastic that the NSW Government is committing resources to ensure its programs to improve child outcomes in this area are having the intended effect.”
Addressing needs of Aboriginal families
The evaluation will also look at how LINKS is serving Aboriginal families and children – about half the LINKS target cohort.
“Having CIRCA as a partner in the project is important because they bring great expertise in research in Aboriginal populations. Their Aboriginal researchers will be important to the data collection and analysis process,” said Dr Wade.
Respected public health researcher, Professor Sandra Eades from the University of Melbourne and a Noongar woman from Mt Barker, WA, has also joined the team as an adviser and member of the Project Board.
“It’s wonderful that Professor Eades, who has such a strong research track record, is part of this project,” said Dr Wade. “We are delighted to collaborate with her on this important work.”
The evaluation is due for completion in June 2020.