About the Families and Children Expert Panel Project
The Families and Children (FaC) Expert Panel Project provides tools and expertise aimed at building the capacity of FaC service providers to use evidence in practice.
Established in 2014, the Expert Panel Project is managed by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) on behalf of DSS.
In 2018 the Expert Panel was refreshed via an open tender process and ten organisations were appointed to the panel. AIFS will commission members from the Expert Panel to work with FaC providers where there is an identified need for support.
FaC service providers can also contract members of the Expert Panel Industry List to work with them to plan, implement and evaluate programs.
AIFS shares information about the Expert Panel and the Industry List through the Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) information exchange. CFCA’s mission is to share knowledge about what works to improve outcomes for children and families.
Evaluation of the Families and Children Expert Panel Project
The goal of the Expert Panel Project is to help Families and Children (FaC) Activity service providers to use evidence in their practice. To this end, we are evaluating the project to see how well it has been performing.
The Expert Panel Project aims to help service providers to: better articulate the evidence underpinning their programs; and to build program monitoring and evaluation into their routine. Its ultimate aim is to support evidence-informed programs for parents and children, and help those programs to achieve better outcomes for parents and children.
The purpose of this evaluation is to assess whether AIFS’ activities – providing targeted support and resources to service providers – have promoted the growth of evidence-informed practice in the Families and Children Activity sector. We also want to understand whether our work with Communities for Children (CfC) Facilitating Partners has helped those service providers to meet the evidence-based funding requirements.
The evaluation is in two parts. This first part looks at early indicators, from the first half of the six-year project period. The second part, looking at the overall project, will be completed in June 2020.
Building the evaluation capacity of the sector is important. The interim evaluation found evidence of a growing organisational capacity – particularly with CfC Facilitating Partners – to undertake program planning, implementation and evaluation tasks. However the capacity of service providers across the sector is very variable. Some organisations are confident, while others require quite intensive support.
Building sector capacity takes time and resources. We found that organisations are more likely to develop an evaluation culture if they have support and resources to do so, and that having access to local, affordable support is important. To that end, 81% of responding CfC Facilitating Partners and 63% of responding CfC Community Partners indicated they were satisfied with the support they’ve received from AIFS.
The interim evaluation has three main limitations:
- This first phase of the evaluation only considers whether there are preliminary indications of change in the sector.
- The evaluation relies heavily on self-reported survey data, which can limit the accuracy of baseline assessments of skill or knowledge, and obscure the degree to which there has been change.
- The data focus on CfC Facilitating Partners; data on other service providers are very limited, and conclusions about the remaining FaC sector are tentative.
What we’re doing next
We’re working on a final evaluation of the project, to be completed by June 2020. We’re keen to hear about practitioner’s experiences, and we will invite service providers to participate in a survey in mid-2019.
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Contact us if you want to know more about the evaluation.
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