Slide outline: Strengthening what works for children

Return to CFCA webinar - 24 May 2017

1. Strengthening what works for children: Aligning target group, theory of change and program components to outcomes

  • Professor Leah Bromfield, Dr Mary Salveron and Jonathon Main
  • CFCA webinar, 24th May 2017

2. Acknowledgements

  • Dr Mary Salveron
  • Expert Panel (Professor Fiona Arney, Professor Leonie Segal, Professor Sharon Dawe, Dr Tamara Blakemore, Professor Leah Bromfield)
  • Programs across Australia

3. What we do is so important...

  • Adverse childhood experiences impact children's physical health, relationships, behaviour, mental health, wellbeing, learning and development
  • 1/4 children notified to child protection by age 10 (Lynch et al., 2017)
  • High burden of disease in maltreatment survivors - equivalent to breast/prostate cancer 

4. What we do is so important...

  • Limited pool of $$$ for child welfare programs
  • Cost-effective
  • Accountable
  • Actually work
  • They do no harm

5. Our most vulnerable children and families need and deserve the best support

  • If we can't always offer 'the best'
  • Is something better than nothing? 

6. Successful Programs

100% success rate for programs with clear:

  • aims and objectives,
  • target population
  • program components/activities,
  • mechanisms of change and
  • outcomes

7. Review of 52 Home Visiting Programs


Successful (n=25)

Not successful (n=27)

Full match (n=7)



Partial match (n=30)



Adapted from Segal, Opie and Dalziel, 2012, p.85

8. Sketch of planning process

  • Inputs. O/S FTE  "Carol"
  • Target group. Everyone
  • Activity. Strategies- home visit-conversation-meetings
  • Then "Magic happens"
  • Outcome "World peace"

9. A helping hand

Graphic linking

  • Target Group
  • Theory of change
  • Activities
  • Outcomes

10. A helping hand - notes

  • Optimally, apply these steps in program planning and design
  • As researchers – apply these steps in designing and conducting evaluations
  • Observed many programs not 'evaluation ready' as from logic step could see misalignment
  • Growing movement to apply steps retrospectively as a quality assurance/ quality improvement process - such as expert Panel

11. A helping hand - notes

  • ACCP formalised our approach, which we call Target Group to Outcomes
  • An initial, rapid, cost-effective process to provide confidence that a program's target group, activities and outcomes are in alignment and matched to evidence

12. Target group

  • What are the characteristics of the target population?
  • The WHO and the WHY

13. Activities and Strategies

  • What are the characteristics or components that make the program work?

14. Aims and Objectives

  • What is the outcome or change that will occur as a result of the strategies?

15. Theory of Change

  • A plausible and sensible model of how something is intended to work. (Bickman, 1985)
  • Graphic linking Strategies – Connections - Impacts

16 . Evidence matching

  • Are the key components and activities consistent with the evidence base?

17. Mismatch between Target Group and Activities

Target group

Theory of change



Parents involved with statutory child protection and who have had their children removed

Parents who have had their children removed need to change their parenting skills to provide better care for their children

Deliver parenting program demonstrated to increase parenting skill and reduce behaviour problems

Parenting improved so that risk is reduced and children can return home

BUT....Program is based on social learning theory and requires practice of skills with children, also self reflective capacity

18. Program drift

Target group

Theory of change



All parents with substance-abuse problems who have children 6-12 years old

Teach parents with substance abuse problems mindfulness techniques to increase their capacity for affect regulation and support and improved parent-child interactions

Home based sessions teaching  mindfulness techniques that parents put to practice with their children (including infants, toddlers, young children

Improve parent/child, interaction,
reduce the potential for child abuse in, decrease substance use

BUT....Parenting strategies are different for different child developmental stages…

19. Programs contra-indicated by evidence

Target group

Theory of change



Teenagers (13-15 years of age) attending school

Exposing teenagers to robot babies will "put them off getting pregnant and having babies" as teenagers

Expose teens to Virtual Infant Program where they experience what is like to have a baby that cries, burps, need nappy changes, feeds and care all day and night

Prevent teenage pregnancy

BUT.... evaluation showed an increase in teenage pregnancy

"We had to do the Parenting Program and see a counsellor to sort out our issues. He did anger management, he went to a psychiatrist, The issue was alcohol….. I thought they were there to pull the family together. That was the upsetting thing. (Parent). (Hinton, 2013)

21. Is something better than nothing?

  • Ethical duty of care
  • If evidence indicates an activity or intervention is:
    • associated with worsening outcomes
    • likely to be harmful
  • Then doing nothing is better than that thing

22. Summary

  • Minimum standard for our most vulnerable children and families
  • Programs have clear aims and objectives, clear mechanism of change, clear program components/activities and outcomes, consistent with a target population
  • Confidence that programs are not harmful

23. Resources
There are resources to support programs achieve this standard

  • CFCA Evaluation and Expert Panel Resources
  • Theory of Change

24. Insights from Relationships Australia SA

25. Professor Leah Bromfield
Australian Centre for Child Protection
University of South Australia
(08) 8302 2924

26. Questions?
Join the conversation & access key resources

  • Continue the conversation started here today and access related resources on the CFCA website: 

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