Planning for the successful implementation of two evidence-based programs
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This article describes Uniting Care’s approach to supporting the implementation of two evidence-based programs in the East Gippsland region, as part of AIFS Evidence and Evaluation Support.
UnitingCare East Gippsland
UnitingCare East Gippsland (Uniting Care) is a Communities for Children Facilitating Partner (CfC FP), an initiative funded by the Department of Social Services to provide early intervention and prevention services to vulnerable families and children aged 0-12 years. Delivering evidence-based programs (EBPs) is one of the ways that Uniting Care assists families and children.
The wellbeing model
In 2015, Uniting Care designed a wellbeing model that aimed to improve outcomes for children with poor social skills and anxiety primarily through the delivery of two evidence-based programs: Secret Agent Society and DRUMBEAT.
A focus on implementation
Implementing EBPs can be a difficult undertaking without adequate resourcing, an implementation strategy and positive engagement from participants and stakeholders. For more information, see: A guide to selecting an evidence-based program.
The wellbeing model implementation strategy featured three key components: delivering EBPs that addressed a need within the community; dedicating resources to build workforce capacity; and cultivating strong leadership.
Understanding community needs
Community engagement strategies such as seeking input about planned activities and involving community members in decision-making processes can have a positive influence on community attitudes towards the project, service take-up, and outcomes for families and children (Moore et al., 2016).
Engaging with local data sets and community stakeholders enabled Uniting Care to identify the most pressing issues within the community and plan a response.
Building a capable and motivated network of facilitators
Unexpected challenges can arise in the process of implementing an EBP. Staffing changes, for instance, can undermine the program even before it begins (e.g., trained facilitators leave the organisation).
To avoid such disruptions Uniting Care devised an “opt-in/opt-out” approach whereby 20 interested schoolteachers and support staff were given training in their choice of program. In return, facilitators agreed to run the program for at least one year.
Capacity building activities offered to facilitators included the provision of program training and peer group support. The peer groups were especially valued as they enabled facilitators to share their experiences with each other, problem solve and exchange practice tips. For example, the Secret Agent Society program was adapted1 following the discovery that engaging parents in the program was difficult across sites.
Leadership and flexibility
One “champion” facilitator provided some much-needed leadership to other program facilitators by coordinating peer support activities and taking responsibility for progressing agreed actions.
The flexible aspects of the model (e.g., choice over program training and duration of delivery) have been instrumental to the success and sustainability of the program.
What impact did the wellbeing model have on the community?
In the early stages of the project Uniting Care spent more time and resources coordinating the model than anticipated. This was largely due to the high demand from families to have their children attend the program. However, in its second year of operation the wellbeing model is showing some promising results.
Feedback from children and facilitators about Secret Agent Society indicated that children had improved social and emotional skills. Further, results from 16 pre- and post-program surveys demonstrated that children in the DRUMBEAT program had increased levels of happiness and consistently high levels of program engagement. While it is encouraging to see children with school-absenteeism issues engage positively with the DRUMBEAT program, a second evaluation is being planned due to limitations with the outcomes measurement tool.
In addition to the benefits for children, program staff reported that the model helped to strengthen the school-provider relationship by enabling more communication opportunities between the organisations.
Moore, T., McDonald, M., McHugh-Dillon, H., & West, S. (2016). Community engagement: A key strategy for improving outcomes for Australian families (CFCA Paper No. 39). Melbourne: Child Family Community Australia information exchange, Australian Institute of Family Studies.
1. Facilitators consulted with the program developer prior to adapting the program.