Territory Stories

Current issues in child protection policy and practice : Informing the NT Department of Health and Community Services child protection review



Current issues in child protection policy and practice : Informing the NT Department of Health and Community Services child protection review

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Adam M. Tomison.


Tomison, Adam M; National Child Protection Clearing House (Australia)


E-Publications; E-Books; PublicationNT




Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).


Date:2004-02; Cover title. Written for the Northern Territory Department of Health and Community Services.

Table of contents

Child protection and family support services -- Developments in child protection practice -- Responding to child abuse and neglect in Indigenous and rural-remote communities -- Evidence-based practice in child protection – How do we better inform practice -- Conclusion: child protection and family support in the 21st Century.




Child abuse -- Australia -- Prevention

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National Child Protection Clearing House

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v, 89 ; 30 cm.

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Check within Publication or with content Publisher.

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CURRENT ISSUES IN CHILD PROTECTION POLICY AND PRACTICE 72 Northern Territory Depar tment of Health and Community Services In actuality: the phrase evidence-based practice (EBP) draws attention to the kind of evidence needed to rigorously test different kinds of practice-related claims. What is needed to critically appraise data regarding a question depends on what kind of question it is (e.g. question concerning effectiveness, validity of a measure, predictive accuracy of a risk assessment measure) (Gambrill 1999:344). Thus, although generally grounded in controlled, experimental studies, this does not mean that only RCT research should be accepted as valid. Rather, the development and use of the evidence base involves developing as complete a picture as is possible, critically assessing the most reliable and valid information available. RCTs can therefore be seen as an important, (but not the only), component of a research base. Because as Lewis notes: there are problems in trying to apply (RCTs) to social interventions, as many such interventions are not amenable to research designs involving RCTs (Lewis 1998:136). Despite its ability to demonstrate clear cause and effect relationships with regard to program or practice outcomes, a randomised control design (RCT) or even quasi-experimental approaches are often not possible in situ (in the real world context), or even desirable in every instance. First, they are not particularly sensitive to local and contextual factors that may affect practice and professional decision making (e.g. Webb 2001). Second, only a small proportion of published research even in medicine, the home of the RCT is able to be based on RCTs as it is often too difficult and too expensive (in terms of time and money) to be utilised. It is important therefore, to recognise that there are a variety of research methods that can provide a degree of experimental control, reliability and validity. The trick is to tailor the methods to the research question being investigated and any situational constraints. For those reasons the use of a multiple methods (or triangulation) approach is advocated. Combining quantitative and qualitative methods, and not necessarily excluding RCTs, this approach can provide a better understanding of applied social phenomena, such as child maltreatment and child protection work (Lewis 1998; Tomison 2000b). DEVELOPING A COMPREHENSIVE PICTURE What is also required when creating an evidence base is the development of a comprehensive picture of what works. Research should consist of a hierarchy of steps that builds to a comprehensive evaluation of policy and practice, not merely a measure of outcome or success which does not tell us why a particular initiative is successful. A research program is therefore the equivalent of a basic program evaluation model, and should include the following stages in order to fully assess an issue (Tomison 2000b): Baseline (or input) stage: where the question to be addressed is documented; aims, objectives etc. reported; and the development of the program or initiative described. Process (also known as implementation or formative evaluation): The extent to which a program or initiative is operating as intended via the assessment of ongoing program elements and the extent to which the target population is being served. That is, how the program is achieved, any modifications undertaken, which program elements have led to a successful outcome. Outcome (impact): The extent to which a program or intervention affects participants on a set of specified outcomes, variables or elements; the effect on clients, workers, and wider society. Outcome studies are often the focus of research where a primary aim is to demonstrate success to funding bodies. Overall, to develop an evidence-base requires an investment in a research base that supports comprehensive investigation and evaluation. Determining why something works is just as important as determining whether it works at all. However, Lewis contends that to develop a truly comprehensive assessment regarding a particular issue, undertaking input and process analyses in combination with impact/outcome assessments, is only part of the process. It is also important to give consideration to what types of information can be incorporated into the assessment. Lewis contends that a wide range of information should be drawn upon, in addition to research data, such as experiential knowledge, common sense, practice wisdom, user perspectives rather than simply statistical correlations, important though these can be (Lewis 1998:136).

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