The importance of evidence

Everyone knows the importance of evidence. But what is good evidence when it comes to how we assess and respond to complex child and family situations? A new UK organisation sets a high campaigning standard: Foundations, the national What Works Centre for Children & Families.

Foundations is a merger of two sister organisations What Works for Children’s Social Care and the Early Intervention Foundation and their shared mission to use high quality evidence to improve the services and lives of all children. And especially the vulnerable ones.

Josh Macaiister, Chair of Foundations – In their Strategy Intro …… V V V V V

Foundations generates actionable evidence for raise awareness and to improve Services for Families so that children can have those essential lifelong loving relationships they need to go on and thrive in life.

How we know a problem-solving service does solve problems

An example of what high standard evidence looks like is in their study of the UK’s Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDAC). Recognised as one of the few problem-solving courts in the world, Foundation’s report confirms the positive outcomes for children because of this rare common sense approach. Few courts anywhere collect data in the way that, for example, health services routinely do to show outcome statistics instead of just hoping interventions work ok.

Yet the positive conclusions about outcomes from the FDAC cannot be firm yet: the cases may be pre-selected because they’re more likely to do well. There was also poor inconsistent data collected for comparison with FDACs on those families going through standard care proceedings. Read more detail here.

A more robust result, the report says, would require a Quasi-Experimental Design (QED) with better data, or a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT). These are standard methods in assessing treatments in health services.

Foundation has four recommendations for policy and practice on the importance of evidence. These apply to many other kinds of family courts and services that often operate with poor outcome evidence:  

  1. Embedding evaluation, including a cost analysis, in any scale up of problem-solving approaches
  2. Learn from the process evaluation to strengthen problem-solving approaches
  3. Given the evidence, commissioners could integrate FDACs along with other services for families. And
  4. Data collection during standard care proceedings should be improved and invested in.