Evidence-Informed Response at Family Life
Named one of Australia’s top ten Not-for-Profits in the GiveEasy 2016 Innovation Index, Family Life is a well-established pioneer in the community services sector. While its success is undeniably due to its commitment to community, a lesser-known factor in Family Life’s positive social impact is its practical application of evidence-informed models.
What is Evidence-Informed Practice?
Evidence-informed practice at Family Life reflects the Department of Health and Human Services’s (DHHS) definition of evidence informed practice which has three key components:
- evidence-based programs,
- evidence-based processes,
- client and professional values and beliefs.
Evidence-based programs refer to interventions or programs that have been shown through rigorous formal testing to be effective in building client competencies and changing behaviour and functioning. Evidence-based processes refer to the way in which service providers and the service system as a whole engage and work with families, individually and collectively. Client and professional values and beliefs refer to the crucial role played by values and beliefs in determining what goals are important, what interventions and programs are acceptable, and how effective these are (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, 2016, p. 1).
Evidence-informed practice at Family Life is a client-centered approach and relies on the practitioner’s ability to critically understand, collaborate with clients and integrate all elements of evidence-informed practice. The use of research influences decisions about the approaches that are likely to offer the best chance of meeting a client’s needs and goals and consideration is given to ensuring that we avoid approaches that in specific situations, may have the potential for harm. Research, consideration of the client’s resources, circumstances and preferences, theory directed practice and the experience and expertise of practitioners come together to underpin practice at Family Life.
Family Life’s Commitment to Evidence-Informed Practice
Family Life applies its evidence informed approach to address a range of issues within the community services sector. These include issues such as family violence, parenting after separation, and working with children and young people who have experienced trauma. Recognising the impact trauma can have on our staff and practitioners as well, Family Life also incorporates trauma-informed practice into the organisational culture it fosters.
Tying into our overall pledge towards trauma-informed practice , this ensures that Family Life practitioners are informed but not consumed by the trauma they encounter in their work and remain best placed to provide high-quality care to the people that need it most.
Addressing a range of community service issues naturally calls for differing modes of evidence-informed practice. Through regular application and specialist training, Family Life has become expert in four key models: the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT), the Neurosequential Model of Education (NME), Parenting Under Pressure (PUP) and Safer Together.
The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT)
NMT, developed by child psychologist and neuroscientist Dr Bruce Perry, explores the effects of trauma on children at key stages of childhood brain development – from pregnancy and birth all the way to adolescence.
Applying NMT practices, Family Life is able to collect a history of each child we help. This chronology is used to understand what adverse events occurred at what period of their brain development to produce a complete picture of the child’s current challenges and developmental risk factors – and ultimately identify the best forms of intervention to support them.
Family Life currently has 16 NMT-certified practitioners and practitioners-in-training, who work toward official NMT certification over a 12-month period.
The Neurosequential Model of Education (NME)
NME is a tool that applies NMT principles specifically to a school community context. Its purpose is to help teachers better accommodate the needs of a trauma-inflicted child by generating an understanding of the child’s behavioural challenges.
Family Life practitioners assist teachers and other adults working with the child to adjust their expectations based on their current level of development, foster better relations between child and teacher, and develop means of support that accelerate the child’s progress in the classroom.
Parenting Under Pressure (PUP)
PUP is an intensive therapeutic outreach programme developed by Griffith University. It targets ‘multi-problem’ families affected by violence or mental health and aims at improving family function.
Family Life practitioners work directly with parents in one-on-one sessions to strengthen their parenting capabilities. This includes exploring stress-management techniques, coping strategies and connecting parents to community members to address issues of social isolation.
Safer Together, developed by David Mandel in Adelaide, draws on NMT teachings to address issues of family violence. It reframes violence as a parenting choice and provides parents with the tools and support to help them move away from violence and implement healthier parenting techniques.
Family Life practitioners are currently undergoing Safer Together training. In addition to incorporating it into the Family Life arsenal, they will also be equipped to offer training to other practitioners.
Family Life has repeatedly witnessed the benefits of evidence-informed practice. Investing in a variety of evidence-informed models allows Family Life to better service its communities and maintain its positive influence within the community services sector.
Supporting the Roadmap for Reform: Evidence-informed practice The Centre for Community Child Health Prepared for the Department of Health and Human Services May 2016.