Evidence-based family strengthening practice involves identifying, assessing, and implementing strategies that are supported by scientific research as being effective. Just as we expect our family physician to keep abreast of which treatment options work best, we want to use evidence in our own work to:
- Ensure we are integrating the best available research with current child abuse prevention program expertise to guide our work with children and families.
- Invest our limited dollars in programs and practices backed by evidence that shows they produce positive outcomes for children and families.
- Become more informed funders, consumers, and community partners to prevent child abuse and neglect.
- Foster a culture of continuous quality improvement by promoting ongoing evaluation and quality assurance activities across all prevention and family supported programs.
The terms “evidence-based” and “evidence-informed” are defined differently in different contexts. Evidence-based practices are approaches to prevention or treatment that are validated by some form of documented scientific evidence. This includes findings established through controlled clinical studies, but other methods of establishing evidence are valid as well. Evidence-based programs use a defined curriculum or set of services that, when implemented with fidelity as a whole, has been validated by some form of scientific evidence. Evidence-based practices and programs may be described as “supported” or “well-supported,” depending on the strength of the research design.
Evidence-informed practices use the best available research and practice knowledge to guide program design and implementation. This informed practice allows for innovation while incorporating the lessons learned from the existing research literature. Ideally, evidence-based and evidence-informed programs and practices should be responsive to families’ cultural backgrounds, community values, and individual preferences.
Evidence-Based/Evidence-Informed Programs and Practices for Family Strengthening and Child Abuse Prevention
Research has identified a number of evidence-based and evidence-informed programs and practices that strengthen families and reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect. National registries and websites provide more detailed information about particular programs. Readers are encouraged to evaluate the level of evidence available for any specific program, as well as to consider its appropriateness for specific families and communities. Some strategies that have been identified as evidence-based include:
- Family-centered interventions
- Individualized community supports
- In-home services
- Family-centered community building
- Parent education
Selecting and Implementing Evidence-Based/Evidence-Informed Programs and Practices
Selecting and implementing the appropriate evidence-based or evidence-informed programs and practices can be daunting. The FRIENDS National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention, with the help of State and national partners, developed Integrating Evidence-Based Practices into CBCAP Programs A Tool for Critical Discussions. This Discussion Tool was designed to promote conversations and careful thought to guide child abuse and neglect prevention programs in the selection, implementation, documentation, and evaluation of evidence-based or evidence-informed programs and practices.
The Discussion Tool was developed for use in a training environment with a skilled technical assistance provider. However, FRIENDS has made the Discussion Tool’s Introduction and Appendices available on its website. For more information about the Discussion Tool, visit: www.friendsnrc.org/CBCAP/priority/evidence.htm
The following online resources identify evidence-based programs. This is not an endorsement or an exhaustive list of resources. It is important to note that each registry may use different criteria to evaluate the strength of a program’s supporting evidence.
Blueprints for Violence Prevention (Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence)
California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare
Guide for Child Welfare Administrators on Evidence Based Practice
(National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators)
Model Programs Guide (The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention)
National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices
(Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
Promising Practices Network
In addition, Identifying and Selecting Evidence-Based Interventions, published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, offers guidance on how to determine which evidence-based practices and programs are the best fit for a specific organization’s goals: