Given that many organisations are in the process of developing or reviewing their strategic and operational plans, this week’s ‘In the Read’ includes three resources about using evidence to inform policy, programs and practice. Remember to be a critical reader of research and evaluations, particularly the descriptions of the methodology, acknowledged limitations, and conclusions so you can be confident that the research or evaluation has been designed and conducted ethically and inclusively. This is critical in a field such as child protection and a place like Queensland which has a diverse population and geography. For example, the participation of children and young people, parents, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, or people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds will be critical to whether the content is relevant and applicable to your context and clients.

You can access information about guidelines for researching with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here. Click here to access the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research. Click here for information relevant to researching with Child Safety Services clients.

Using evidence in policy and programs, a policy brief from the Centre for Community Child Health, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, sets out a decision-making framework that involves three key components equally: evidence-based programs (EBPs), evidence-based processes, and client and professional values and beliefs, within an evidence-informed decision-making framework. The paper asserts that evidence-informed (rather than evidence-based) approaches are more likely to deliver effective outcomes as evidence-based programs often fail some cohorts, particularly the most vulnerable families.

Lamenting that most EBPs reach only a small fraction of the people who would benefit, the Casey Foundation commissioned a study, Spreading evidence-based programs. It focuses on purveyors – organisations that disseminate EBPs – their role in the spread of EBPs, and their views about what may be standing in the way. Four programs are examined as in-depth case studies: HOMEBUILDERS®, KEEP, Multisystemic Therapy, and PATHS. Three things were identified as standing in the way: lack of resources, lack of expertise, and lack of incentive to expand the reach of their EBPs. Recommendations are made to purveyors and to others with links in the chain that can lead from evidence to impact – developers, funders, implementers, and supporting organisations such as clearinghouses.

Using evidence to strengthen policies for investing in children, from RAND Europe, provides a starting point for policymakers seeking information on how to use evidence to strengthen policies for investing in children. The guide covers the basics of some approaches to using evidence including conducting needs assessments, selecting practices that have shown promise in previous implementation, developing a logic model to help plan a practice and determine if it has achieved its objectives, and conducting or overseeing various types of evaluation including theory-based evaluations and counterfactual impact evaluations. The guide contains original material and also points users to existing useful material that is available for free on the Internet.