Children, young people and families

In the early years of a child's life the foundations are laid for their future development, health and wellbeing. Children have the right to safety, loving care, and the services they need to succeed. But, for a range of reasons, not all receive these. Concerns include the number of children subject to abuse and neglect, the over-representation of Indigenous children in the child protection and out-of-home care systems, and the poor long-term outcomes for children who have been in out-of-home care.

The national framework for protecting Australia’s children recognises that, while parents have the primary responsibility for raising their children, protecting Australia’s children is everyone’s business. While the majority of parents will raise happy and healthy children with the support of the community and general services, others will need more help. The emphasis is on prevention and early intervention, however in some cases, targeted intervention will be required.

Youth is a time of development and transition—of emotional and personal maturation, setting of career preferences and goals, and movement from reliance on parental support towards economic independence. This is when personal and vocational skills are developed, qualifications obtained, and the foundations laid for employment and income trajectories over the decades to come. But the transition to adulthood can be a difficult time for some young people. Today’s youth also face new challenges, including changing family and social structures, continually developing technologies, and an evolving labour market.

Investing in young people—supporting them to develop the confidence, resilience and skills they need to be involved and productive citizens—is key to preparing Australia for the challenges of the future. In recent years, there has been a focus on increasing educational attainment and on capturing the perspectives of young people in policy development. There are numerous strategies to support young people at risk, including mentoring programs, alternative learning programs, support services, youth mental health services, and supports for young people leaving state care, as well as diversion programs for young people who come into contact with the criminal justice system.

 


Project examples

Click on any of the following projects for more information.

Target Earlier Invention (TEI) program reform – Sector Assistance Strategy

(NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2017)

Target Earlier Invention (TEI) program reform – Sector Assistance Strategy

(NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2017)

The NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) is currently undertaking Targeted Earlier Intervention (TEI) Program reform, and is developing a two-phase Sector Assistance Strategy in collaboration with peak organisations to assist existing funded services transition to the new TEI Program. ARTD has been engaged to develop Phase 1 of the Strategy that aims to support TEI funded services to effectively participate in the TEI commissioning process. A series of interviews and two co-design workshops with peak organisations were conducted along with a substantial online survey of existing TEI funded services. This comprehensive consultation process will be used to inform what assistance measures should be included in Phase 1 of the Strategy to best meet TEI funded services’ needs in relation to TEI commissioning, local planning and transition. It will also provide a starting point for the future development of Phase 2 of the Strategy.

Evaluation of the Resilient Families Service

(NSW Treasury, 2013)

Evaluation of the Resilient Families Service

(NSW Treasury, 2013)

In November 2013, ARTD was engaged by NSW Treasury to evaluate Resilient Families, an intensive support service delivered to families in greater Sydney by The Benevolent Society as part of the NSW Government’s Social Benefit Bond scheme (TBS)

The purpose of the evaluation is to assess the implementation and outcomes of the service over its first three years of operation from 2013 and assess the appropriateness of the measures place for the purpose of bond payments. Throughout the three-year study the service has moved to a more established stage of implementation, providing a flexible service, responsive to client needs.  ARTD’s recommendations have focused on further development of the service to optimise outcomes for families. The Preliminary and Mid-term evaluation reports can now be viewed on the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet’s website.

Evaluation of the Focus on Early Childhood Inclusion project

(Early Childhood Intervention Australia (NSW Chapter) Inc., 2014-15)

Evaluation of the Focus on Early Childhood Inclusion project

(Early Childhood Intervention Australia (NSW Chapter) Inc., 2014-15)

The Focus on Early Childhood Inclusion project was a capacity-building project for the early childhood sector, which aimed to improve the inclusion of children with disability in their home, early childhood services and the community. ARTD was engaged to develop an evaluation framework and plan for the project, working closely with ECIA NSW, the project steering committee, and representatives from the NSW Department of Family and Community Services (the funding agency). We first agreed on a program logic, identifying the project’s short- and long-term outcomes, then developed an evaluation framework and plan based on this.

ARTD was subsequently commissioned to undertake a formative and impact evaluation of the two-year project. The evaluation included interviews and discussions with key stakeholders, including early childhood intervention services, early childhood education centres, pre-schools, program staff, regional representatives from ADHC, and families of young children with disability. We also undertook two state-wide surveys of early childhood intervention services. Their report supported ECIA NSW to review and improve its delivery of the program as required and support ECIA and ADHC to assess the extent to which the project met its objectives.

Monitoring and reporting of Families Mental Health Support Services

(Department of Social Services, 2014)

Monitoring and reporting of Families Mental Health Support Services

(Department of Social Services, 2014)

Families Mental Health Support Services aims to improve mental health outcomes for children and young people, and their families. ARTD was engaged to develop a performance framework and monitoring system for the family mental health early intervention program. We designed and implemented an online data transfer and reporting system for all funded services. Initially, the Department used the system to monitor progress with implementation; later to establish outputs and client outcomes. As it was designed to be flexible, the system allowed DSS to effectively monitor the new program with emergent models of service delivery.

Monitoring and reporting for Families NSW

(NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2009-16)

Monitoring and reporting for Families NSW

(NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2009-16)

Families NSW is the NSW Government’s overarching strategy to enhance the health and wellbeing of children up to eight years and their families. Services funded under the strategy fit into six types: supported playgroups, parenting programs, family worker, community capacity building, partnerships and networks, and volunteer home visiting.

In 2011, ARTD was engaged to design a monitoring framework and system to support reporting requirements for all service types. We reviewed existing research tools and worked with key stakeholders to develop an outcomes-based framework, data collection tools, and an online data collection system. We piloted the system and made adjustments.  Then we oversaw data collection and provided and six-monthly reporting at the individual service and statewide level to support ongoing management of the program.

Evaluation of Aboriginal Intensive Family-Based Services

(NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2012-13)

Evaluation of Aboriginal Intensive Family-Based Services

(NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2012-13)

Four Aboriginal non-government organisations were funded to deliver Intensive Family-Based Services with a step-down component under Keep Them Safe, the NSW Government’s response to the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW. ARTD was engaged to conduct a process and outcomes evaluation of the services in two stages. The process component identified how the services could be more effectively delivered to meet the needs of families and other stakeholders. The outcomes component assessed the services’ impact on the number of substantiated risk of harm reports and out-of-home care placements for children and young people in participating families.

Monitoring for family violence services

(NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2011–2017)

Monitoring for family violence services

(NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2011–2017)

FACS manages two state-wide specialist domestic and family violence services programs: Integrated Domestic and Family Violence Services (IDFVS), and Staying Home Leaving Violence (SHLV). These form part of the Directorate’s key strategy to address domestic and family violence. Both programs provide women and children with flexible, practical and emotional support that promotes recovery from the trauma of domestic and family violence.

In 2011, ARTD developed a monitoring system to monitor the outcomes of these two programs. The systems collect data from service providers about the types of clients they see, the services they provide to them, and the outcomes that are being achieved. Data collection also includes surveys that are distributed to clients about their experiences with the service and outcomes achieved.  The detailed data reports ARTD produces about each of the programs at the end of each financial year assist FACS to make improvements to the program and to make funding decisions.

Evaluation of the Community Services Clinical Issues Unit

(NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2013)

Evaluation of the Community Services Clinical Issues Unit

(NSW Department of Family and Community Services, 2013)

The Clinical Issues Unit is a team of expert staff based in Community Services who provide specialist advice to caseworkers and managers around drug and alcohol, mental health and domestic violence. It was expanded from the former Drug and Alcohol Expertise Unit in 2009 through Keep Them Safe funding. The Office of the Senior Practitioner in Community Services commissioned ARTD to evaluate the CIU to inform strategic decisions about its future resourcing and functions. The focus was on assessing take-up of CIU services and the effectiveness and efficiency of the CIU in improving caseworker knowledge, skills and practice around the three clinical issues. The evaluation used mixed-methods: an online survey of 540 casework staff, semi-structured interviews with caseworkers and managers across six sites, interviews with senior stakeholders, analysis of administrative data, case studies and a cost efficiency analysis. The evaluation provided evidence about the use and value of clinical expertise within the Department and the most efficient and effective model for delivering the service to caseworkers.

 

Evaluation of first stage family case management project

(NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, 2012)

Evaluation of first stage family case management project

(NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, 2012)

Family Case Management—a twelve-month integrated case management intervention for families identified by government and/or non-government agencies as high-level service users—was a strategy in Keep Them Safe, the NSW Government's five-year plan to improve the safety and wellbeing of young people in NSW. ARTD was commissioned conduct a process, outcomes and economic evaluation of the pilot.  We used a mixed method design, drawing on interviews with participating family members and primary contacts, a staff survey, and an analysis of pre- and post-data on family functioning and key agency administrative data (including child protection reports, accident and emergency presentations, school non-attendance, and public housing arrears and complaints). The incremental costs of the pilot were assessed against the demonstrated reductions in government services where it was possible to quantify these in monetary terms. We also conducted a sizing analysis to estimate the size and geographic distribution of the potential target group by looking at families that were the subject of multiple reports to the Child Protection Helpline and other human service agencies. The report was used to inform the development of a statewide approach to integrated case management and any further rollout of the model.

Youth Frontiers outcomes monitoring

(Department of Family and Community Services – Community Programs and Policy, 2016 ongoing)

Youth Frontiers outcomes monitoring

(Department of Family and Community Services – Community Programs and Policy, 2016 ongoing)

Youth Frontiers is a state-wide mentoring initiative, implemented by the Department of Family and Community Services, that aims to enhance youth development outcomes through community engagement activities. It involves four agencies delivering school-based mentoring to young people in Year 8 and Year 9, reaching about 1,200 mentees per year. Between 2014 and mid-2016, ARTD evaluated the implementation and outcomes of Youth Frontiers FACS acted on the recommendations from our evaluation to continue Youth Frontiers for an additional year, on the proviso that some refinements to program requirements were made. In late 2016, FACS approached ARTD to monitor the outcomes of the Youth Frontiers program at the end of 2016 and in 2017. To do this, ARTD will work with the four Youth Frontiers providers to administer post-program surveys to mentors and mentees, collecting data and then providing summary monitoring reports to FACS.

Evaluation of NSW Youth Mentoring Program

(Office of Communities, 2014)

Evaluation of NSW Youth Mentoring Program

(Office of Communities, 2014)

The YWCA NSW delivered 4 youth mentoring models in 29 locations across NSW. To evaluate the program, we reviewed the national and international peer-reviewed and grey literature; assessed the models against the Australian Youth Mentoring Network Benchmarks; explored how the models were implemented in different contexts; and identified the strengths and weaknesses of each approach to develop a best practice model. This has since been scaled up at the state level.

Review of Links to Learning for youth at risk

(NSW Department of Education and Communities, 2013)

Review of Links to Learning for youth at risk

(NSW Department of Education and Communities, 2013)

Links to Learning is targeted at students in Years 7 to 12 at risk of disengaging from education and young people who have left school before completing Year 12 and are not enrolled in Vocational Education and Training. The Department funds non-government organisations and local government authorities to deliver innovative projects designed engage these students in education. ARTD reviewed the program’s effectiveness, efficiency and appropriateness. We used a mixed-method design, drawing on a desktop analysis and literature review, online survey of program providers, key informant interviews, and stakeholder forums. The findings were used to develop a more strategic approach to the program and identify priorities for resourcing the new model.

Evaluation of alcohol education program for young people caught drinking

(NSW Police Force, 2013)

Evaluation of alcohol education program for young people caught drinking

(NSW Police Force, 2013)

The Your Choice program provides young people caught drinking and their parents the choice to attend an information session instead of paying a fine. The program aims to reduce dangerous drinking by raising young people’s awareness of strategies to avoid risks and challenging their perceptions of the prevalence and desirability of underage and heavy episodic drinking. It also aims to increase parents’ sense of responsibility for, and ability to act on, their child’s drinking. The program was introduced in 16 Police local areas commands (LACs) in 2009, and extended to 3 more. NSW Police developed a web-based alternative to address perceived inefficiencies and disincentives inherent in the face-to-face sessions for trial in six LACs in 2013. ARTD was engaged to evaluate the program using a mixed-method approach. We drew on monitoring data, Google analytics data, surveys and focus groups of participants, and consultation with police and health workers. Based on the evidence we provided, NSW Police are updating the program and rolling it out statewide. They are also using our report to inform interagency policy discussions about youth alcohol diversion.

Framework for and evaluation of mentoring programs for school students

(South Australian Department of Education and Child Development, 2012-13)

Framework for and evaluation of mentoring programs for school students

(South Australian Department of Education and Child Development, 2012-13)

South Australia’s Community and Secondary Mentoring programs provide students at risk of disengaging from school with access to a mentor for an hour a week in school time. ARTD was engaged to design an evaluation framework for the programs and then to conduct the process and outcomes evaluation in two stages.

To assess outcomes we used a quasi-experimental design, with pre- and post-testing of resilience, optimism, social relations and love of learning among participating students and a control group of similar students who did not receive mentoring. To understand which students mentoring worked for, why and how, we also used a realist approach, forming a hypothesis from qualitative data from teachers, mentors and students and testing it in quantitative data. The final report made recommendations to further develop the programs and target them at the students most likely to benefit.

Framework for and evaluation of Innovative Community Action Networks

(Department of Education and Child Development, 2012-13)

Framework for and evaluation of Innovative Community Action Networks

(Department of Education and Child Development, 2012-13)

Innovative Community Action Networks is a state-wide strategy developed by the South Australian Government to address disengagement from education and learning in upper primary and high school years. ARTD worked with the Department to develop a logic model and evaluation framework for the program. We were subsequently engaged to conduct a process and outcomes evaluation in two stages. We used a mixed-method design. Qualitative data provided evidence about context and implementation. We measured outcomes for the 2011 cohort of around 4,000 students using attendance, behaviour and learning achievements data and a validated survey instrument measuring engagement in learning, relationships and wellbeing.  The findings were used throughout the project to inform the ongoing development of the strategy and provide a case for its future resourcing.

Evaluation of program for youth at risk of involvement in motor vehicle crime

(Bankstown Council, 2012)

Evaluation of program for youth at risk of involvement in motor vehicle crime

(Bankstown Council, 2012)

The council’s U-Turns for Youth program provides local youth at risk of involvement in motor vehicle crime with access to support services and automotive and life skills workshops to support their engagement in education, training, employment. ARTD developed an evaluation framework, plan and data collection tools for the council’s internal evaluation of the project. We then analysed the data collected by council staff and provided a final report about the program’s contribution to the council’s goals for this sector and for the broader community.

Evaluation of Two Streams Together

(Aboriginal Affairs NSW, 2012)

Evaluation of Two Streams Together

(Aboriginal Affairs NSW, 2012)

Two Streams Together aims to increase the retention of Aboriginal young people in high school and, ultimately, to improve their opportunities for further training and employment. It is provided in partnership between Greenacres Disability Services and Shoalhaven High School, and has been operational since 2007. ARTD consulted with staff and students and drew on monitoring data to evaluate the impact of the program. The evaluation findings supported the service providers in their strategic planning.