Families and children’s services: international perspectives

Dr Mary BaginskyMary Baginsky is Senior Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s College London. (565 words)

Early in September I had the privilege of attending the International Conference on New Perspectives for Outcome-Based Evaluation and Research on Families and Children’s Services’. It was held at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and emerged from a collaboration between the University, the International Association for Outcome-based Evaluation and Research on Family and Children’s services (iaOBERfcs) and the Zancan Foundation, based in Padua, Italy. It brought together over 150 participants from 14 countries. The conference opened with children and young people performing traditional Chinese drumming and dragon dances and was followed by opening addresses and presentations. As interesting as the latter were, I was still contemplating how the girls at the back of the dragons had danced for 15 minutes while bent at an angle of 90 degrees.

The first keynote speech by Dr Cinzia Canali of the Zancan Foundation reported the findings of a project that was examining young people’s search for relationships while living virtual lives through social media. This was followed by a report from Professor Joyce Lai-Chong of the Chinese University of Hong Kong on the positive impact of multiple family therapy for families of children diagnosed with ADHD. The other keynotes over the course of the conference were all equally fascinating. Dr Carme Montserrat of the University of Girona reported the interim results from a longitudinal study on the factors impacting on children’s well-being and was followed by Professor Nina Biehal from the University of York comparing the outcomes of maltreated children depending on whether they were in care or reunited with their parents. The next day Professor Elizabeth Fernandez from the University of New South Wales explored the impact of public policies around the world that were designed to support or have an impact on families. Professor Fernandez will be spending some time at King’s in October and I am looking forward to discussing her findings with her in more detail then. The final keynote was delivered by Professor Anat Zeira from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who explored the challenges of introducing and sustaining a manualised programme in preventative services.

In between the keynotes researchers reported their work on a range of studies, including those designed to support families, measure outcomes, produce enhanced assessments, explore relationships, involve children and young people and improve policy development. All the presentations that I attended were of an extremely high standard; the data that were reported were rich, the presenters engaging and many future contacts were established. I hope they found what I had to say about our evaluation of MTM’s Signs of Safety Innovation Programme as interesting, and there were certainly a number of incisive reflections and questions from the audience. (Presentation)

On the final afternoon local services welcomed the conference participants. I went with Australian, Chinese and Finnish academics to Hong Kong Children and Youth Services—a preventative service in a more deprived part of Hong Kong. We were made very welcome and spent time with staff, parents, children and young people while they cooked, danced, built a robot, played digital darts and did their homework.

The days had passed by too quickly and had left little time to explore. However, as the typhoon had just passed and humidity levels were sky high any return visit will be at a very different time of year.

Mary Baginsky is Senior Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s College London.

References

Baginsky, M., Moriarty, J. & Manthorpe, J. (2017) ‘Signs of Safety: an evaluation across ten areas in England’, in Cinali, C., Ma, J. and Vecchiato, T. (eds), New Perspectives for Outcome-Based Evaluation and Research on Family and Children’s Services, Padova: Fondazione Emmanuela Zancan.

Baginsky, M., Moriarty, J. & Manthorpe, J. (2017) ‘Signs of Safety: an evaluation across ten areas in England’, International Conference on New Perspectives for Outcome-based Evaluation and Research on Family and Children’s Services, Hong Kong, 7 September.

Signs of Safety evaluation project page (with link to final report)

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