Evaluating promising methods when there is a lack of evidence
Integration, Sociala insatser
19 Feb 2020
There is a broad consensus that in the case of children and young people, early intervention pays off primarily as benefits to the individuals involved, but also in economic terms. But how can we establish that a given intervention really yields long-term positive effects? And what is the optimum way of comparing one type of intervention with another type in order to determine which of them yields the best results?
In the past ten years, more than 200,000 children and young people have arrived in the Nordic countries as asylum seekers, either alone or with their families. Most of the children and their parents are in good physical and mental health and have adjusted well to everyday life. Some families, however, may need support when they come to their new Nordic homeland. For these people, there is a need for effective measures that produce both short-term and long-term results. These measures, for example, may relate to acquiring a greater understanding of how children’s healthcare, preschool and school work, or what expectations society has on the individual as a parent. A recent report issued by the Nordic Welfare Centre highlights some of the measures that facilitate a good, secure start for this category of children and their parents in their new homeland.
A promising method – evidence-based or not?
Being able to determine whether or not a given method or approach is supported by evidence requires a great deal of effort. Evaluations often use significant resources, and it can take many years before an exact determination can be made of the nature of the effects a measure has on individuals. In addition, many measures target relatively small groups who are often facing complex situations. This makes it difficult to determine exactly what effect a given measure had.
“We chose to pilot test a Danish typology of promising practises in order to examine whether that typology could function as a tool for the description and analysis of various measures in the social services sector, and we found that it did. We concluded that the typology resulted in comprehensive and in-depth descriptions of the relevant measures”, says Aila Määttä, a project leader at the Nordic Welfare Centre and the primary author of this report.
Five examples of early interventions from Nordic countries
This analysis of interventions is based on a typology produced by the Danish National Centre for Social Research. The typology describes eleven elements that combine to form a tool that functions as a complement to evidence-based interventions. The typology may be used, for example, to evaluate strengths and challenges, as well as to provide inspiration for those measures that may need additional improvement.
The eleven elements have been grouped into the following four main categories:
- Knowledge base: theory and knowledge, as well as positive effects
- Models: description, goals, transferability, as well as financial factors
- Professional knowledge and development: professional reflection, relational cooperation, as well as individual adaptation and interaction
- Adaptation: monitoring and follow-up
“The overarching purpose of the report has been to disseminate knowledge of interventions that promote the participation and integration of recently arrived children, young people and parents in their new homeland. This knowledge can form a basis for the work of developing new methods and better interventions for recently-arrived children and their families,” according to Aila Määttä.
The report includes interviews with parents and professionals who describe their experiences of the various interventions. Amongst those we meet are Ekbal Shaker who is 38 years old and a mother of five. She fled from Syria and has now been living in Denmark for the past 2.5 years. The family members have together participated in a MindSpring group.
“The most important thing I learned was a new way of speaking and listening to my children. We also talked a lot about identity during the courses. When we become refugees, our identity changes, and this applies both to our children, and to ourselves, as parents.”
Ekbal Shaker feels that it is important that her husband and sons come with her to the MindSpring meetings.
“My husband is a changed man. Before this, he didn’t help at home, but now he cleans up after meals and helps me when I’m tired. And today, my son can distinguish between what is right and what is wrong. Previously, he could say to his sister that he couldn’t play with her because she’s a girl. Now he understands that this is not the way things are here in Denmark. It’s more democratic here.
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