Principles before rules: Child-centred, family-focused and practitioner-led evaluation in child protection

Program evaluation snapshots
Thursday 26 July, 1100 – 1110


Stefan Kmit
Department for Child Protection

Supporting a learning environment through evaluation requires more than just the monitoring of service indicators. The South Australian Department for Child Protection (DCP) is committed to principles-based evaluation processes with children, families and practitioners that acknowledge the improvement journey is just as significant as the final outcome. Known as “the rudder for navigating complex dynamic systems” (Patton, 2018), principles-focused evaluations enable us to think beyond structures and processes to re-direct focus on service user experience and outcomes. Our ability to form and reform service approaches based on what key stakeholders tell us underpins a continuous improvement and questioning culture.

This is all driven by a passion to best identify how we can better use the voice of the child; shift our view of children and families from service users to service shapers; orient findings towards practitioner learning; and create more opportunities for closer collaboration across the board.

Recent “evidence-informed practice” (Moore, 2016) evaluations of the DCP Young People’s Council and the DCP Volunteer program have featured the voice of children and their families and carers within the system. Using these as case studies, we will examine the evaluation design and engagement strategies incorporated with children and families and share critical learnings about applying a principles-focused approach.