Life Without Barriers uses evidence informed approaches
Our values are at the heart of everything we do, as is our purpose to partner with people to changes lives for the better.
In Australia, there are 46,000 children in out-of-home care and reports, many produced as a result of public inquiries in each state and territory over the past two decades, that indicate the poor outcomes for children and young people in care.
Children in care generally experience disrupted attachments, multiple placements and poorer educational and health outcomes compared to their peers. There is an urgent need to question prevailing policy and practice approaches and to prevent harm to children, young people and their families where it can be avoided.
At Life Without Barriers, we are committed to adopting evidence informed practices and programs. We see it as our ethical obligation to apply the best available research and theoretical knowledge, together with practice expertise and the knowledge of those with lived experience. This combination ensures that the children, young people and families we support through our programs receive quality services that achieve positive outcomes.
Life Without Barriers released its first Evidence Based Strategy in 2017, which committed the organisation to working to close the ‘know-do’ gap; the gap between what the research evidence tells us is effective and what we do in day-to-day practice.
Adopting and practicing evidence informed approaches to scale is a challenging and long-term commitment. Research indicates that it can take organisations four to seven years to truly embed new practices. Based on our experience, it is a constant ‘struggle for congruence’ as organisations face staff turnover, leadership changes and, most recently, the disruptions of a pandemic.
Why adopt a new model?
Research can provide important relevant practice guidance. This includes what interventions can be most effective in response to each person’s circumstances. There is also an expectation from the communities we serve, and from funders, that service providers can demonstrate they are evidence informed.
Workers face a range of barriers to keep across new research, including time constraints, volume of literature, barriers to the accessibility of the research, readability and relevance, and the transferability of findings from studies conducted in different countries (Michaux, 2020; Shonkoff, 2000; Mayfield, 2011). Unless strategies are in place to support workers to overcome these barriers, there is the risk that workers become over reliant on personal practice experience and knowledge.
One of the advantages of adopting an evidence-informed program is that they are already broken down into accessible key messages which people can apply in their day-to-day practice. This includes the development of training curriculum that can support ‘going to scale’, without compromising the quality and consistency of evidence-based content.
When all staff in an organisation are trained in an evidence informed model, a common language and shared practice culture develops. This ensures quality and consistency across different teams. When organisations reach the sustainability phase of implementation, there is evidence that the embedded culture will prevail, helping the organisation withstand the risks often associated with staff turnover, leadership changes and other challenges which may otherwise disrupt or derail best practice initiatives.
Why adopt a model developed overseas?
While actions to progress research in Australia are promising, it may take years to build a robust and consolidated evidence-based model able to support generalisations. This creates a problem for service providers who need to respond ‘here and now’ to improve the quality of services for children, young people and their families in child protection and out-of-home care systems.
This drove Life Without Barriers to look beyond Australian research and adopt forward thinking and evidence-based programs developed overseas. These programs have the advantage of being immediately available and already tested.
Life Without Barriers is now committed to working in collaboration with the developers of the programs, to ensure practices can be adapted to the Australian context, particularly for cultural context, while maintaining program consistency.
As a signatory to Family Matters and as part of our Elevate Reconciliation Action Plan, Life Without Barriers is committed to being culturally sensitive and upholding the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle.
This means our Aboriginal and Torres Islander Leads from each state and territory, together with local staff, are actively involved in the implementation of and advise on adaptations to create positive outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities.
Stride is the strategic, innovation, design and evaluation team within Life Without Barriers. Their primary goal is to improve the experiences and outcomes for children, young people and families.
After forming strong partnerships with the developers of evidence informed approaches and successfully implementing these approaches internally, Life Without Barriers created Stride to share these learnings and to support the implementation journey of other agencies.
Researching models and programs requires expertise, time and resources to implement. As a large national service provider, Life Without Barriers now supports other agencies to review and select the programs which fit their unique organisation and provide the best support for the children and families they work with.
Life Without Barriers is on a mission to increase the awareness and accessibility of evidence informed approaches and to contribute to the sector by expanding our national research through partnerships with universities and researchers.