December 4, 2020

Fostering strong evidence informed practice and decision making

The Learning System grants, funded by DHHS, and administered by OPEN, CFECFW, are seed grants provided to sector organisations to deliver projects which build their capacity and develop, apply and share evidence and transferable learning.

The Learning Systems Grants are a key support to progress the recommendations of the Roadmap to Reform through strengthening the sector’s use and development of evidence and fostering a sector wide learning system where outcomes are measured and children and family services are continually evaluated, refined and improved, translated and shared to build the knowledge base across the sector.

The Learning System Grants commenced in 2017, and are now in their third year, with 28 projects funded to date. Projects funded in the first and second years are almost complete. An Outcomes report will be prepared in 2021 about their achievements.

Projects funded this year, have been recently announced and are about to commence. Our third year of projects are diverse and include projects which focus on participatory approaches to capture client voice, particularly children and young people and those which focus on client-centred approaches to design innovative interventions and develop/implement outcomes and practice frameworks.

All the projects will be supported over the next 12 months by the Outcomes, Practice and Evidence Network (OPEN).

Introducing our new LSG projects

In the following section, we introduce four of our new LSG projects which aim to improve practice at the program level by designing or testing a new idea or adding a new element to an existing intervention. Congratulations to:

  • Caroline Chisholm Society: MotherCare – Designing an evidence-based approach when working with unborn reports
    • This project, undertaken in partnership with University of Melbourne, Victoria University and the University of Newcastle, aims to improve practice and strengthen practitioner capability to respond to the phenomenon of ‘unborn’ reports, wherein some mothers are at risk of having their babies removed from their care at birth.  Using a case-study approach, the project will analyse practitioners’ experiences reflecting the real-life context of expectant mothers who are at risk of being reported to child protection.


  • Kids First: the KODY project: Developing an all-of-family intervention at the intersections of DFV and AOD
    • This project, undertaken in partnership with Odyssey House Victoria and University of Melbourne, aims to evaluate the pilot of an adaptation of the Caring Dads program. The pilot will intervene with men who misuse AOD and use violence, provide support to their children and their mothers and develop a suite of process and outcome measures for the evaluation. The team will particularly focus on capturing the voices of children to inform the evaluation and future modifications of the program.


  • MacKillop Family Services: Developmental Evaluation of the Therapeutic Adolescent Family Violence Specialist (TAFVS) Pilot Program
    • The project, undertaken in partnership with RMIT, will implement the TAFVS Program a relational therapeutic outreach program for adolescents aged 10-17 who are using or are at risk of using family violence in the home or in a dating context. It will then undertake a developmental evaluation of the implementation of the program to promote learning and adapt and improve the program through the course of the pilot period.


  • The Bridge Youth Service: Step UP+; Addressing Adolescent
    • The project focuses on filling a gap identified while delivering the Step-Up program by providing a 1-on-1 therapeutic intervention for young people who are using violence in the home. The team will implement and measure the effectiveness of Emotional Regulation and Impulse Control (ERIC), an evidence-based program which is predicted to improve executive functioning of young people and parent/family relationships. The project will also include a capacity building element involving the training of staff in the ERIC model.


  • Anglicare Victoria: ‘living labs’ – Developing a framework for participatory research, evaluation and service design in children, youth and family services
    • The project, undertaken in partnership with Youth Affairs Council Victoria and Monash University, will develop a framework for using client engagement to inform service planning, program development, delivery, risk assessments, and research and evaluation approaches. The framework will engage marginalised and at-risk families to generate evidence and make decisions to design a system that suits their needs. The aim is to develop a sustainable model for participatory research which can be used by organisations to support their service designs, implementation and evaluation.


  • Family Life – Family Life’s Theory of Change: Through the Child’s Eyes
    • The project, undertaken in partnership with Australian Childhood Foundation, will use a co-design process, informed by a literature review and participatory approach with children and young people as consultants to shape Family Life Theory of Change. The project also aims to embed the Theory of Change into Family Life’s evaluation framework and client management system and then undertake a developmental evaluation to understand and document the consultation process.


  • Gippsland Lakes Complete Health: Partnering with families to improve early support for children in East Gippsland
    • The project, undertaken in partnership with Save the Children, Uniting Vic Tas and the Centre for Community Child Health, aims to improve ways in which the four organisations collaborate and engage meaningfully with families. Using a flexible approach, named Plan Do Study Act cycle, the project will involve families in the design, implementation and evaluation of services to deliver early help; and strengthen relationships and cooperation between services for a consistent approach to support systematic data collection, learning and improvement.


  • Uniting Vic. Tas: Uniting’s Therapeutic Residential Care Initiative: Evaluating Outcomes for Children and Young People
    • The project in partnership with Verso Consulting will measure the impact of Therapeutic Specialists on the outcomes for children and young people in Uniting’s nine residential homes. The staff will be engaged in a capacity building exercise to inform the program logic and learning tools and scoring applications for an ongoing data collection plan.


  • Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency: Development of an Aboriginal Outcomes Measurement Tool
    • VACCA has developed an Outcomes Framework which articulates key outcomes of connection, protection, and healing for their services. This project in partnership with Murdoch Children’s Research Institute will develop a tool to measure outcomes for Aboriginal children, families, carers, and Community members that access VACCA services. The tool will be based on case practice including assessment, case review and closure processes to hear the voices of Aboriginal Community members. Once developed and tested, the tool will be part of daily practice at VACCA.

Congratulations once again to our recipients and we look forward to hearing of their progress and lessons as they deliver their projects. We will report these through the OPEN News as work progresses.

Stay tuned!