Evaluating Fostering Futures therapeutic fostering service through action research: bringing together evidence and value-based approaches to evaluation.
A presentation given by Laura Stock, Ian Taberrer and Dr Dione Hills, to the UK Evaluation Society.
Working in a collaborative partnership with Fostering Futures Therapeutic Fostering Service, the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR) has been undertaking a participatory action research project. Unlike conventional research, the aim is to build the research skills and capacity of the Fostering Futures team: to enable them to capture and critically examine their ‘vision’ of the service, as well as to measure the impact they have on the children and young people they care for.
The Fostering Futures Service helps fostered children and young people – one of the most vulnerable groups in our society – who have often experienced painful, unstable and chaotic beginnings to their lives. The emerging and innovative approach of Fostering Futures is to provide long-term and therapeutic foster care to support ‘hard to place’ looked after children in need of care: by building young people’s resilience against stressful experiences and allowing them to fulfil their potential.
Action Research is an action-oriented form of research which seeks to both improve understanding of a situation and actively promote social change to improve this situation (Rappoport 1970; Carr and Kemmis 1986). Collaboration between researchers and practitioners is central to the action research process (Whyte, 1991):
‘Action research is a participatory process … it seeks to bring together action and reflection, theory and practice, in participation with others, in the pursuit of practical solutions to issues of pressing concern to people’ (Reason & Bradbury 2008).
It is a participatory research approach involving all stakeholders as partners, and addresses their complex realities by studying action as it unfolds at individual, organisational and systemic levels to identify lessons to improve practice. It challenges the power dynamics in traditional academic research between the ‘researcher’ and the ‘researched, and facilitates the active engagement in the research of those who would normally be thought of as ‘subjects’ (Reason 1988; Gaventa & Cornwall 2008).
This presentation is framed as a conversation between different members of the research team (both Fostering Futures and TIHR), who interview each other to explain and examine the action research project from their different perspectives. This includes an exploration of:
Fostering Futures Services: What are the value conflicts in the fostering sector? What is different about the fostering futures approach? Why did they want an evaluation?
Value & Evidence Based Evaluation Approaches: What is different about TIHR approaches to evaluation? What are value-based evaluation approaches? How can this be useful and what are the challenges?
About Fostering Futures Evaluation: What did the Fostering Futures evaluation consist of? What are the advantages and what are the challenges of working in this way? What have been the benefits of the evaluation to the Fostering Futures service and what challenges have there been?
Please click the audio below to listen to the presentation and view the following power-point slides in conjunction.
For more information on the presentation please contact Laura Stock (firstname.lastname@example.org). To find out more on the Fostering Futures action research project contact Dr Milena Stateva (email@example.com) or Ian Tabberer (firstname.lastname@example.org).