Nest What Works for Kids is an initiative of the ARACY Prevention Science Network, led by convenors of the network, Associate Professor Sophie Havighurst and Professor John Toumbourou.
What is Nest What Works for Kids?
Nest What Works for Kids (WW4K) is Australia’s first searchable online database and networking site for researchers, practitioners and policy-makers working to improve the wellbeing of children and youth, aged 0–24 years.
Originally funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services (2014), WW4K provides information on interventions which focus on prevention, and for which there is evidence that they work.
The evidence that they work is rated according to the level of research evaluation that has been conducted on each program (see Rapid Evidence Assessment). This makes WW4K a unique resource.
The website allows anyone investing in child and youth wellbeing to choose a program most likely to address the social or developmental issue of concern in a preventative way, and to know what level of confidence they can have in claims that the program will work.
Why is it called Nest What Works for Kids?
WW4K developed from and is directly linked to The Nest. This is Australia’s first evidence-based national action plan to mobilise, align and enable the efforts of those working to improve the wellbeing of Australia’s children and youth (0–24 years).
The Nest sets out six outcome areas where Australia’s children and youth need to fare better – they need love and safety, health, education, the material basics of life, social and community participation and a positive sense of culture and identity. To bring about these changes The Nest offers six priority directions – and a range of ‘best buy’ approaches to deliver them – amounting to a blueprint or road map for national child and youth wellbeing.
The Nest also includes measurable goals to track the progress made by our collective action against national and international indicators of child and youth wellbeing, and provides a national snapshot of progress against some of these in its periodic Report Card (2008; 2013).
As part of this comprehensive framework, The Nest sets out some key Operating Principles which are the hallmarks of best practice in social and community service provision. Amongst these is a strong commitment to a preventative approach, heading off problems before they arise. WW4K is firmly grounded in the field of prevention science. This discipline merges knowledge from the human development, evaluation and systems sciences to prevent or moderate human problems before they occur, including through understanding modifiable risk and protective factors.
How has Nest What Works for Kids been developed?
The What Works for Kids website has been created with the intention that there will be two distinct development phases.
The first phase (currently being completed) involves publishing programs that were initially reviewed in 2014, using the search method outlined below. These selected programs have been evaluated with regard to the quality of their supporting evidence, using a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) adapted from the Parenting Research Centre (2012). The REA was used to provide a rating to identify evidence-based programs with demonstrated positive impact in promoting social, emotional and behavioural wellbeing or preventing problems in children and youth (0-24 years). This rating is included on the What Works for Kids website to give users information about the level of research evaluation that has been conducted on any given program.
This included a selection of 162 programs, many of which were used to inform ARACY’s Nest Action Agenda. A range of information was gathered by searching websites and publically available sources for each program across a range of topics, including whether they were available in Australia and the evidence for the program. Program owners were identified and asked to approve details of their programs for publication. Additional details such as economic evaluations and Australian implementations were sought.
In the future, a second phase of What Works for Kids is planned that will enable prevention program owners/authors to submit their program for consideration through the website. In order to do this program owners/authors will complete an information questionnaire about their program and submit the information to the What Works for Kids team so that it can be rated using the REA, and reviewed by the project coordinators (under the supervision of the ARACY Prevention Science Network Convenors).
The REA will be extended to include requirements such as support for implementation. Programs appraised to have sufficient evidence and support will be published on the website. Programs lacking evidence or required structure will be referred to Prevention Science Network forums providing support for program development and evaluation.
Sources used to identify programs for inclusion in Nest What Works for Kids:
- The Victorian Government’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) online Catalogue of Evidence-Based Strategies http://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/research/Pages/catalogue.aspx
- Kids Matter programs guide: https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/sites/default/files/public/images/Static_Components_Guide3Aug2012_1.pdf.docx
- A Guide to Australian Prevention Strategies (Communities that Care, 2013): http://www.communitiesthatcare.org.au/training-resources
- Evidence Review: an analysis of parenting interventions in Australia (Parenting Research Centre, 2012)
- Building Blocks: best practice programs that improve the wellbeing of children and young people, Edition One (Commissioner for Children and Young People, Western Australia, 2012a)
- The Northern Territory Government Early Childhood Paper: The value of investment in the early years (Robinson, et al., 2011)
- Child Trends: http://www.childtrends.com
- Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development: http://www.blueprintsprograms.com
- Early Intervention: the Next Steps – An Independent Report to Her Majesty's Government (Allen, 2011)