Our in-home family support program (Roots and Wings) goes through an evaluation
Our in-home family support program, Roots and Wings, was created in 1995 as a response to a growing need that Edmonton caregivers had identified: individualized support with parenting. The type of support that was accessible, and addressed complex issues such as the impacts of poverty, mental health, addictions, adverse childhood effects, and trauma.
At the time there were no services that provided community-based, in-home support for parents struggling to raise their children outside of the more intrusive involvement of Children Services.
The Family Centre chose to evaluate Roots and Wings partly due to the length of time the program had been in operation. There is credible research that suggests programs have a shelf life. Over time they become less relevant, and resources should be reallocated. So it was with this lens we embarked on the process of evaluation. We wanted to be sure our love of the work wasn’t clouding our judgement. We were wondering if in fact after 20 years the service was still meaningful, quantifiable from the user’s perspective.
Project Impact, a developmental process of evaluation, attempts to better understand the change experienced by the person, in this case the caregiver. It is less about what we as an agency do and far more about how the people we work with create wellness for themselves. The learning for everyone is a recognition of the parts or features of the journey that led to success. Through awareness and appreciation, the service can be augmented to better meet the needs of those who access it.
The process was led by Dr. Steve Patty (Dialogues in Action) and funded by the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region and the City of Edmonton’s Family and Community Support Services.
The process itself was arduous. Three staff committed to six months of research, interviews, and writing. Not surprisingly the process was also very gratifying. We began to realize the interviews with the caregivers were therapeutic, providing them an opportunity for reflection and healing.
In addition, we started to understand the value of Roots and Wings. The role of a therapeutic relationship in a safe environment like home provides the context for change to occur. Unexpectedly, caregivers told us about the importance of feeling cared for and the value of a healthy interpersonal relationship. Many relayed the connection with their Roots and Wings worker was the first time they had experienced a safe, trusting relationship. Unbeknownst to us, we learned that the increased feelings of self-worth, self-esteem, and love for themselves were the impetus for changes in parental capacity. There were also other learnings and validation of the evidence we based the program on, such as the importance of strength-based flexible service provision, social networks, and early intervention.
For our agency, the significance of this process is the validation of the work from the persons whose feedback is most important, the caregivers. It gives us the confidence to continue to shape the work based on their feedback and advocate for community support to continue to provide these services.
Pauline Smale, CEO