JOURNAL ARTICLE

Cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT) to support parental contact for children in out-of-home care

Aino Suomi, Nina Lucas, Morag McArthur, Cathy Humphreys, Timothy Dobbins, Stephanie Taplin
Child Abuse & Neglect 2020 September 14, 109: 104708
32942192

BACKGROUND: There is an identified need to improve the evidence-base in relation to contact visits for children in the out-of-home-care (OOHC) system, to ensure optimal outcomes.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT) was to test the effectiveness of a contact intervention for parents having supervised contact with children in long-term OOHC.

PARTICIPANTS: 183 study children in 15 clusters (OOHC services) and their parent(s) were randomized to the intervention (8 clusters, 100 children) and control groups (7 clusters, 83 children) in three Australian jurisdictions.

SETTING: The manualized intervention consisted of increasing the preparation and support provided by caseworkers to parents before and after their contact visits.

METHOD: Interviews were conducted with carers, parents and caseworkers of the study children at baseline and nine months post-randomization. Interviews included standardized assessment tools measuring child and adult wellbeing and relationships, carer and caseworker ability to support contact, and contact visit cancellations by the parent.

RESULTS: Compared with controls, the intention-to-treat (ITT) analyses showed that fewer visits were cancelled by parents in the intervention group at follow-up (-10.27; 95 % CI: -17.04 to -3.50, p = .006). In addition, per-protocol (PP) analyses showed higher caseworker receptivity to contact (6.03; 95 % CI: 0.04-12.03, p = .04), and higher parent satisfaction with contact (7.41; 95 % CI: 0.70-14.11, p = .03) in the intervention group at follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS: While the intervention did not have an effect on child wellbeing, as measured by the SDQ, the trial reports significant positive findings and demonstrates the benefits of the kC kContact intervention in providing support to parents to attend contact visits. The findings of the current study provide an important contribution to knowledge in an area where few RCTs have been completed, notwithstanding the null findings.

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