Activities

Here is a list of recently-completed and on-going research projects in the CWBL.

Intervention and implementation outcomes of the SafeCare® program for child neglect (CIHR)

  • This is a collaboration with 6 Ontario child welfare agencies that trained 33 child welfare practitioners in the implementation of an evidence-based program for families where the primary concern was child neglect. The project evaluated the program’s implementation and outcomes (CIHR funded).
  • Practitioners successfully implemented the in-home program (SafeCare) with 84 families. The project collected data across multiple informants (families, practitioners, agency service managers) and by way of various methods (self-report, interview, observation) in order to evaluate the implementation of the SafeCare program as well as its preliminary outcomes within a Canadian context.
  • We currently have 2 peer-reviewed journal publications, several conference presentations, and several webinars/summaries to our community partners.

 

Improving Ontario child welfare's use of research to inform service planning/delivery (SSHRC)

  • This is a pilot project in collaboration with 3 Ontario child welfare agencies to provide training to various stakeholders around the integration of data into service planning and delivery.
  • In 2006, the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth made it mandatory for all child welfare agencies to use the Assessment and Action Record (AAR) on a yearly basis to track youth development over time and help establish plans of care. However, there remain challenges in applying AAR data to practice.
  • Through a SSHRC partnership development grant as co-principal investigator (along with Dr. Connie Cheung from the University of Toronto), we developed, delivered, and evaluated (primarily through qualitative measures) training curricula focused on the applied use of AAR data to child welfare stakeholders, namely senior management, supervisors, practitioners, and foster caregivers. 
  • We are also in the process of developing an Excel macro that agencies can use to input AAR data for a specific youth and then generate results to inform service planning.
  • As the project is still on-going, we do not currently have dissemination activities to the academic community, although we have submitted a symposium including our project to be considered for the upcoming conference of the Canadian Psychological Association.

 

Evaluation of the Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting (PDEP) program (SSHRC)

  • This is a collaboration with 9 Ontario Child and Family Centres in Ottawa and surrounding regions to train staff in the PDEP program and then evaluate outcomes by way of randomized controlled methodology.
  • PDEP was created with the explicit aim of preventing violence against children in their homes, and it is currently being delivered in 30 countries. Until now, the program developers focused on establishing a training system to optimize program fidelity and delivery in order to create a solid foundation for outcome evaluation. The next step appeared to be a rigorous evaluation to solidly establish its empirical base and status as an evidence-based program.
  • Dr. Romano established a collaboration with PDEP’s developer (Dr. Joan Durrant from the University of Manitoba) and her team across Canada and in the United States. We were successful in receiving a SSHRC insight grant to evaluate the program’s outcomes.
  • Dr. Romano is the principal investigator on this new project (2017-2022). To date, we have run the first PDEP group (experimental) and will shortly begin the second group (wait-list control). For evaluation, we are using parent self-report measures at pre- and post-PDEP and at 1- and 3-month follow-ups. We are also interviewing parents about their experiences in the program. For next year’s iteration, we are considering the use of vignettes to assess parents’ attitudes toward and use of various disciplinary practices.
  • Part of the project’s data will be used for the doctoral thesis of Elena Gallitto.
  • This project fits within Dr. Romano’s overall framework of practice-changing research in that the PDEP program represents a universal primary prevention strategy aimed at reducing violence within the family. It is also currently aligned with federal initiatives to address the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations (a primary one being the elimination of child physical punishment) and with federal responsibilities to uphold tenets of the UN Convention on the Rights of Child (which has been ratified by Canada and which calls for the elimination of all forms of violence against children).

 

Increasing our understanding of males with childhood sexual abuse histories (CIHR)

  • Given the high prevalence of childhood sexual abuse among males and the relative lack of empirical attention to this population, Dr. Romano seized the opportunity to serve as a co-investigator on a CIHR team grant headed by Dr. Christine Wekerle from McMaster University on youth sexual victimization.
  • Dr. Romano’s portion of this team grant involves the completion of several projects, including developing latent profiles for adult males with histories of childhood sexual abuse (completed), understanding the link between profiles and various mental health outcomes (completed), and examining the brain functioning (memory, emotion processing) of adult males with sexual abuse histories (in progress).
  • The completed projects formed the basis of Jennifer Lyons’ doctoral thesis, and the in-progress project is forming the basis for Jessie Moorman’s doctoral thesis.
  • This project is innovative as we are collecting neuro-imaging data from sexually abused and non-maltreated males in order to understand the role of working memory and trauma-focused emotional processing. This project is being conducted alongside Dr. Romano’s colleague at the University of Ottawa (Andra Smith), and one of her students will also use these data to form the basis for her doctoral thesis (Carley Chiasson).

 

CONCLUSION

Altogether, these various research projects are addressing a number of important gaps that currently exist in the area of child maltreatment, be it at the level of:

1) raising awareness about the unique needs of under-studied populations (males who have experienced childhood sexual abuse);

2) providing evidence-based interventions to under-serviced populations (children who have experienced neglect); or

3) training important stakeholders on how to address the needs of maltreated children (through improved trauma-sensitive interventions and the use of relevant research findings) or promote children’s healthy development (parents learning about positive disciplinary strategies that do not involve the use of physical punishment).

Not only are the various projects making significant contributions to advancing understanding and to changing clinical practice but they are also being conducted in close collaboration with a number of community-based partners as well as well-respected research scholars. These partnerships are critical to project success and speak directly to the applied relevance of the research in these various sectors (child welfare, early years centres).

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