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The Child, Youth and Family Database: Using measures to learn about children and families we serve.

“The strength of the Child, Youth and Family Database is that it’s presenting a whole range of measures that are there already. It’s like a menu that you can choose from… And that decision is always dependent on the context in which you’re working.” Dr. Maria O’Dwyer (Co-ordinator, Prevention and Early Intervention Network)

In December we held a lunchtime event to delve into the uses and benefits of the Child, Youth and Family Database of standardised measures. The Child, Youth and Family Database is a free resource which pools detailed information about standardised measurement tools that have been used in Irish research with children, young people and their families. The webinar explored the role of standardised measures in the practice setting – their purpose, value, and limitations.

The Child Youth and Family Database will be of interest to practitioners in social and health services (including nurses, teachers and youth workers), research professionals (e.g., academic and freelance social and health researchers), organisations conducting monitoring or evaluation, and commissioners of research and evaluation. The database also provides links to comparable research data in the Irish data archives.

This all-island event featured rich contributions from Dr Maria O'Dwyer, National Coordinator of the Prevention & Early Intervention Network in Ireland, Valerie Maxwell, Planning and Information Manager at the Children and Young People's Strategic Partnership (CYPSP) in Northern Ireland, and Ruth Geraghty, Project Specialist at CES, who led the development of the Database. The event was chaired by Dr Liam O'Hare, Principal Research Fellow at the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen's University Belfast.

Key messages from contributors

“When we’re looking at measures, we’re talking about outcomes, a change that occurs as the result of a service, an activity or an intervention.”

Dr Maria O’Dwyer kicked off the event by discussing measurement in child and family services, speaking from both a practice and a research perspective. Maria spoke about the pervasiveness of measurement in the day to day lives of everyone, from fitness trackers to wellness apps.

She spoke about the importance of tracking points of change and little interactions in a prevention and early intervention context, that all cumulatively result in a changed outcome, rather than solely reporting at the end. One of the key points Maria emphasised was to keep in mind the context in which you use whichever measure you decide to use, as the circumstances children and families are coming from can vary hugely.

“Once a family has been referred to a service, how do we know if anyone is better off?”

Valerie Maxwell spoke about why using measures is essential to processes and outcomes, and what this means for families and children in Northern Ireland. She gave the example of the CYPSP Family Support Hubs and how they use the Family Star measurement tool to assess whether a family referred to a service is better or worse off, measuring both physical and emotional health.

Ruth Geraghty introduced the CYF Database, giving a brief overview of the range of measures described within, and demonstrated how the database can be used to identify the right measure for your research needs. The below video provides a brief introduction to the CYF Database.

Given its value to prevention and early intervention research, the CYF Database is now featured as a resource on the CYPSP website in Northern Ireland, with plans for its addition to other websites in Ireland. CES welcomes enquiries from organisations that would also like to feature the CYF Database on their website and are happy to provide support to do so. Please contact Ruth Geraghty for further details.

Visit the Child, Youth and Family Database here.