AcCESs Evidence is a project developed by the Centre for Effective Services (CES) in response to their experience of working with frontline practitioners (e.g. teachers, social workers, youth workers, health workers), who encounter barriers accessing and using relevant evidence at work. In an effort to address the need for accessible evidence-informed resources, the project team summarises evidence on topics key to the lives of children, families and communities, and translates how practitioners can apply this in practice. The resources on childhood adversity, which include a literature review and summary, are the first produced by this project team.
There were three stages to the method, in the development of the resources on childhood adversity.
The topic and media were chosen following consultation through a survey and interviews with practitioners from the CES mailing list, working within a range of sectors, including the child and family, health and youth sectors. The response rate was ten per cent. The results indicated that the topic of childhood adversity, and the resource formats of online and printed documents, were the most popular within the options offered to respondents.
The project team then drafted a literature review, and a summary, which were shared with a Practice Advisory Group (PAG) comprised of practitioners.
The PAG co-produced the design and content of the resources, which included a short summary available both online and in print, and the full-length literature review, which is available online. Once the resources were launched, the PAG advised on their effective dissemination. Dissemination methods so far have included the distribution of several hundred hard copies to a range of organisations and at events. As of October 2016, there had been 40 downloads of the summary and 70 of the literature review. CES are in the process of developing a strategy for further dissemination.
Findings and practice implications
The literature review considered the meaning, prevalence and impact of childhood adversity, as well as associated coping mechanisms, which can be utilised by children and supported by practitioners. The definition of childhood adversity utilised within the literature review was that of Hildon, Smith, Netuveli, and Blane (2008), who define adversity as “a lack of positive circumstances or opportunities, which may be brought about partially by physical, mental or social losses or experiencing deprivation or distress” (Morgan, Rochford and Sheehan 2016, p4). The literature indicated that adverse events in childhood fall under eight broad headings: poverty and debt, child abuse and neglect, family violence, parental illness and disability, parental substance misuse, parental mental health issues, family separation or bereavement (Davidson et al 2012; Spratt 2012 in Morgan et al 2016). In the first wave of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, conducted in the US between 1995 and 1997 among a sample of over 17,000 people, approximately two thirds of participants reported that they experienced at least one type of adversity in childhood. Additionally, 87% of those two-thirds reported experiencing multiple adversities (Dong et al, 2004).
Protective factors can help children to deal with the experience and consequences of adversity. Resilience is one such protective factor. Practitioners can play an important role in promoting protective factors, and thus resilience, through working to enhance the environment, relationships and experiences of children, and ensuring they work in connection with other services. Examples of how to achieve this are outlined in the published resources (Centre for Effective Services 2016; Morgan et al 2016, p. 25-29).