La Trobe takes lead promoting international research on welfare interventions

La Trobe takes lead promoting international research on welfare interventions

25 Mar 2008

La Trobe University is playing a pivotal role in bringing together 500 international experts to discuss the latest research and thinking about child, youth and family interventions at a conference in Padua, Italy, this week.

La Trobe University social scientists Dr Patricia McNamara (third from left) and Associate Professor Margarita Frederico, Head of the University's School of Social Work and Social Policy (far right) with some of their international colleagues from the International Association for Outcome Based Evaluation and Research in Family and Children's Services, at La Trobe University. The scientists are hosting a major international conference in Italy this week to discuss the latest research in child, youth and family welfare interventions. Members of the group are, from left: Ms Marion Brandon, from University of East Anglia, England; Dr Cinzia Canali, from the Zancan Foundation, Italy; Dr McNamara, La Trobe; Professor Tiziano Vecchiato, from the Zancan Foundation, Italy; Assistant Professor Robin Spath, from the University of Connecticut, US; and Associate Professor Margarita Frederico, La Trobe.

Dr Patricia McNamara, a Lecturer in La Trobe University's School of Social Work and Social Policy, was one of the organisers of the four-day conference. It cements her five-year relationship as a founding Board Member of iaOberfcs (the International Association for Outcome Based Evaluation and Research in Family and Children's Services), an organisation concerned with the advancement of knowledge in the field of residential care, foster care and their alternatives for children and youth with psycho-social problems.

The conference follows an academic visit to La Trobe University last August by four members of the Association from the UK, the US and Italy. (The visitors attended a high level research forum at the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare in Melbourne and visited senior staff of the Department of Human Services.)

Dr McNamara says the Padua conference is the brainchild of Emeritus Professor Tony Maluccio from the University of Connecticut's School of Social Work, who felt there was a gap in international research forums focusing on outcomes in the child and family welfare area.

"The conference is an opportunity to showcase the best child and family research from around the world and to facilitate collaboration between researchers from around the world. The response to it has been pretty amazing," Dr McNamara says.

"We targeted 350 attendees and we have close to 500 - and we are turning people away."

Dr McNamara says she is also pleased that Conference attendees include delegates often left out of the international research loop, including those from emerging Eastern block countries, China, Nepal and other Asian nations.

La Trobe University's School of Social Work and Social Policy is known as a leader in its field, with several staff and students presenting papers at the conference, including PhD student and Principal Practitioner, Child Protection and Family Services Branch of the Victorian Department of Human Services, Robyn Miller, who will make a keynote presentation outlining Victoria's success in arresting the growth in demand for child protection services.

Other presentations include Dr McNamara's paper outlining the results of an Australian research first – qualitative research involving the 15-year follow-up of adolescents who have spent time in a residential psychiatric treatment program.

The Head of the University's School of Social Work and Social Policy, Associate Professor Margarita Frederico, will also give a presentation on the design of a research strategy for a therapeutic program. Annette Jackson, Research Manager Take Two, will present a paper on the usefulness of the "social network map" - a means of gaining an insight into the social world of traumatised children.

The conference, Eusarf-iaOberfcs 2008: Promoting cross national collaboration on outcome evaluation in child and family services, is being held in Padua, Italy, from Wednesday, March 26 to Saturday, March 29.

Dr McNamara will be in Italy from March 18 but is available on her mobile at +61 417 138 884. (Time difference: - 10 hours)

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