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Supporting families where parents have substance misuse problems: Final evaluation of our FED UP service

FED UP programme

Family Environment: Drug Using Parents (FED UP) is an intensive intervention for families with children aged five to 12 years, in which there is parental substance misuse. It aims to reduce the negative impact of parental alcohol and drug misuse on children and ensure they are kept safe. It consists of 10 weekly group sessions for children: eight individual sessions for the parent and two joint sessions for the parent and child together. An assessment (of up to four sessions) takes place prior to this to determine eligibility for the programme.

This final evaluation report is based on the evaluation data collected from when the project began in September 2011 until December 2015. During this time period, the service was run in 16 NSPCC sites, although not all sites ran the service for all four years, and was completed in full by 196 parents and 341 children. This evaluation is based on the experiences of 59 parents and 253 children. Unfortunately, there is limited information available on families’ characteristics, including family structure and ethnicity, and greater consistency in case recording is, therefore, essential for future evaluations.

Aims and methodology

The evaluation sought to evidence whether the following key outcomes were achieved for children and young people: increased self-esteem; reduced emotional and behavioural difficulties; and improved ability to process thoughts and feelings. Key outcomes for parents were having greater insight into the impact of their substance misuse on their child and enhanced protective parenting behaviour. It was expected that these changes would strengthen the parent– child relationship by improving communication within the family and contribute towards keeping children safer. These outcomes are highlighted through a theory of change that was developed for the programme.

The key elements of the evaluation design include the following:

  • An impact evaluation using pre-, post- and follow-up measures to gather quantitative data from the perspectives of children, parents and practitioners. Quantitative findings were described in terms of their: statistical significance – whether there was a clear trend in changes for the average scores of the sample; and clinical significance – whether scores crossed thresholds defined by developers of the standardised measures relating to clinical need.
  • A comparison group formed from a naturally occurring waiting list. Families who were part of the comparison group had gone through the assessment for the programme but were waiting to be allocated to an appropriate group.
  • Qualitative interviews with samples of children, parents, practitioners and referrers, exploring their perceptions and experiences of the FED UP programme, its outcomes, and factors that helped or hindered the achievement of those outcomes.