Abstract: Evaluability Assessment of an Anti-Trafficking Program (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Evaluability Assessment of an Anti-Trafficking Program

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Liberty Ballroom K, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Rebecca Macy, PhD, Associate Dean for Research and L. Richardson Preyer Distinguished Chair for Strengthening Families Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Elizabeth Ebright, Safe Horizon, Safe Horizon
Amanda Stylianou, PhD, Associate Vice President, Safe Horizons, New York, NY
Anita Teekah, Esq., Senior Director, Safe Horizon, Brooklyn, NY
Jia Luo, MS, Research Project Manager, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Cynthia Fraga Rizo, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Christopher J. Wretman, PhD, Senior Data Analyst/Research Associate, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC
Jeongsuk Kim, PhD, Preyer Postdoctoral Scholar for Strengthening Families, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC
Erin Meehan, MSW, Project Coordinator, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
Background and Purpose: Human trafficking is a global challenge associated with an array of economic, health, and social inequities for individuals, families, and communities. Policymakers, researchers, and practitioners have appealed for greater attention to trafficking, including calls to develop programs that facilitate survivors’ trafficking exit and prevent their revictimization. Fortunately, many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) worldwide have heeded these calls. Despite the growing number of such programs, however, research concerning the effectiveness of these programs remains nascent. Given the extent of trafficking survivors’ needs, conducting evaluations in the complex, dynamic settings of the NGOs where survivors receive services is not easily achieved. Thus, the field will benefit greatly from guidance concerning how best to conduct anti-trafficking program evaluation research ethically, feasibly, and in survivor-centered ways.

Methods: To develop such guidance, a group of university-based investigators partnered with an evaluation/leadership group from the U.S.’s largest victim service provider organization to conduct an evaluability assessment of the organization’s anti-trafficking program. This program provides comprehensive case management, supportive counseling, trauma-focused therapy, and legal immigration services to victims of labor and sex trafficking, and forced marriage, including all genders and ages, regardless of nationality or citizenship. Guided by well-established evaluability assessment frameworks, this effort included four sequential steps: (a) focusing the assessment, (b) developing the program theory and logic, (c) gathering feedback, and (d) applying the assessment findings. Relatedly, assessment research activities included program document review, site observations, focus groups with program leaders and staff, qualitative interviews with survivors who had received program services, quantitative analysis of program data, and the documenting of lessons learned.

Results: Working as a team, the research and evaluation groups qualitatively analyzed detailed notes from the following activities: (a) six site visits to observe key program activities, (b) two focus groups with program leaders and staff (n=11) concerning the program and its evaluation, (c) interviews with trafficking survivor-clients (n=11) concerning their evaluation recommendations. The team also qualitatively analyzed representative program documents (n=20) concerning service conceptualization and delivery, and conducted quantitative descriptive analyses of program data (n=553). Findings from these five activities were applied to produce program materials (i.e., theory of change, logic model, implementation guide, fidelity instruments) and research materials (i.e., participant recruitment, outcomes measures, data collection protocols) for a subsequent formative evaluation, which is the next project phase. In addition, the team documented lessons learned from these activities, which included: focus on team collaboration, intentional communication with participants, and participant engagement and acknowledgments.

Conclusions and Implications: This evaluability assessment showed that anti-trafficking programs can be robustly and meaningfully evaluated. This assessment also developed strategies to feasibly conduct anti-trafficking program evaluation research in a busy service environment with survivors from diverse backgrounds who have a variety of needs. Thus, the results provide evidence that can guide both research and service provision not only for the specific organization under study, but also for other anti-trafficking programs globally. Guided by these findings, this presentation will offer research strategies to help inform other studies in the developing field of antitrafficking program evaluation research.