Abstract: Using Community-Based Participatory Methods to Create and Implement Assessment Tools (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Using Community-Based Participatory Methods to Create and Implement Assessment Tools

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Paradise Valley, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Elyssa Schroeder, MSSW, Pre-doctoral Fellow, Center on Human Trafficking Research and Outreach, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Background and purpose: Child labor trafficking (CLT) affects 33% children in Sierra Leone’s Eastern Province and a significant amount throughout the nation (Okech et al., 2022); however, evidence of how identified victims are served and their outcomes after social service intervention are scarce. Typical forms of CLT in Sierra Leone include domestic servitude, street vending, mining, agriculture, and commercial sexual exploitation. CLT leaves survivors with substantial mental, physical, and social consequences. Academic literature provides few program evaluations on survivor-serving agencies creating a significant gap in knowledge around evidence-based interventions (EBI). Few human trafficking-specific outcome assessment tools exist, especially ones that are culturally adaptable. This study fills that gap with a co-developed process of assessment tool development and refinement to specifically capture data useful for improving EBI.

Methods: This study used a multi-component community-based participatory research (CBPR) methodology, which stresses collaboration between the researchers and the community. The need for improved outcome assessment tools was identified by staff of the only residential CLT-focused program in Sierra Leone, World Hope International (WHI) through ongoing research-practitioner collaboration. This study used archival case review of 5 years of client data using qualitative thematic analysis of file narratives and multivariate data analysis on scale outcomes recorded at three points in time. The case file review was coupled with in-person staff feedback sessions on the goals and utility of the tools for staff and survivors. This included a novel, interactive session of each staff member editing documents within the feedback session and providing more context about what was working, what was not working, and what could be modified to work better. Other components of the feedback session included role playing, discussion of specific outcome wording, and practical application of observations noted in a case file. This methodology allowed for contextualization and nuance that data analysis alone would not have been able to provide.

Results: While the final qualitative and quantitative data results for this study are pending, the method of the sequential process of archival case review with community-based participatory research to evaluate assessment tools provided deep insight and a model for social service and academic partnerships. Staff responded to the process with increased buy-in and new ideas for collecting data that serves the overarching goal of protecting survivors.

Conclusions and Implications: Using agency-related data partnered with facilitated assessment tool review shows promise in creating culturally specific assessment tools that are trauma-informed and serve the day-to-day needs of the agency. Successive iterations of data analysis and tool refinement can be implemented at regular time intervals to continue progressing based on evidence. This process provides a model for other communities to implement partnerships between academic research teams and community members for the purposes of reducing child labor trafficking.