Last year we reported on a research initiative to evaluate the effectiveness of the Dunlea Centre program. This project began in 2015 and will run for 3 years until 2017. The final report is to be completed in 2018.
The first evaluation step was to collect demographic data about our young people and their families involved with the Dunlea program. This is so that we have a clear understanding of the background of the young people Dunlea seeks to serve. In 2015 this covered 32 families and in 2016 the number of families reached 40. This means that the agency now has descriptive statistical data on 72 families that covers details of each young person’s schooling and details of each family’s background such as marital status, income source, family housing and much more.
In comparing the details for 2015 and 2016, it is noticeable that more than 70% of the young male students in 2016 had a psychiatric diagnosis at the point of entry to the Dunlea program and many are on medication. These diagnoses include Depression, Anxiety, ADHD (Attention and hyperactivity disorder), ODD (Oppositional defiance disorder), PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder) and Attachment Disorder.
Both of these findings point to the fact that the Dunlea program now serves a different population of young people and their families from the population that Dunlea served 25 years ago, when Dunlea (formerly called Boys’ Town) was established in its current form. This presents a challenge and the need to constantly think about or rethink the relevance of the Dunlea program’s working practices for this changed population.
We will continue to collect program data throughout 2017 and by the end of the year the agency will have demographic and other program data on more than 100 young people and their families. This will allow us to analyse this data using the powerful inferential statistical methods to examine more closely the effectiveness, or otherwise, of the Dunlea Centre program. This is an exciting prospect.
We once again thank Dr Frank Ainsworth, (Senior Principal Research Fellow (Adjunct), James Cook University), for his generosity in leading this process, not to mention the countless hours he has expended collating and analysing the raw data. His statistical expertise so charitably provided to the agency for this research project is a blessing for which we are, and will be well into the future, most grateful.