Current Research Reports
Supporting Children and Young People through Change, Loss and Grief: An Evaluation of the Seasons for Growth® Program
In February 2010, Good Grief (Australia) commissioned Southern Cross University’s Centre for Children and Young People to:
- refine the existing Seasons for Growth (SfG) program evaluation tools
- use the new tools to conduct a larger scale evaluation of the SfG program.
The evaluation covered 57 groups in three countries (Australia, New Zealand and Scotland). 334 children and young people aged between six and sixteen participated. 44 Companion surveys and 30 parent surveys were also completed. A pre and post survey was created for children and young people, and a post-only survey was created for Companions and parents. All surveys were administered using Qualtrics online survey software, although a paper based parent survey was also developed for distribution to families without computer and/or internet access.
The SfG program addresses an increasingly common area of need. Almost one-third of Australians under 18 experience the loss of a parent (through divorce, separation or death), and children and young people are also dealing with a range of other changes and losses. The evaluation found that the SfG program:
helps children and young people experiencing change, loss and grief through
- building participants’ understanding and skills participant’s self ratings showed widespread, statistically significant improvements in their emotional literacy and their understanding of change
- improving participants’ emotional wellbeing parents and companions felt that the program successfully supports participants’ self-confidence, self-esteem and resilience, with 31% of participants also nominating ways it had helped their emotional wellbeing
- enabling participants to express their views, thoughts and feelings participants’ self-ratings showed significant improvements in their capacity to express themselves, and parents’ also perceived an extremely significant improvement in their child’s capacity to express their views
- strengthening participants’ social and support networks one third of Companions nominated network-related themes as the main learning for SfG group participants. Both participants and parents also mentioned ways it had helped the child’s social and support networks
is valued by parents, carers and young people
- participants enjoy their SfG experience and value it very highly participants particularly enjoyed being in a group, having a Companion as a guide and being listened to. These high ratings were supported by very enthusiastic responses to an open question asking how participants felt about coming to a SfG group
- parents value the SfG program almost all parents felt the SfG program met their expectations, most often in relation to helping their child realise that other children have similar experiences, and allowing their child to express their feelings and/or thoughts
- Companions value the SfG program Companions were confident in their capacity to effectively facilitate groups and most felt they have been changed by their involvement with the SfG program (through an improved understanding about children and in their own personal qualities)
The evaluation report recommendations include:
- The SfG program warrants more widespread implementation, across a broad range of participants and contexts The SfG program addresses a significant area of need which can have long-term impacts on mental wellbeing throughout the lifespan. It is a particularly acceptable and appropriate way of addressing this need, especially among primary school-aged children. There seems to be an urgent need to train additional Companions, and/or to better resource existing Companions to increase capacity to meet the demand for SfG groups at some sites.
- Further evaluation is required to review the SfG program’s implementation and impact for older participants, particularly within secondary school contexts. Unfortunately few older groups were available for inclusion in this evaluation, making it more difficult to draw confident conclusions about the SfG program’s acceptability and impact for these young people. Further feedback needs to be gathered from young people, Companions and secondary school principals to confirm the anecdotal evidence that substantial benefits can be delivered for older participants.
- Additional research is needed to determine the longer-term impact of the SfG program. With increasing focus on the life-long importance of children and young people’s social and emotional wellbeing, and the inevitability of encountering major changes through life, a larger and longer term trial would provide more conclusive evidence regarding the SFG program’s contribution.
- The SfG program may be further enhanced by a review of its content and activities. It is almost ten years since the SfG program was last reviewed. Therefore it would seem timely to ensure that the program still fully reflects the most contemporary evidence in the field.
The SfG program may be further strengthened by the inclusion of a ‘parent’ component, for the families and carers of children attending a SfG group.
Although not a major focus of this evaluation, responding parents indicated that they could be interested in getting involved in a SfG program for parents. Gathering additional feedback from parents and carers about their needs would be a useful starting point.
- Following some minor revisions, Good Grief should strongly encourage all SfG Trainers and Companios to utilise the new evaluation system as a routine part of conducting their SfG groups. Given the large numbers of children and young people attending SfG groups (over 10,000 annually across five countries) this could provide an invaluable data source for more nuanced research regarding young people’s experience of change, loss and grief. Good Grief (Australia) is delighted with the overwhelmingly positive nature of the evaluation, and will be planning its response to these recommendations in the near future. They will be shared with Trainers and Companions later in the year. Click on link for PDF of Evaluation Summary