Primary Sources: Finding a Middle Ground Between Evidence-Based Practices and 'Practice Wisdom'

Photograph of an adult researcher surrounded by young people.

Evidence-based practice in real-world services for young people with complex needs: New opportunities suggested by recent implementation science,” Children and Youth Services Review, Vol. 33, Issue 2, February 2011.

What it's about: Though funders are increasingly asking social service agencies to implement evidence-based practices (EBPs), there is much hesitation among practitioners to do so. This article explores the reasons behind that hesitation and discusses ways researchers are attempting to respond to it.

Why read it: Among practitioners, EBPs tend to be thought of as opposing “practice wisdom.” EBPs are often developed and tested in strict clinical settings to address one particular diagnosis and may not be seen as useful in social service facilities for young people with complex needs. This article is a helpful primer for anyone interested in understanding the debate around EBPs and how the science is evolving to address practitioner concerns.

Biggest take away for youth workers: There is a growing body of evidence that shows that EBPs can be broken down into a series of smaller parts, or “practice elements,” that may allow practitioners and clients themselves to pick and choose the content and techniques that best suit them and the nature of their relationship. The author believes that stakeholders should move toward identifying and defining the EBP elements that are essential to their particular service area so that researchers can begin to test their effectiveness.     

Additional reference: For a list of relevant EBP websites, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Guide to Evidence-Based Practices on the Web.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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