Service Outcomes Action Research (SOAR)

Dana C. Peterson, School of Criminal Justice (Principal Investigator)
Heather Larkin, School of Social Welfare
Julia Hastings, School of Social Welfare & School of  Public Health
David E. Duffee, School of Criminal Justice (Emeritus)

Service Outcomes Action Research (SOAR) is a national leader in developing practitioner-generated information for evidence based practice with youth and their families in residential treatment centers (RTCs) and in community- or agency-based prevention services. An extensive and ongoing search of practice and research literature has uncovered no other project in the country providing similar levels of knowledge about the RTC treatment process and its results (see the project bibliography for examples). The goal of SOAR is to provide treatment practitioners with direct knowledge of how agencies' work affects client outcomes on a regular, periodic basis, using the clinical data routinely recorded about each family in each program in order to inform the development of effective family and youth treatment.

SOAR has completed a multi-method, longitudinal pilot study of 130 youths and their families who went through the residential treatment programs at St. Anne Institute and LaSalle School between October 2001 and May 2005. A companion study based on clinical and educational records of all residential clients discharged for the first time in 2003 has also been completed. In addition, SOAR has worked with community-based and prevention staff to develop the measurements needed to monitor and improve LaSalle's Family Preservation Services Program and St. Anne's General Family Services Program. An initial study of the new LaSalle Evening Reporting Center was conducted in 2006.

The information from the aforementioned measurement-rich studies was used to select an economic set of intervention and outcome indicators that the agencies can use continuously in recording and analyzing program implementation and effectiveness. The implementation of this Data-Informed Practice Process (DIPP) is underway currently in the two RTCs.

The SOAR project:

- Includes a highly participative yet scientifically rigorous approach to service providers' articulation of their theory-of-change, or program theory, in a logic model of client characteristics, services, and outcomes.
- Provides for the development of a complete measurement model for each program so that providers' clinical records are redesigned to permit continuous fidelity and impact evaluation.
- Measures treatment processes and client outcomes at multiple points in time, both during and after treatment, providing stronger evidence of causality than before-after designs.
- Measures staff activities and program processes as these are applied to the individual client, allowing identification and control of variation in treatment process within a program.
- Assists staff in reviewing findings about these client-program-outcomes connections so that appropriate modifications may be made to programming in an ongoing, incremental, and systematic fashion.

Sponsoring Agencies
LaSalle School, Saint Anne Institute, and the University at Albany (Hindelang Criminal Justice Research Center, School of Criminal Justice, School of Social Welfare, and School of Education have contributed resources throughout the project)
External funds that have supported the project include:
New York State Office of Children and Family Services (PI: David Duffee 2008-2009; PI: Amanda Nickerson 2010-2011)
Child Welfare Workforce Initiative, a partnership of the School of Social Welfare and COFCCA, funded by the Children's Bureau (PI: Nancy Claiborne; 2010-2011)
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, Office of Funding and Program Assistance, Juvenile Justice Unit (PI: David Duffee; Co-PI: Dana Peterson, 2001-2004)

Staff and Student Affiliations
Current and former students at the bachelor's, masters, and doctoral levels are vital members of SOAR. Students from Criminal Justice, Social Welfare, and Education are involved in the project in a variety of ways (research assistantships, independent study, masters projects, dissertations, internships. A complete list of students and their projects is available on request).

Affiliated staff:
Camela Steinke, Ph.D., Research specialist

Current students:
Raquel Moriarty-Derrick
Erica Dean

Cunningham, Scott. (2008). "Voices From the Field: Practitioner Reactions to Collaborative Research Initiatives." Action Research 6(4) 373-390

Cunningham, Scott and David Duffee. (2009). "Styles of Evidence-Based Practice in the Child Welfare System." Journal of Evidence Based Social Work 6(2) 176-197

Cunningham, Scott, David E. Duffee, Yufan Huang, Camela M. Steinke, Toni Naccaratto (2009). "On the Meaning and Measurement of Engagement in Youth Residential Treatment Centers." Research on Social Work Practice 19(1) 63-76

Duffee, David E.. Knowledge to Practice or Knowledge of Practice: A Comparison of Two Approaches to Bringing Science to Service. In Krohn, M.D., Lizotte, A.J., & Hall, G.P. (Eds.). Handbook on crime and deviance (pp. 349-382). New York: Springer.

Englebrecht, Christine, Dana Peterson, Aaron Scherer, and Toni Naccarato, 2008. "It's Not My Fault: Acceptance of Responsibility as a Component of Engagement." Children and Youth Services Review 30(4): 466-484.

Nickerson, Amanda B., Laura M. Hopson, and Camela M. Steinke. "School Connectedness in Community and Residential Treatment Schools: The Influence of Gender, Grades, and Engagement in Treatment." Children and Youth Services Review Published online 6-JAN-2011; doi: 10.1016/ j.childyouth.2010.12.004

Raftery, Jacquelyn N., Camela M. Steinke, Amanda B. Nickerson (2010). "Engagement, Residential Treatment, Staff Cognitive and Behavioral Disputations, and Youths' Problem-Solving." Child and Youth Care Forum 39(3) 167-185

Smith, Brenda, David E. Duffee, Camela M. Steinke, Yufan Huang, Heather Larkin. (2008). "Outcomes in Residential Treatment for Youth: The Role of Early Engagement." Children and Youth Services Review 30(12) 1425-1436

Wolff, Bill and Rick Riccio, 2004. "A Win-Win Situation." Alliance for Children and Families Magazine 4(2):21-24.

Contact Information
For more information contact:
Dana Peterson, School of Criminal Justice, UAlbany
(518) 442-5711

Additional Contact Information:
Bill Wolff, Executive Director, LaSalle School, 518/242-4731, E-mail:
Anthony Cortese, President/CEO, St. Anne Institute (518) 437-6501
Terry Gabriel, COO, St. Anne Institute  (518) 437-6501