KContact, an enhanced intervention for contact between children in out-of-home care and their parents: protocol for a cluster randomised controlled trial.


BACKGROUND: When children are unable to safely live at home with their parents, contact between these children and their parents is considered, in most cases, important for maintaining children’s sense of identity and relationships with their parents. However, the research evidence on contact is weak and provides little guidance on how to manage contact and when it is beneficial or potentially harmful. The evidence in relation to contact interventions with parents and their children who are to remain in long-term care is the most limited. A small number of studies have been identified where interventions which were therapeutic, child-focused and with clear goals, particularly aimed at preparing and supporting parents, showed some promising results. This trial aims to build on the existing evidence by trialling an enhanced model of contact in multiple sites in Australia. METHODS/DESIGN: This study is a cluster randomised controlled trial of an enhanced contact intervention with children in long-term care who are having supervised contact with their parents. Intervention sites will implement the kContact intervention that increases the preparation and support provided to parents in relation to contact. Baseline and follow-up interviews are being conducted with parents, carers and agency workers at intervention and control sites. Follow-ups interviews will assess whether there has been an increase in children’s emotional safety and a reduction in distress in response to contact visits with their parents (the primary outcome variable as measured using the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire), improved relationships between children and their parents, improved parental ability to support contact, and fewer contact visits cancelled. DISCUSSION: By increasing the evidence base in this area, the study aims to better guide the management and supervision of contact visits in the out-of-home care context and improve outcomes for the children and their families. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Trial registered on 7 April 2015 with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12615000313538.