From assessing needs to designing and evaluating programs: case study of a family support program in Portugal

Maria Manuela Calheiros*, João Graça, Joana Nunes Patrício

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


In the last years, researchers have been emphasizing the importance of promoting needs-led, context-specific, user-centered services in the context of child protection. However, policy-makers and service planners around the world largely depend on US-based research evidence of what is effective in the domain of family support. This work presents, in two studies, the process of design and evaluation of a targeted family support intervention that was developed and implemented in Portugal. Following the Common Language Approach to needs assessment (Dartington Social Research Unit, 2001), in study 1 we screened 100 children and their families attending a generalist child care service for risk and protective factors. Four different clusters of needs were identified. One cluster was selected as target-group for the design of a service to match their needs. Results indicated that families in this cluster had socioeconomical disadvantages, a challenging family environment and inadequate parenting practices. Children were showing signs of problematic social behaviors. In study 2 we describe the theoretical process model and the logic model for the intervention, and experimentally evaluate the program's efficacy. Results from pre-post assessments indicate improvements in the intervention group (N = 20) in several areas of parental empowerment and family relations, comparing with the control group (N = 20).This approach to need-service matching seems to be a viable pathway to design needs-led, context-specific, and user-centered services, and to assess their efficacy, thereby informing policy makers and service planners.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-178
Number of pages9
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Family support
  • Need-service matching
  • Needs assessment
  • Program design
  • Program evaluation


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