DPP Participates in Important Study of AAI Efficacy (Savio House)
Measuring the Efficacy of an Animal-Assisted Intervention Protocol within a Family Preservation Program – The Savio Study
Although substantial anecdotal evidence and pilot-study data support the ability of a variety of animal-assisted interventions (AAI) to positively affect clinical responses, rigorously controlled clinical studies that quantitatively measure the efficacy of AAIs are lacking. A dog-based AAI protocol will be incorporated into a family preservation program used to retain children in homes with histories of abuse or neglect by increasing family functioning. A total of 200 families that meet eligibility requirements and consent to participate will be randomly assigned to control and study cohorts. The control cohort will receive the standard-of-care program and the study cohort will receive the standard-of-care program plus the AAI protocol. The AAI will take place during the therapeutic sessions used to develop positive family interactions and parenting skills. The AAI protocol consists of four animal-assisted activities targeting four of the most common family problems – supervision of children, expectations of the children, bonding with the children and disciplinary practices. These activities were designed using standard child welfare and AAI principles. Each of the four activities has three versions based on a commonly employed cognitive learning model, resulting in a total of twelve sessions. The protocol is designed to be relatively consistent to reduce intra- and inter-client variability, as well as to facilitate implementation by other child welfare and AAI organizations. A variety of proximal response and clinical outcome measurements will be used to quantitatively compare the control and study cohort families. One of these is a validated instrument, the North Carolina Family Assessment Scale for Reunification (NCFAS-R), routinely used by clinicians to assess changes in family functioning associated with therapy. Data will be gathered at the beginning and end of the twelve control and study cohort visitation sessions. Statistically significant improvements in the clinical response and/or outcome measurements for the study cohort would provide a rigorous demonstration of the therapeutic capacity of an AAI protocol in this setting.