Catherine L. Ward is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She holds a PhD in Clinical-Community Psychology from the University of South Carolina, USA. Her research interests are in violence prevention from the perspective of children's development, and particularly in public health approaches to this – in developing evidence-based approaches to violence prevention that have a wide reach and are effective in improving children's development and reducing their likelihood of becoming aggressive. Much of her current work is focused on preventing child maltreatment, and on understanding the epidemiology of risk factors faced by South African children.
Recently, she and her colleagues Amelia van der Merwe and Andrew Dawes produced the edited volume Youth violence: Sources and solutions in South Africa. The book reviews the current state of the science in understanding how to prevent children from becoming aggressive, and how to adapt the evidence-base for use in low- and middle-income countries. It is available here. With Peter Donnelly from St Andrews University, she has edited the forthcoming Oxford Textbook of Violence Prevention: Epidemiology, Evidence and Policy, to be published by Oxford University Press in late 2014. This book presents the current state of the science in violence prevention.
In addition, she co-leads the Parenting Project Group of the World Health Organisation's Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA), serves on the Advisory Board of the Alan J. Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health and the Steering Committee of the Safety and Violence Initiative at the University of Cape Town; and on the Editorial Boards of the journals South African Crime Quarterly, Psychosocial Interventions, and Child Abuse and Neglect.
Building an Evidence-based Support System for Parents in South Africa
Several policy documents from both national and provincial government in South Africa have recently identified parenting programmes as important interventions to prevent violence (including child maltreatment and youth violence). This paper describes the process of using a theory of change approach (a participatory approach to programme planning and evaluation) with the Provincial Government of the Western Cape to help realize this goal. Key stakeholders were identified, including government decision-makers and non-governmental organisations which implement parenting programmes. A workshop and a series of interviews were conducted with these stakeholders, in order to reach agreement, first, on critical assumptions (e.g., that all parenting programmes taken to scale will be evidence-based, and that the goal of the initiative is primary prevention), as well as a series of vital practical questions that needed resolution, e.g.: which programmes should be selected for scale-up; targeting, recruitment and retention of programme participants; distribution and location of services; timing and resource allocation; and monitoring and evaluation of services. This paper describes this process, reflects on it as a strategic policy intervention, and on the possibility that it could be adapted for use in other contexts where parenting (or other violence prevention programmes) are to be taken to scale.