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What are the challenges when recruiting to a trial in children’s social care? A qualitative evaluation of a trial of foster carer training

Moody, Gwenllian ORCID:, Brookes-Howell, Lucy ORCID:, Cannings-John, Rebecca ORCID:, Channon, Sue ORCID:, Coulman, Elinor, Rees, Alyson ORCID:, Segrott, Jeremy ORCID: and Robling, Michael ORCID: 2021. What are the challenges when recruiting to a trial in children’s social care? A qualitative evaluation of a trial of foster carer training. Trials 22 , 241. 10.1186/s13063-021-05186-9

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Background Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are comparatively rare in UK social work, but can offer distinct advantages. Confidence in Care (CiC) is an RCT with embedded process evaluation evaluating Fostering Changes (FC), a 12-week training programme for foster and kinship carers to increase skills and coping strategies. In order to mitigate challenges in participant recruitment, an engagement strategy was designed to maximise this. Our aim is to explore experiences of key study stakeholders towards trial recruitment and identify broader messages about recruitment to social care trials. Methods Three focus groups were conducted, two with field-based recruiting staff (n = 7) and one with carers who attended the FC programme (n = 8). Five interviews were conducted with trainers who delivered FC, eight with foster carers who attended the programme, 18 with Foster Carers who elected not to take part in the programme, and 12 with social workers from participating trial sites. In addition, an away day for FC trainers was observed and discussions related to recruitment were noted. Transcribed audio-recorded data were inductively coded, double-coded by a second researcher, and thematically analysed. Results Six themes were identified. The first addressed pragmatic aspects of the intervention affecting recruitment (e.g. committing to a 12-week programme). A second focussed on accuracy of communication about the trial between provider agencies and carers. A third concerned the ability of recruiting staff to contact carers, a particular challenge in group-based recruitment. A fourth addressed trial methods and their communication (e.g. relationship between trial team and recruiting staff). A fifth explored lack of differentiation by carers between the roles of the various professionals (e.g. FC facilitators and provider agencies). The sixth addressed perceived differences between recruitment into social care and health studies. Conclusions Recruitment challenges in this social care setting were similar to those in healthcare. Some (e.g. gatekeeping by professional staff) may be rooted in randomisation anxiety, or unfamiliarity with research methods. Researchers more familiar with healthcare recruitment were however encouraged about the experience of working in this care setting. The original recruitment strategy and adaptations form the basis of further recommendations for research practice.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer)
Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE)
Centre for Trials Research (CNTRR)
Publisher: BioMed Central
ISSN: 1745-6215
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 19 April 2021
Date of Acceptance: 11 March 2021
Last Modified: 10 May 2023 00:13

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