Evidence and gap map: Interventions that address institutional child maltreatment

Institutional maltreatment occurs in settings such as educational and religious institutions and in foster and residential care, juvenile justice and healthcare settings. Millions of children, adults and communities across the world are affected by child maltreatment in these settings and research on effective interventions is not readily available.

There is a lack of a coherent body of evidence about the effectiveness of interventions targeted at addressing this issue. An evidence and gap map (EGM) provides an overview of existing evidence in an area of research set out in a matrix format in which rows display the interventions and columns display outcomes. EGM's highlight how much a topic has been rigorously studied and typically how reliable the findings of these studies are. 

In partnership with Campbell CollaborationGiving Evidence and Monash University, CEI has developed an award-winning evidence and gap map (EGM) on child institutional maltreatment that comprises existing evidence and highlights gaps in the evidence body. The research was funded by Porticus Foundation.

The EGM is the first of its kind on this topic, capturing the existing evidence evaluating the effectiveness of interventions targeting the prevention, disclosure, response to, and treatment of institutional child maltreatment. The EGM is a step forward for policymakers and practitioners because it showcases that the evidence supporting interventions addressing institutional child maltreatment is limited.

Donors and policymakers can actively contribute to the development of understanding of what works in this space. The work highlights “a substantial need for more high-quality studies that evaluate interventions across a broader range of institutional contexts and maltreatment types.”

The EGM found that most studies evaluated curriculum-based interventions delivered in educational settings, aimed at preventing sexual abuse, and fewer studies examined other organisational settings, such as out-of-home care settings. No studies explicitly assessed sports clubs, religious organisations, juvenile justice, or health care settings. Most interventions targeted children rather than adults, and few studies included populations known to be at risk, or those already exposed to maltreatment.

The EGM also found that the evidence does not cover countries with the highest incidence of child maltreatment. It also found few studies focused on perpetrators or the organisational environment, and identified evidence gaps for disclosure, organisational responses and treatment interventions. The EGM also identified a need for more research on program implementation.

The evidence and gap map can play an important role in guiding research and giving in the sector in years to come. 

A plain text summary of the findings can be found here.

Download the full report.

Update: In 2021 this EGM was honoured with the Campbell Collaboration's Leonard E. Gibbs Award. The  Award is given to the authors of a completed Campbell systematic review that contributes to evidence-informed practice in social welfare. Dr Leonard E. Gibbs (1943 to 2008), Professor Emeritus of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, was an internationally recognized expert in the field of evidence-based practice (EBP) and a fervent proponent of EBP in the helping professions. Eligible reviews include all those published within the Campbell Social Welfare Group in the previous year. 

Suggested citation:

Finch M. Featherston R. Chakraborty S. Bjørndal L. Mildon R. Albers B. Fiennes C. Taylor D. J. A. Schachtman R. Yang T. & Shlonsky A. (2021). Interventions that address institutional child maltreatment: evidence and gap map. Campbell Systematic Reviews 17( 1) e1139.