Starting the conversation: an evaluation of how services are using the Ruby's Dad resource

Starting the Conversation: An evaluation of how se…
01 Jun 2014

This evaluation summarises the main effects that the 33 participating health professionals (and three parents) have observed when using Ruby's Dad in their practice with children, service users and family members affected by addiction issues.

Limited hard copies are available.


This evaluation aimed to understand how clinicians (particularly within the addiction sector) and family members were using the Ruby’s Dad resource and what, if any, impacts they had observed from its use.


The evaluation used a mixed-method approach: data was collected through qualitative, semi-structured interviews and a brief online survey.

Key Results

Most of the clinicians surveyed (n=14) or interviewed (n=19) for this evaluation were using the resource in addiction or mental health services. Three parents in addiction recovery were also interviewed. The most common ways in which the participating clinicians used the resource were to: give it to their clients to read and partners of the parents and caregivers with substance use issues to read to their children; and in group work.

Most clinicians (and parents) rated the resource as either very useful or extremely useful. Furthermore, every practitioner surveyed online who had used the resource had recommended it to others. A smaller proportion of clinicians rated the resource as moderately useful. Reasons for this lower rating were related to how the resource was used rather than the actual resource itself.

Reasons for these high ratings varied, but the main themes described by clinicians and parents were that the resource:

• is seen as the first of its kind

• resonates with families’ lived experiences

• helps children and their families to understand that they are not alone and others have similar experiences

• gives children a voice and a chance to express their feelings and ask questions

• helps children to understand that they are not to blame

• helps parents to understand the impacts of their behaviour on their families, which can sometimes prompt help-seeking behaviour

• provides family members with an easy way to broach a sensitive topic.

Some examples from clinical practice and the parents’ experiences illustrated outcomes for families, such as opening conversations and addressing children’s questions, relating to the story and reflecting on their own behaviour, prompting treatment and altering family dynamics for the better.

A set of factors that clinicians found optimised the use of the resource within their practice was identified. These factors included: first establishing rapport and trust; choosing the right time to introduce the book, which included carefully gauging the parents’ or family members’ readiness; delivering the book to children in a creative and engaging way rather than simply reading it; and following up with family members afterwards to identify any further actions. Most of these suggestions are included at a high level in the current Guidelines and Prompts for Clinicians that accompany the Ruby’s Dad resource.

While the Ruby’s Dad resource has only recently been available, and use within the addictions sector may not yet be widespread, clinicians and parents who are using it rate it very highly and report a number of realised and potential benefits from its use. The resource provides the mental health and addiction sector with an early intervention tool for family and an age-appropriate resource for children.

Page last modified: 15 Mar 2018