Evaluation of the UNICEF School-Based Psychosocial Program for War-Exposed Adolescents
Implemented during the 2000-2001 School Year (Technical Report)
This report summarizes an evaluation of the UNICEF School-Based Psychosocial Program for War-Exposed Adolescents. This specialized program has been implemented since the 1997-1998 school year in Bosnian secondary schools by specially trained school counselors (psychologists and pedagogues) under the supervision of trained mental health professionals working in the community (clinical psychologists and psychiatrists). The program is designed to identify and therapeutically support Bosnian adolescents with histories of severe war trauma who continue to experience significant psychosocial problems after the war. A centerpiece of the program is a manualized, 20+session trauma/grief-focused group treatment program in which the school counselors lead a specialized trauma/grief-focused therapy group with up to 10 of the most severely traumatized students at the school.
Data were collected from both students and group leaders using a semi-structured focus group format. The student and leader groups were held at the end of the implementation period (post treatment) in late May to early June, 2001. Student groups ranged from 7-9 members and were held in participating Sarajevo and Travnik area schools. Group leader focus groups ranged from approximately 10-15 members and were held at the end of the post-year supervision meeting in Travnik. The potential impact of the group was examined using several methodologies. First, a Reliable Change Index score (RCI) was calculated at the level of individual students (Tingey, Lambert, Burlingame, & Hansen, 1996). Second, correlations were calculated between pre- to post-treatment change in distress symptoms and measures of psychosocial adjustment.
The evaluation revealed consistently positive results across a broad variety of program dimensions. In particular, focus groups conducted with the school counselors and students revealed a broad program impact on the levels of individual student group members, their families, peers, the classroom and school environment, and the larger community. These impacts included:
- The great majority of school counselors reported that they incorporated the program materials and training into their other professional work at the schools, which greatly increased the number of direct beneficiaries.
- Students identified a wide range of program benefits, including the acquisition of effective coping and problem-solving skills, increased self-esteem, hope in the future, improved family and peer relationships, and improved school performance.
Lessons Learned included:
- Design a program that the local participants perceive and treat as "locally owned and operated."
- Select the right government administrators to support program implementation.
- Recruit school counselors to implement the program who have received specialized training in implementing the program, who have good rapport with their students, good interpersonal skills, competence in their professional roles, and who are compassionately dedicated to helping their students.