What is it?
Instead of using more traditional methods such as an interview or a form, the children are given a camera and training on how to use it, and given the time and space to explore their feelings by capturing images and attaching written narrative to their images. After they have shared these, the photographs are organised into an exhibition and report that is shared with decision-makers at the organisation being evaluated.
Why is it important?
More traditional evaluation methods can often be tokenistic, or they can be undertaken in ways that do not allow children to fully explore how they feel about the service or support they received. Instead of being led by an adult, this evaluation is ultimately driven by the children themselves, within an agreed framework; and they have the final say on the words and images that they want to share. It also gives children a chance to express themselves non-verbally, which can, for some, be a more comfortable and natural way of sharing their thoughts.
How does it work?
PhotoVoice involves the use of a camera and basic training in photography, and then facilitating the participants’ creation of photographs and captions related to specific themes.
In 2018, a PhotoVoice project was run by LSC with Spanish-speaking children who had been supported by the organisation after their arrival to the US. The children responded to the following themes:
- What was my life like before I got involved with LSC?
¿Cómo era mi vida antes de LSC?
- What was it like to work with LSC?
¿Cómo fue mi experiencia trabajando con LSC?
- What is my life like now, after working with LSC?
¿Cómo es mi vida ahora que ya han trabajado con LSC?
- What will my life be like in the future?
¿Cómo será mi vida en el futuro?
Through a combination of photography, writing, and group discussion, ten youth evaluators developed their skills while providing critical feedback to Legal Services for Children. The participatory evaluation evidenced decreased stress, increased resilience, increased safety and stability, strengthened interpersonal relationships, greater capacity for educational/vocational advancement, and increased sense of empowerment among a cohort of 10 Spanish-speaking current and former clients of the organisation. This was just one of the PhotoVoice projects run by LSC.
This Spanish-speaking cohort placed additional emphasis on the importance of continuing to develop unified and efficient referral networks, as well as the necessity of continuing to focus on making the intake process as streamlined and trauma-informed as possible.
In looking at these results, in combination with LSC’s first PhotoVoice group, other themes received equal, and strong, emphasis. For example, one clear takeaway that surfaced in both the Spring 2017 and Autumn 2018 participatory evaluations is the primacy of peer relationships in adolescent development, and the importance of peer support in adolescent recovery from trauma. The youth evaluators in both rounds strongly favored additional peer-based groups being integrated into the LSC service model whenever feasible.
Finally, the evaluation strongly validated LSC’s interdisciplinary model. All of the available data —including photographs, written narratives, group discussion notes, and participant evaluations— suggested that LSC’s comprehensive approach to youth advocacy played a central role in the remarkable transformations of all 18 participants’ lives. LSC’s ability to address the totality of their needs profoundly impacted each youth evaluator. The integration of social work support with legal representation appeared to be directly correlated to the decreased stress levels, increased resilience, increased safety and stability, strengthened interpersonal relationships, educational/vocational advancement, and a greater sense of empowerment reported by all participants after working with LSC.