eConnect initiative

How did it come about?

eConnect

Connect Parent Group is helpful for families with preteens and teens. But it is often difficult for families in rural communities and small towns to access this service. This may be because the number of parents who need the service in the community is small. Or it could also be because of a lack of trained or certified Connect facilitators in the community. To address these challenges, we modified Connect so that it can be delivered via videoconferencing. This is how eConnect was born. The creation and implementation of this intervention is part of a broader research project on Connect. As such, the evaluation of eConnect will be an important part of this initiative.

How would my community benefit from eConnect?

Our evaluation of eConnect is just beginning. But we think it has the potential to benefit rural communities and small towns in many ways.
For organizations serving families in rural communities and small towns, it may: For parents and caregivers in rural communities and small towns, it may:
  • Make it easier for you to bring Connect to your community;
  • Make it easier for you to keep on offering Connect on an as needed basis;
  • Strengthen your relationships with other mental health organizations.
  • Make it easier for them to access the service they need;
  • Reduce mental health problems among preteens and teens;
  • Improve parent-child relationships;
  • Improve parents’ and caregivers’ mood and reduce their caretaking burden;
  • Reduce a feeling of isolation and increase a sense of connectedness with other parents and caregivers.

What does an eConnect group like?

What we do and talk about in eConnect is the same as Connect, but how we do things is a bit different.

eConnectillustration

An eConnect group generally involves a host site and two or more satellite sites. The host site is an organization with at least two certified Connect facilitators. This is where the eConnect group facilitators will be when they deliver the group. A satellite site is a prearranged location in a rural community or small town. This is where parents and caregivers in the community get together each week to join the group online. These satellite sites are arranged by appropriate agencies and organizations serving these communities. 

In each community, one member of the local organization serves as the local coordinator for eConnect. The local coordinators are responsible for the important ground work for eConnect groups. For instance, they recruit parents and caregivers who need the service. They setup the group room before each group. They take care of the technology so that parents can focus on the experience of the group. They are also present for all the group sessions to help the group run smoothly. They play an important role in the implementation of eConnect. As such, they are required to be a trained or certified Connect facilitator. Training on eConnect and the videoconferencing software will be provided before group, so that the local coordinators feel prepared.

What is my role in the evaluation of eConnect?

Program evaluation has always been a key component of Connect Attachment Programs, and eConnect is no different. To improve this innovative program for service providers, parents and caregivers, we will evaluate experiences on both sides. On the service provider side, we will invite managers and staff at each organization involved to take part in the study. We will ask for feedback on their experiences with eConnect. On the parent and caregiver side, we will invite eConnect group participants to take part in the study. We will ask for feedback on their experiences in the group. We will also ask them some questions before and after the group. These questions are about their relationships with their children, how their children are doing, and how they are doing. These evaluations will take the form of self-report questionnaires that can be completed online.

This research would not be possible without the support of Maples Adolescent Treatment Centre, Simon Fraser University, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

We are currently looking to recruit local organizations in rural communities and small towns in BC for our pilot study.

Maples Adolescent Treatment Centre will be the host site.

To participate in this pilot study, you will need to have the following:
  1. One trained or certified Connect facilitator who is available to serve as the local coordinator for eConnect.eConnect eligibility
  2. Three to five parents of preteens or teens (ages 8-18) in your community who are interested in and ready to attend the group.
  3. Internet connection with a minimum download and upload speed of 1.5 Mbps. If you are unsure about your internet speed, please verify using this website: https://www.speedtest.net
  4. A computer (desktop or laptop) with a speaker. If the computer does not come with a speaker, a speaker that can be connected to the computer works too.
  5. The computer will also need to have an operating system compatible with Zoom. For a list of supported operating systems, please visit: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201362023-System-Requirements-for-PC-Mac-and-Linux
  6. (Optional) Ideally you would have a webcam and microphone as well. Often they come with laptops. But if you do not have them, one could be provided by the host site.
  7. (Optional) To optimize the experience of the group for parents, it would be ideal for your organization to have a large TV or monitor in the group room. This is not mandatory. A smaller screen simply means that the number of parents that can join the group from your site could be limited.

If you have any questions about your organization’s eligibility for the pilot study on eConnect, please contact Lin Bao at lin.bao@gov.bc.ca

Do I need to be technically savvy to be an eConnect local coordinator?

The short answer is no. The videoconferencing platform that we are using is Zoom. It’s very user friendly and easy to operate. As a local coordinator, you will only be interacting with the software at a basic level. We will provide you will adequate training ahead of time so that you know how to use it and what to do if anything goes wrong. We will also ensure that there is someone you can contact for tech support throughout the group. We believe that the anxiety you may have about the technology will subside quickly once you begin to use the software

Would we have to pay to use the videoconferencing software?

No. As a satellite site, you can simply join the online meeting started by the group facilitators. There is no cost to you to use Zoom this way.

We expect the cost of running an eConnect group to be lower than the cost of running an in-person Connect group. Instead of paying for two staff to run the group, only one is needed. Instead of buying flipcharts, you will be printing some materials as needed (e.g., attachment needs lists). If you choose to purchase equipment to run the group, that would be an additional cost as well. But we expect that most communities would have access to most, if not all, of the equipment required to do eConnect.

Can parents join the group from their own home?

It is natural for a parent or caregiver to wonder about doing eConnect from the comfort of their own home. Unfortunately we do not support such practice at the moment. There are several reasons for this.

First, it is difficult to ensure confidentiality when the group facilitators have limited control over parents’ environment. Unexpected situations could happen (e.g., a child walking in), and the group confidentiality would be compromised. This would make it harder for parents to feel safe and to open up.

Second, when parents are at home, it would be difficult for group facilitators or local coordinators to support them. There could be technical difficulties. Parents could feel emotional and overwhelmed. In these situations, it would be very helpful to have a local coordinator there to support them.

Third, parents’ anxiety about handling technology on their own could get in the way of them attending the group. We also know that people tend to be more self-conscious when joining a group this way. The self-consciousness could be about their own appearance or their home environment. This could then negatively impact their learning experience.

Is there really a need for the local coordinator to be in the same room as the parents throughout the group sessions?

Yes. The local coordinators play an important role in the smooth running of the group. They make specific changes on the videoconferencing software during different group activities. They help to monitor parents’ reactions and let group facilitators know if they missed some verbal or nonverbal cues. They troubleshoot any technological challenges that may arise and take steps to resolve them. They are also responsible for managing any unexpected emergency situations. For instance, a parent may become overwhelmed. There may be an emergency medical situation.

Are the sessions recorded?

The session will not be recorded at the satellite site. However, there are two situations when we may video record the sessions.

The first scenario is where a group facilitator is running an eConnect group for the first time. Similar to Connect Parent Group, we would like to ensure that eConnect Parent Groups are done with fidelity. In this situation, we will record the session with a standard video recorder in the room that the group facilitators are in. It will record the audio of the whole group but only the video of the group facilitators.

The second scenario is in case of emergency. If during a group, one of the satellite sites lose connection and cannot get back online, the group facilitators may choose to record the rest of the session with the videoconferencing software. This video can be shared with parents at that particular site to catch them up.

We generally do not record the sessions and share it with parents as a teaching tool. This is because they would be missing out on the interactive exercises and interactions with group facilitators. These are some of the key treatment ingredients that we would not want parents to miss out on.

Do the local coordinators have to be certified Connect facilitators?

For eConnect to succeed, we believe that it is important for local coordinators to have a good idea about Connect. This includes knowledge about what Connect is, what happens in the group, and what to look out for in parents. This would require that they have at least gone through the three-day facilitator training.

Our preference at the pilot stage is to work with communities with a certified Connect facilitator when possible. This is simply because we are still refining the program and could use all the experience we can get to better support the parents. However, communities with a trained Connect facilitator will also be considered.

How many satellite sites may there be for one eConnect group?

At the pilot stage, we aim to include two satellite sites per group. This is because the group facilitators are still getting used to the eConnect format. Having to monitor more than two sites could be overwhelming for them.

Eventually, we expect that each eConnect group can accommodate up to four satellite sites.

What might I expect if I consent to participate in the program evaluation study?

The program evaluation study on eConnect has two components. On the service provider side, we would like to assess your experience doing or supporting eConnect. On the parent and caregiver side, we would like to assess their experience with the group. We would also like to assess the changes they see happening in their family.

All service providers will be invited to complete self-report questionnaires. This includes managers and relevant staff at each organization. The invitation will be sent after the implementation of eConnect. This post-implementation questionnaire should take about 20 minutes to complete. As a sign of our appreciation, you will receive a $25 honorarium for completing these questionnaires.

For group facilitators and local coordinators, there is a bit more to the evaluation. Before their first eConnect group, they will be invited to complete a brief self-report questionnaire (<3 min to complete). This is in addition to the post-implementation questionnaires mentioned above. Their post-implementation questionnaires will also include questions about their experience in the group. As a sign of our appreciation, they will receive a $30 honorarium for completing all these questionnaires before and after the group.

Before each group, parents will be invited to complete some self-report questionnaires. After the group, they will be invited to do so again. Each questionnaire package should take up to 30 minutes to complete. As a sign of our appreciation, parents will receive a $25 honorarium for completing each questionnaire package. If they complete both packages, they will receive $50 in total.

All data will be collected online via a secure platform. The information will be kept confidential. We will not share any identifying information with people outside of our core research team. This means that we will not share it with your employers either. If we report on the feedback we get, we will only do so in group format. This way your identity is protected.

Do I have to take part in the research on eConnect?

We encourage everyone involved to take part in our evaluative research on eConnect. But participation is not mandatory for the service providers or for the caregivers. Even after you consent to take part in the study, you can withdrawal anytime if you wish to.

For service providers, refusing to take part in the study will not affect your job. Nor will it affect your participation in the implementation of eConnect.

For caregivers, refusing to take part in the study will not affect their eligibility to join the eConnect group. Nor will be affect their status in the group if they are already in one.

If you are interested in participating in the eConnect initiative or would like to get more information about it, please contact the lead researcher Lin Bao at lin.bao@gov.bc.ca or 778-898-9268.