Evidence-Based Services Scale-Up

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Strategic Research Initiative Area 2: Evidence-Based Services Scale-Up

It is increasingly common to find that agencies and community service providers are being urged to implement evidence-based intervention and treatment practices for children and families. The benefit of providing such services is that, if properly implemented, they may be more likely to result in positive outcomes for children and families. A range of criteria has been established by multiple and sometimes conflicting authorities regarding the basis for evaluating support for particular practices.

There are numerous issues, which are gradually being addressed, surrounding the identification of appropriate evidence-based practices and the fidelity of these practices. It will be critical for the Center to monitor these developments.

Bringing Evidence-Based Services to Large Agencies

Although evidence-based practices are gaining momentum, there have been few efforts to systematically assemble and assess what is involved in bringing such practices to scale in large child protective service agencies. What is more, assuming that the implementation of evidence-based practices is desirable, few efforts have been directed specifically at addressing what configurations of services might meet the needs of typical child welfare populations.

There has also been significant development of evidence-based practices that might address the needs of certain components of the child welfare population, but it is by no means clear that recognized evidence-based practices exist for the bulk of children and families in the child protective service population.

The Center’s Role

The Child Protection Research Center will focus on assembling research on the scale-up issue, assessing the gaps in evidence-based practices for child protective service populations, conducting cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit simulation analysis with the assistance of state and local agencies, and eventually supporting implementation studies of scale-up in state and local agencies.

The Center has taken some initial steps toward these goals:

  • We convened a meeting of researchers in April 2008 to explore the range of questions surrounding evidence-based services scale-up and to begin the process of developing a research agenda. One of the first plans for a sustained effort that emerged from this meeting is to conduct a population-based needs analysis of children and families in the child welfare system. Though a complex secondary data analysis, the Center plans to use the National Study on Child and Adolescent Well-Being to better understand clusters of child and family needs for services.
  • In order to conduct the secondary data analysis, the Center has developed a specialized research infrastructure (i.e., a research lab) to allow us to work with confidential data sets. The functions of the lab also extend to the ability to share open source Internet applications that can be used to support other American Humane research functions and initiatives, including child welfare decision making.
  • The Center director is a member of the advisory committees for the Centers for Disease Control-funded Center for Violence and Injury Prevention at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University, and a member of the partners advisory group for the Centre on Research Development in Gender, Mental Health and Violence awarded to the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University by the Canadian Institute for Health Research. These centers are among the major national and international organizations that are addressing the development and evaluation of evidence-based practices tied to child welfare.

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