Session: Evidence, Innovation and Outcomes: Partnering to Enhance Evaluation Research in Child Welfare (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

69 Evidence, Innovation and Outcomes: Partnering to Enhance Evaluation Research in Child Welfare

Cluster: Child Welfare

Joan Levy Zlotnik, PhD, ACSW, Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research , Sally Flanzer, PhD, Administration for Children and Families and Brian Deakins, MSW, Children's Bureau
Friday, January 15, 2010: 2:30 PM-4:15 PM
Garden Room B (Hyatt Regency)
A national analysis of research partnerships between schools of social work and public child welfare agencies identified both model strategies for developing and sustaining partnerships as well as gaps in career development of the next generation of child welfare researchers. Although knowledge development requires organized and consistent evaluation of programs and services, there is inconsistency across states in the extent to which rigorous evaluation efforts are implemented. Agency administrators seek evidence to support practice and policy decisions and to test innovative services but often do not have time or resources to undertake research “in house”. Developing partnerships with universities can often bring the needed research expertise to agencies. To develop such collaborations requires that potential stumbling blocks that breakdown the research and evaluation process be addressed. This includes commitment to developing and sustaining working relationships; learning from and understanding each culture and context; garnering leadership support while establishing peer relationships; establishing clear time frames and timelines; understanding the processes for data access, data sharing, data retention, and confidentiality; developing procedures for publication review; and achieving timely IRB approvals. The development of a tool-kit with guidelines and examples to address these concerns will be shared.

Also of critical importance is ensuring that the evaluation research efforts are designed to address the questions needing answering. This can require that the research team, including agency and consumer involvement implement culturally congruent methods and consider not only the funding available for the evaluation design, but also the culture of the agencies and the clients that are served. Participatory research designs, qualitative methods and randomized experiments will be considered within the context of child welfare evaluation research.

At the federal level, the U.S. Children's Bureau has taken several steps to enhance knowledge development, knowledge transfer and implementation at the individual, organizational and systems level. In Fiscal Year 2009, it added to its training and technical assistance network, five regional implementation centers. Among these centers' roles will be to facilitate systemic change and build capacity for successful institutionalization of child welfare principles, policies, and effective or promising models of practice. Another Children's Bureau initiative was the May 2008 National Child Welfare Evaluation Summit. Over 450 stakeholders convened to explore the current state of evaluation practice in child welfare and to inform child welfare systems as they strive to develop cohesive and strategic approaches for evaluating the programs and projects that they fund. The summit focused on evaluation approaches, methods, findings, challenges, and critical issues related to testing of interventions, implementing change, and transferring knowledge at the individual practice, organizational, and systems levels. The Summit also provided a forum to discuss dynamic tensions, like those between theory and practice, rigor and flexibility, fidelity and adaptability, and evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence in the field of child welfare.

This roundtable will bring together these several initiatives targeted to capacity-building and enhancing the child welfare evaluation research endeavor to explore current issues and to engage in a dialogue with participants about opportunities and challenges of future efforts.

See more of: Roundtables