Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

36 Interventions for Vulnerable Children and Families Across the Child Welfare Continuum: Four Systematic Reviews

Friday, January 13, 2012: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
Cabin John (Grand Hyatt Washington)
Cluster: Child Welfare
Symposium Organizer:
Sarah Narendorf, Washington University in Saint Louis
Purpose: Policy makers and practitioners have become increasingly aware of the importance of putting scarce resources toward the most effective interventions. While a growing number of resources such as the California Child Welfare Clearinghouse have been created to help guide practitioners on the quality of the evidence for addressing problems specific to child welfare populations, these resources rarely provide in depth comparisons across different types of interventions or for different populations. This symposium presents four papers that review in detail the state of interventions in four different areas that inform child welfare practice. Each paper utilizes a systematic review to answer questions about the types of interventions used to address these issues and the state of the evidence for their effectiveness.

Methods: Each of the papers presented utilized a similar procedure for conducting a systematic review of peer-reviewed journals across multiple databases. Studies were screened and retained in accordance with specific inclusion and exclusion criteria. When a final sample of intervention studies was identified, each study was rated for methodological quality using a modified version of the Methodological Quality Rating Scale (Miller, 1995). This tool assisted in identifying areas of methodological strength and weakness across the entire sample of studies. Total MQRS scores were used to distinguish studies with higher and lower methodological quality. Outcomes were compared across studies based on a rating that combined methodological quality with statistical significance on each outcome of interest (Auslander et al, under review).

Results: Across the four reviews, a wide variety in the quality and amount of evidence was identified. For example, the state of evidence for child abuse prevention programs such as home visiting as described in Millett's abstract was more advanced in study design and quality than programs described in McGinnis' review of psychosocial intervention for orphans. All four papers present results with direct implications for practice. Feely's review of behavioral interventions for foster youth found that longer interventions were no more effective than those that lasted two to four months. Seay's review of interventions for child welfare parents with substance use disorders found that including the child in the intervention was actually less effective than targeting the parent alone. Millett's review found that across interventions, different high risk populations (e.g. teen parents vs. low income parents) demonstrated improvements in different outcomes. McGinnis' review found that brief interventions were less effective than structural changes in institutional settings.

Conclusions and Implications: Together these studies provide an overview of the state of literature in four different areas with clear implications for child welfare practice. These studies illustrate the importance of rigorous examination and synthesis of the evidence to inform selection of interventions.

* noted as presenting author
Effectiveness of Child Maltreatment Prevention Programs with High Risk Families
Lina Sapokaite Millett, MSW, Washington University in Saint Louis
A Review of Interventions for Child Welfare Parents with Substance Use Disorders
Kristen D. Seay, MSW, Washington University in Saint Louis
Behavioral Interventions for Foster Youth: A Systematic Review
Megan Feely, MSW, Washington University in Saint Louis
Psychosocial Interventions for Orphans and Institutionalized Children: A Review
Hollee A. McGinnis, MSSW, Washington University in Saint Louis
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