Abstract: Challenges and Benefits of the British Columbia MSW Program Evaluation Course (Society for Social Work and Research 20th Annual Conference - Grand Challenges for Social Work: Setting a Research Agenda for the Future)

Challenges and Benefits of the British Columbia MSW Program Evaluation Course

Thursday, January 14, 2016: 4:45 PM
Meeting Room Level-Mount Vernon Square A (Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel)
* noted as presenting author
Stephanie Bryson, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Peter Gabor, PhD, Professor, University of Calgary, Lethbridge, AB, Canada
Tracey Hulten, MSW, Manager, Applied Practice Research & Learning Branch, British Columbia Ministry of Children and Family Development, Victoria, BC, Canada
In recent years, U.S. legislation and federal agencies like the Administration of Children, Youth, and Families have prioritized analytic capacity within child welfare. Research allocations, oversight mechanisms such as the Child and Family Service Reviews, and state-level data initiatives have sought to improve safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes through randomized controlled trials, outcome tracking systems, and SACWIS system upgrades.

In Canada, no federal governing body is devoted to monitoring child welfare.  Rather, each province administers its own child welfare programs, and the Child Welfare League of Canada advocates for system-level improvements. As in any devolved system, provincial capacity varies widely, particularly with regard to data analytic capacity. In British Columbia, the need to improve analytic capacity has been repeatedly emphasized by the Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond. In report after report, the Representative has decried BC’s lack of transparency and accountability with regard to child welfare service delivery. For example, BC currently lacks reliable administrative data with which to fully analyze permanency outcomes or to gauge the effectiveness of flagship initiatives such as the Provincial Office of Domestic Violence. This is in part due to funding restrictions.

To address current gaps in knowledge, the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development—which administers programs related to child welfare, children and youth mental health, and children with special needs—partnered with faculty at the University Of British Columbia School of Social Work to develop an MSW course focused on Program Evaluation. The course provides MSW students an opportunity to conduct original data collection and analysis on program evaluation topics of critical importance to the Ministry, including First Nations children in care, domestic violence programming, and mental health services for immigrant and refugee youth in care.

The pilot Program Evaluation course from 2014-2015 has concluded. The proposed symposium brings together course developers from the University of British Columbia and the BC government to discuss efforts to build analytic capacity through innovative research curricula, with implications for: 1) research in U.S. social work programs with large MSW programs but no PhD or small PhD programs; 2) generalist U.S. social work programs with no leadership/administrative stream; and 3) U.S. child welfare/mental health agencies that wish to conduct program evaluation research with limited funding.

Additionally, three of eight Program Evaluation teams will present their original research on the following topics:

  1. A Two-Phase Exploratory Mixed-Methods Study of The Effectiveness of Protection Intervention Orders At Reducing Child Protection Re-Referrals in British Columbia’s Ministry of Children & Family Development
  2. Concurrent Planning: An End to Foster Care Drift in British Columbia?
  3. An Evaluation of Accessibility Barriers in Mental Health Services for Immigrant and Refugee Children and Youth

Panelists will highlight: 1) the advantage of training terminal degree students (MSW) in program evaluation, as they will occupy most social work administrative positions within government and other agencies; 2) pedagogical benefits of conducting “real world” research; and 3) policy and practice implications of study findings.