Methods: The National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Assistance (QIC-AG) is evaluating the effectiveness of eight interventions across the U.S. with the purpose to promote permanence, when reunification is no longer a goal, and improve adoption and guardianship preservation and support. Using the Children's Bureau (2014) Framework to Design, Test, Spread, and Sustain Effective Child Welfare Practice, this symposium will review the methodology from four interventions as case studies to explore the challenges and lessons learned in the child welfare service context, addressing implications for future research and policies in child welfare.
Results: The Wisconsin project was unable to identify an appropriate evidence-based model to implement and engaged in rapid design and testing of an intervention. While this site had limited time to collect a robust outcomes sample, qualitative interviews of participants were used to test and confirm the Theory of Change. The Texas project replicated without adaptation an evidence-based intervention and assessed fidelity using multiple measures and perspectives. This research indicated minimal lack of fidelity to the model, with deviations attributed to issues of time management. Two other sites adapted evidence-based programs to address the perceived needs of particular populations. In New Jersey, a program for a universal population was adapted to address the adoption/guardianship context. Analysis of brief questionnaires indicated that the intervention and control groups were comparable. However, intervention participants differed from non-intervention participants and from the control group in noticeable and important ways. For the Winnebago Tribe site, adaption was made to address cultural contexts. In this study, culture had a pervasive effect on the design and implementation of the intervention.
Conclusions: The studies discussed in this symposium provide case examples of the various steps in the Framework and elucidate ways in which the child welfare service context may affect and inform the research process. Implications for experimental research design will be discussed, including: 1) qualitative methods for testing and confirming or refining a Theory of Change, 2) triangulation of perspectives to understand how the implementation process relates to fidelity, 3) limitations of random assignment and methods for understanding who participates in interventions, and 4) adaptations that may be necessary when working with Native American populations. The lessons learned from this multi-site experimental research project have implications for future research intended to design or replicate evidence-based services in child welfare.