While increasingly common in fields such as medicine and public health, evidence-based practice is fairly formative in child welfare. The child welfare field is in the early stages of developing a solid base of empirical evidence. Some practice areas have had more resources to conduct rigorous evaluations and have more research findings available than others-especially those areas that require a mandated response and do not lend themselves to controlled clinical studies.
The lack of available evidence about specific child welfare practices and programs is one barrier to widespread implementation of evidence-based practice. In addition, agencies and practitioners must weigh consistency with the target community's culture and values when selecting any new program or service. By involving stakeholders in program development, evidence related to a particular model can help them understand why a particular model would assist a community in achieving desired outcomes. As a result, evidence-based practice can supplement the role of practice-based knowledge and clinical judgment. The following resources provide background information on evidence-based practice in child welfare, including links to glossaries and definitions. Additional resources help child welfare practitioners understand the research base and build connections among social work, research, policy, and practice, including State and local examples.
Child Welfare Organizational Capacities
Capacity Building Collaborative (2015)
Summarizes and describes the five dimensions of capacity in the child welfare field.
Evidence Use in Mental Health Policy Making for Children in Foster Care
Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 43(1)
Examines the types and uses of evidence that child welfare administrators used in response to Federal policy reforms requiring psychotropic medications oversight for children in foster care. Global research evidence was used to raise awareness about problems associated with psychotropic medication use.
Expanding the Evidence Universe: Doing Better By Knowing More (PDF - 436 KB)
Farrow & Schorr (2011)
Center for the Study of Social Policy
Provides recommendations related to expanding the knowledge base necessary to improve outcomes and outlines how results-based management and learning can generate new evidence from complex community and system change efforts.
Family Empowerment Leadership Academy Training of Trainers [Webinar]
Capacity Building Center for States (2016)
Provides an overview of the Family Empowerment Leadership Academy (FELA), which is a learning experience designed to assist States in building their system capacity to involve family leaders at all levels of agency child welfare administration and practice. This webinar provides child welfare professionals with an overview of the FELA curriculum and discuss key learning points in each of the curriculum’s units.
A Framework to Design, Test, Spread, and Sustain Effective Practice in Child Welfare
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau (2014)
Describes a process for exploring problems in child welfare, developing interventions into routine child welfare practice, determining intervention effectiveness, and continually improving on service delivery.
Guide for Child Welfare Administrators on Evidence-Based Practice (PDF - 4,157 KB)
Wilson & Walsh (2012)
American Public Human Services Association & National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators
Provides information on the conditions, challenges, and opportunities of evidence-based practice in child welfare.
Research Evidence Use by Child Welfare Agencies (PDF - 195 KB)
Wulczyn, Alpert, & Monahan-Price (2016)
CW360° Child Welfare Reform
Examines the use of child welfare research by policymakers, agency directors, and frontline staff to improve child welfare programs and how evidence-based practices could be better implemented for reform.
Screening, Assessing, Monitoring Outcomes and Using Evidence-Based Interventions to Improve the Well-Being of Children in Child Welfare (PDF - 612 KB)
Conradi, Landsverk, & Wotring (2014)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau
Illustrates a process for delivering trauma screening, functional and clinical assessment, evidence-based interventions, and the use of progress monitoring in order to improve well-being outcomes.
Selecting and Implementing Programs
Califorina Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare
Provides guidance and resources about the common issues for agencies and communities to consider when selecting and implementing evidence-based practices. Tools and implementation examples also are included.
Social Work Policy Institute
Aims to serve as an information broker and create processes to move research into practice and encourage research on critical practice and policy issues that affect the profession and the consumers of social work services.
Evidence-Based Practices and Programs: Improving Child Well-Being
New York State Office of Children and Family Services
Describes how the State of New York has been incorporating evidence-based practices into its own operations for several years and is committed to supporting the use of evidence- and outcome-based services to improve child well-being and achieve positive outcomes for children, families, and communities.
Scaling-Up Evidence-Based Practices in Child Welfare Services Systems
Aarons & Chaffin (2013)
American Psychological Association
Provides examples of outcomes from a statewide scale-up of evidence-based practices in Oklahoma and a multicounty scale-up in California and examines themes from each and lessons learned when implementing evidence-based policies in child welfare.