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.
Disseminating Evidence-Based Practice for Children and Adolescents: A Systems Approach to Enhancing Care (PDF - 3,092 KB)
American Psychological Association Task Force on Evidence-Based Practice With Children and Adolescents (2008)
Addresses the unique challenges for mental health practitioners in developing, strengthening, and disseminating evidence-based practice (EBP) for children, adolescents, and their families. Includes a brief history and the key assumptions of EBP; developmental considerations for children and adolescents; critical issues affecting the dissemination and implementation of EBP; an approach to practice that consists of observation, inquiry, and evaluation; and recommendations for research, education, practice, and policy.
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.
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.
What is Evidence-Based Practice?
California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare
Describes the importance of evidence-based practice in child welfare, including a brief overview and history, a definition, and information on the research base in child welfare.
The Move to Evidence Based Practice: How Well Does It Fit Child Welfare Services?
University of Maryland School of Social Work (2007)
Provides background information on evidence-based practice in child welfare and suggests the areas of least and greatest fit between the methods of evidence-based practice and child welfare services.
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.