Policymakers are increasingly interested in supporting programs and practices that have been proven effective by scientific research. A growing body of literature documents the benefits and challenges of implementing evidence-based policies throughout the human services field. With the passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act in 2018, States now have the option to use Federal funds for approved, evidence-based services to prevent children from entering foster care. The following resources explore the issues surrounding the application of empirical evidence to the development of child welfare and other social policies.
Applying the Research and Evaluation Provisions of the Family First Prevention Services Act
Discusses research and evaluation requirements of the Federal Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018. The law includes specific requirements around evidence-based programs and tools, expands opportunities to use research, and encourages data-driven decision-making in child welfare.
Assembling the Pieces: Research, Policy, and Practice in Child Welfare (PDF - 257 KB)
DuMont, Wulczyn, Anderson, Samuels, Weiner, Danielson, Killos, et al. (2016)
Presents the outcome of a discussion between child welfare agency leaders, researchers, and funders on how research evidence fits into child welfare. The resource outlines some benefits of using research evidence to enhance informed decision-making, increase the use of evidence-based practices, maintain ongoing evaluation, and spur program improvement.
Better Evidence for Decision-Makers: Emerging Pathways from Existing Knowledge (PDF - 5,458 KB)
Center for the Study of Social Policy
Explains the need for a broader range of evidence for decision-makers, provides three examples that highlight what understanding evidence relevant to improving outcomes should look like, and presents recommendations on policy and implementation.
Case Studies Underscore the Importance of Using Evidence to Develop Practice and Policy
The Annie E. Casey Foundation (2019)
Presents three case studies that demonstrate how evidence can be used to improve program delivery and to develop policy. The cases show how considering data, asking and testing questions, and using evidence leads to better outcomes and gives policymakers solid evidence about the context in which the programs work and for what populations.
The Evidence Decision-Makers Want (PDF - 3,717 KB)
Center for the Study of Social Policy
Summarizes the results of a study based on observations about the widespread effort to promote the use of evidence-based policy across the human services field. The study offers in-depth interviews with decision-makers in child welfare and youth employment on their use of evidence.
Implementing the Family First Prevention Services Act
Children's Defense Fund (2020)
Presents a guide to the Family First Prevention Services Act, which is designed to provide a starting point for the implementation efforts of child welfare agencies, policymakers, and other stakeholders. The guide contains a section devoted to evidence-based programs starting on page 18 that reviews how the law promotes evidence-based programs, how the evidence-based standards were developed, what the quality improvement requirements for evidence-based services are, and more.
The Permanency Innovations Initiative: An Example of Building Evidence in Child Welfare [Video]
Administration for Children and Families (2016)
Showcases how the Permanency Innovations Initiative approach exemplifies evidence-based policymaking and works to increase the body of evidence available for child welfare innovations, develop a process for building evidence, and contribute to the creation of a culture of evidence-based practice and policy in child welfare.
States Can Set Funding Thresholds That Promote Evidence-Based Programs (PDF - 87 KB)
Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative (2019)
Summarizes strategies State leaders can use to sustain reforms and advance priorities, including evidence-based policymaking. The fact sheet outlines six steps that can be taken to prioritize evidence-based programs.
Strategies to Promote Research Use in Child Welfare
Roberts, Killos, Maher, O'Brien, & Pecora (2017)
Casey Family Programs
Presents evidence-based strategies from fields such as education, public health, and social work; provides examples of research use and impact; and lists factors for policymakers, agency leaders, and practitioners to consider.