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March 2004Vol. 5, No. 2Quality Improvement Center Initiative: Lessons Learned

In 2001, the Children's Bureau funded five Quality Improvement Centers (QICs) in adoption and child protective services. The goal of this pilot study is to promote a regional approach to the development of evidence-based knowledge about effective practices and to ensure dissemination of this information in a way that informs and alters practice at the direct service level. The Summer/Fall 2003 double issue of Professional Development: The International Journal of Continuing Social Work Education focuses on findings from the Southern Regional QIC at the University of Kentucky, on the topic of enhancing the quality of supervision in child protective services social work. The lead article in that issue, "Quality Improvement Centers on Child Protective Services and Adoption: Testing a Regionalized Approach to Building the Evidence Base - A Federal Perspective," summarizes the QIC project as a whole and shares lessons learned from the first 2 years.

During the first year of funding, the QICs were charged with establishing a regional advisory group, collecting data to identify a general area of interest, and selecting a specific research topic. Following this phase, four QICs received approval to move forward with their proposed projects. During years 2 through 4, these QICs are funding, monitoring, and evaluating research or demonstration projects. They will disseminate findings during year 5.

The Children's Bureau has funded a contract with James Bell Associates to conduct an external evaluation to examine the ways in which each QIC implements its mandate, the lessons it learns, and the successes it achieves in support of the overall Children's Bureau mission and goals for this project. Among the lessons learned thus far, the authors note:

  • Establishing and maintaining QIC regional advisory groups may have lasting impact for the regions. The QICs report strong networks have been built among advisory group members, which have facilitated greater coordination and collaboration across State lines regarding common practice issues.
  • The needs assessment process had the added benefit of being a good mechanism for gaining broad-based support for the QIC projects in their respective regions. QICs report the process of soliciting and gathering input gave participants a greater sense of buy-in for the concept and a sense of truly local responsiveness.
  • Funded projects need much more technical assistance than previously anticipated, and start-up takes longer than anticipated.
  • Leadership and vision are important to the success of the project. The QICs have benefited from strong leaders, project managers, and support from the parent organizations.

Although it is too soon to determine whether the QIC pilot will be successful, the authors suggest the first 2 years have shown significant promise for implementing this regional model for funding research and demonstration projects and building the evidence base for child protective services and adoption.

"Quality Improvement Centers on Child Protective Services and Adoption: Testing a Regionalized Approach to Building the Evidence Base - A Federal Perspective" was written by Melissa Brodowski, Sally Flanzer, and Catherine Nolan of the Children's Bureau, and Elyse Kaye of James Bell Associates. Subscription information for the International Journal of Continuing Social Work Education and past issues can be accessed on the Temple University website at

Related Items

More information about the QIC project, including research topics and contact information for the four operating QICs, can be found in "QICs Define Regions, Topics of Focus" in the February 2003 issue of Children's Bureau Express and on the Children's Bureau website at