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April 2009Vol. 10, No. 3Effective Contracts for Privatizing Child Welfare Services

As many public child welfare agencies rely on the private sector to help them provide the full array of services children and families need, the quality of privatized services is a critical concern. A new publication, Preparing Effective Contracts in Privatized Child Welfare Systems, provides guidance on the many steps and considerations that go into crafting effective contracts for more effective service delivery.

Studies on child welfare privatization initiatives have identified several shortcomings in service contracts, including a lack of clarity and detail about a range of direct services and activities, and the reverse—excessive detail about requirements that reduce the flexibility and creativity often expected from privatization initiatives.

In this paper, authors Charlotte McCullough, Nancy Pindus, and Elizabeth Lee place current contracting issues in a historical context and describe the many important decisions that must be made during the procurement or contract renewal process. They include examples of some of the decisions that must be made before procurement planning to determine basic program components, and they describe lessons learned about preparing solicitations, selecting bidders, and executing contracts. Also included are descriptions of steps that public agencies can take to write contracts that more clearly define expectations regarding the services to be provided, the target population to be served, the expected results, and the means by which the services will be funded.

This is the fifth of six papers in a technical assistance series funded in 2006 by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The series is designed to provide information to State and local child welfare administrators who are considering or implementing privatization reforms.

Preparing Effective Contracts in Privatized Child Welfare Systems is available on the ASPE website: