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July/August 2009Vol. 10, No. 6Children's Bureau Hosts the National Child Welfare Evaluation Summit

On May 27-29, 2009, the Children’s Bureau (CB) hosted the National Child Welfare Evaluation Summit in Washington, DC. More than 430 individuals attended, including researchers, evaluators, State and Tribal child welfare agency administrators, analysts, and caseworkers. Professionals from other service systems also played a vital role in Summit discussions.

CB's vision for the Summit was to engage a variety of stakeholders in dialogue about the current state of evaluation practice in the field of child welfare and to promote cohesive, strategic, and sound approaches for evaluating child welfare systems, projects, and programs. Participants discussed theoretical, methodological, and ethical issues related to testing interventions, transferring knowledge, and implementing change at the individual practice, organizational, and systems levels in child welfare.

The Summit provided a unique opportunity for attendees to hear diverse perspectives, share their own viewpoints, and exchange useful information. Over 100 evaluation and child welfare experts spoke or facilitated discussions at the event. Multiple session formats encouraged participation; they included plenary sessions, moderated panel sessions, workshops, facilitated discussion groups, affinity groups, technical assistance sessions, and poster sessions. In all session formats, presenters and participants engaged in rich discourse about topics covering a broad range of issues, including:

  • Designing evaluations that are both rigorous and culturally appropriate
  • Making choices about evaluation when resources are scarce and capacity is limited
  • Using administrative data to evaluate changes in child welfare practice
  • Investigating the effectiveness of implementation and dissemination approaches
  • Conceptualizing and evaluating organizational and systems changes

Feedback from participants during and immediately after the event was very positive, and CB is hopeful that conversations initiated at the Summit will inspire further dialogue and collaboration. Participants were encouraged to capitalize on the energy and enthusiasm generated from the meeting. CB is in the process of synthesizing information gained from the Summit and compiling the results of participant surveys to improve evaluation resources for the field and to inform future planning. In addition, a special edition of the journal Child Welfare was announced during the Summit that will focus specifically on child welfare evaluation.