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February 2019Vol. 20, No. 1Embedding Evidence-Based Practices in Child Welfare

Although evidence-based programs have been shown to be effective in providing children and families involved with child welfare with the services they need to achieve well-being and positive outcomes, it is important to make sure these programs are implemented in a way that follows the program's design and is sustainable. A guide from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the National Implementation Research Network provides a roadmap for child welfare professionals that focuses on the following three components of implementation:

  • Effective practices, or what is implemented: These include strategies or interventions that are supported by evidence, are feasible to implement, fit the needs of the community, and are well defined.
  • Effective implementation, or how the program is implemented: These require an intentional and visible infrastructure to support effective practices.
  • Enabling context, or where or with whom the program is implemented: This requires collaboration, communication, and feedback loops as well as ongoing use of data to support effective practices.

The guide explains four implementation activities for child welfare systems that represent the above components:

  • Assessing and selecting interventions: This activity focuses on using program indicators—which assess new or existing programs or practices that will be implemented based on evidence, support, and usability—and implementing-site indicators—which assess the extent to which a new or existing program or practice is appropriate for the implementing site based on population need, fit, and capacity.
  • Establishing and maintaining implementation teams: This activity focuses on building teams that make sure families and community members are included in decision-making; define practice clearly and align it to the context; establish implementation support; create mechanisms for measuring and improving fidelity; set goals and create strategies for achieving greater equity; and ensure the intervention achieves and sustains outcomes.
  • Developing and aligning implementation infrastructure: This activity focuses on building practitioner competency with the evidence-based intervention, fostering mutual accountability among stakeholders, and aligning system support to create a favorable environment for successful implementation.
  • Supporting data use and communications for continuous quality improvement: This activity focuses on the importance of using data to understand how well services are being delivered, whether services are meeting the needs of children and families, and whether services are producing desired outcomes.

The guide, Blueprint for Embedding Evidence-Based Practices in Child Welfare, is available at