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July/August 2019Vol. 20, No. 6Exploring How We Build, Understand, and Apply Evidence in Child Welfare: The 2019 National Child Wel

Written by the Capacity Building Center for States

How do we determine which practices and programs are most likely to produce the best outcomes for the children, youth, and families we serve? And once a program or practice is in place, how do we know that it's working? The child welfare field continues to make important strides using data, research, and evaluation to inform practice and decision-making. We've made great progress and look forward to more opportunities to learn, expand, and improve in this area.

In 2009, the Children's Bureau (CB) convened the first National Child Welfare Evaluation Summit (Evaluation Summit). Child welfare policy makers, administrators, and evaluators from around the country gathered to learn about ways to build and disseminate evidence about effective child welfare services, programs, and policies; strengthen evaluation practice; and promote the use of findings for sound decision-making in child welfare programs and systems. A second Evaluation Summit was held in 2011.

Building on the momentum of the second Evaluation Summit, CB launched three research and evaluation workgroups to tackle challenges that emerged during the conference. Each workgroup brought together national experts to develop practical resources, including the following:

  • A framework to guide the process of building evidence and implementing evidence-supported interventions in child welfare
  • A vision and guide describing how to collaboratively perform culturally and scientifically rigorous evaluation with tribal communities
  • A guide for integrating cost-analysis with program evaluation to promote a better understanding of key program components, implementation, and unit costs

The workgroups developed a collection of useful publications and videos to assist child welfare agency leaders and evaluators.

CB also released the Child Welfare Evaluation Virtual Summit Series in 2013. The series includes 17 brief and engaging videos featuring perspectives and tips from national experts on a wide range of evaluation-related topics. CB will host its third Evaluation Summit on August 20-21, 2019, at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, DC. The 2019 National Child Welfare Evaluation Summit, with the theme of "Leveraging Data and Evaluation to Strengthen Families and Promote Well-Being," will provide an opportunity for 800 child welfare leaders, members of the research and evaluation community, and their partners and stakeholders to explore how we build knowledge and evidence responsibly and use results to ensure children and youth thrive in strong, healthy families. Participants will learn about emerging research and evaluation findings and have the opportunity to discuss dilemmas, challenges, and opportunities related to research, evaluation, and continuous quality improvement. (Click here to register for the Evaluation Summit.)

The Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative will host its annual 1-day online event, the Child Welfare Virtual Expo (Virtual Expo), on September 19, 2019. This year's event will complement the Evaluation Summit. The theme, "Effectiveness in Child Welfare: Our Role in Improving the Lives of Children and Families," will offer participants the chance to build knowledge and skills to boost their ability to participate meaningfully in building evidence of "what works" in their own practice and within their agencies and communities. The Virtual Expo will feature concurrent presentations, exhibits, and networking opportunities for up to 1,500 state and local child welfare leaders, including sessions for agency and legal professionals working directly with children, youth, and families. (Click here to register for the Virtual Expo.)