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April 2020Vol. 21, No. 3Federal Handbook Sets Standards for Reviewing Programs Designed to Keep Families Together

A handbook from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, which is housed within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, explains how the federal prevention services clearinghouse will review programs for their eligibility for reimbursement. The Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 directs ACF to establish the Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse to systematically review research on programs and services designed to support children and families and prevent foster care placements. The clearinghouse was designed to rate programs and services—such as treatment and interventions for mental health and substance use disorders as well as kinship navigator and in-home parenting skills-based programs—as promising, supported, or well-supported. The clearinghouse is intended as an objective and transparent source of information on evidence-based practices that may be eligible for funding under title IV-E of the Social Security Act, as amended by the Family First Prevention Services Act.

The handbook lays out the following systematic review process:

  • Relevant programs and services are identified (chapter 1).
  • Programs and services are evaluated for eligibility and prioritized for review (chapter 2).
  • Research studies of the prioritized programs and services are identified through a comprehensive literature search (chapter 3).
  • Research studies are screened for eligibility and prioritized for review (chapter 4).
  • The evidence in the eligible studies is reviewed (chapter 5).
  • The following ratings are assigned to programs and services: well-supported, supported, promising, or does not currently meet criteria (chapter 6).
  • Operational procedures for reviewing prevention programs and services are discussed (chapter 7).

Each study is assigned a trained reviewer who uses the design and execution standards described in the handbook. The reviewer assigns one of three ratings to the study to include in the clearinghouse database: high, moderate, or low support of causal evidence. The initial ratings will dictate the follow-up response (e.g., when a study receives a low causal evidence rating, the reviewer elevates it to a senior reviewer to confirm the rating or call for a second review).

For more information, refer to the Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse Handbook of Standards and Procedures (PDF - 4,200 KB).