Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: Building Evidence in Child Welfare through Implementing Innovations in Applied Settings

Friday, November 13, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Elizabeth Black1, Will Aldridge2, Will Hornsby1 and Clay Finck3, (1)Center for the Support of Families, (2)National Implementation Research Network, (3)JBS International, Inc.
The federal Permanency Innovations Initiative (PII) is a 5-year, $100,000 million Presidential Initiative created to support six grantees to develop and implement innovative intervention strategies to reduce long-term foster care. Administered by the Children’s Bureau and the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, it was designed to improve outcomes for the hardest to serve children in the U.S. foster care system.

The Administration’s concept was to build an evidence base through: 1) implementing innovative intervention strategies to reduce long-term foster care and improve child outcomes; 2) use an implementation science framework enhanced by child welfare expertise to guide technical assistance activities; 3) rigorously evaluate the validity of innovations; and 4) disseminate findings to build knowledge. 

Patrick Lester, from the Social Innovation Research Center, noted that, “while momentum appears to be building for the increased use of evidence in social policy, the ride has occasionally been a bumpy one, with pushback both on and off Capitol Hill over the appropriate definition of evidence. One possible answer might be found in an Obama administration program intended to test new ways to find homes for the most disadvantaged children in the foster care system. The program, called the Permanency Innovations Initiative (PII)…  is focused on building the social policy evidence base, but it is doing so in a different way.”[1]

PII represents a new way to build an evidence base in child welfare, in part, because of its focus on using data, not only to evaluate the impact of the innovation on children and families, but to inform and improve implementation of the innovation. Technical assistance has been provided to grantees to build capacity to review, organize, align and improve data collection and quality of data related to the delivery of their innovation, the outcomes children and families are experiencing as a result of innovation implementation (separate from the more formal, rigorous evaluations), the implementation processes for supporting delivery of their innovation and their overall systems capacity to support high quality implementation. The focus has been on helping them: 1) identify questions they would like to answer about both implementation and impact; 2) explore the data sources and methods that could be used to answer these same questions; and 3) create the necessary processes to use this information effectively. 

We propose a discussion on this different way to build and use evidence through application.  The ongoing use of data to improve the implementation of evidence-based practices has been identified as an important activity, not only to assess near-term effectiveness, but for promoting longer-term sustainability.[2]Areas of focus include: 1) conducting rigorous evaluations while using data to improve implementation of new innovations; 2) implementing fidelity reviews to understand the extent to which the innovation is being implemented as designed; 3) the role of leadership to support the use of data; and 4) ideas to get practitioners excited about the use of data. 

[1] Lester, Patrick. (2014) Foster Care Innovation Initiative Charts to Different Path to Evidence:

[2] Chambers et al. (2013) Dynamic Sustainability Framework: