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

Panel: Designing Evaluations to Strengthen Policy and Practice: Current Research on Evidence-Based Home Visiting Programs
(Family and Child Policy)

Thursday, November 12, 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Merrick I (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Virginia W. Knox, MDRC
Panel Chairs:  Nancy Margie, Administration for Children and Families
Discussants:  Lisa Williams-Taylor, Children's Services Council of Palm Beach County Florida

Challenges of Serving and Retaining High-Risk Families in Evidence-Based Home Visiting Programs
Cynthia Osborne, University of Texas at Austin and Allison C. Dubin, University of Texas, Austin

The federal Maternal, Infant, and Childhood Home Visiting Program (HVP) has been a leading example of the federal evidence-based policymaking initiative. The initiative has been remarkable for its rigorous multi-stage process of disseminating funds to expand evidence-based programs; rolling out the services via new state-administered programs; instituting performance measurement systems; and establishing from the outset specific evaluation expectations that are aimed at continuing to improve services as they continue to scale up. This panel will highlight current results and activities of three very different types of evaluations that are informing this evidence-based initiative - a large multi-site national effectiveness evaluation of the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (HVP); rich local evaluations of home visiting in Texas and New Jersey; and a research network comprised of multiple research partners and local home visiting programs throughout the country. Each study has been designed to address some of the most central challenges that practitioners face in delivering voluntary programs for families and that research can inform: Which families at risk of poor parent and child outcomes should be targeted with these particular services? How will programs engage families to get the level of services that is adequate to change their outcomes, while using resources as efficiently a possible? How should programs and researchers define, measure, and monitor the quality of services being delivered? In what domains of family and child outcomes are these programs showing impacts as they scale up? The studies also exemplify some key conceptual issues that evaluators grapple with in studying programs that already have some base of efficacy evidence ("evidence-based" programs). How can studies be designed to balance an interest in rigorous impact results as programs scale up with an interest in practice-relevant implementation research? What kinds of research-to-practice partnerships should be developed to make progress on priorities for the field, such as measuring the quality of the relationship between providers and clients and understanding the role of that relationship in producing effective services? Knowing that social service delivery is complex and no one study can answer all questions of interest, the federal home visiting initiative has funded research at multiple levels, resulting in the range of study designs and research partnerships represented in this panel. Our chair is the federal project officer for the MIHOPE national home visiting study and our discussant is the CEO of a large family service program that is known for using evaluation and rigorous performance management to continually improve its services. Each of these knowledgeable professionals will lend important policy and practice perspectives to the discussion that we hope to inspire with these presentations.
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