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 DHS News September 2013     


Evidence-Based Practices Examined to Improve Child Welfare Outcomes

“Evidence-Based Practices” (EBP) is among the terms more DHS staff, providers and stakeholders will be seeing with increasing frequency as various department initiatives – especially the Child Welfare Demonstration Project (CWDP) – are rolled out in the Office of Children, Youth and Families.

While not a new concept, having been incorporated extensively in behavioral and physical health approaches to treatment, EBPs are relatively new in their application to child welfare, said Abigail Horn, Senior Advisor in the Office of Data Analysis, Research and Evaluation (DARE).

Abby is part of a working group, comprising DARE and Children, Youth and Families (CYF) administrators, that is examining EBPs for incorporation into Allegheny County’s child welfare service delivery system.  The federal government is encouraging local entities to use Evidence-Based Practices, and DHS administrators agree that providing more will improve outcomes for children and families, which is a chief goal of the CWDP.

What are Evidence-Based Practices?  

The definition of them can vary, but basically, they are interventions that have passed rigorous evaluations at multiple sites nationwide; yield measurable results; and are recognized nationally by experts. They have solidly and professionally demonstrated their effectiveness, and can be used to improve the quality of services offered by DHS.

“They are ‘brand names,’” Abby said.  That is not to say that DHS will impose EBPs on providers, she quickly added. Part of the working group’s job is to inventory the promising practices that are being implemented now by providers.  

“We recognize that there are certain practices that are in use that may be every bit as effective as nationally known evidence-based models,” Abby said. But those practices would have to be backed up with solid evidence that they produce strong outcomes. 

Currently, sometimes services for which the county is billed are not as specific as they could be, and a term such as “in-home services” does not provide enough information to track effectiveness. The EBP working group is devising an implementation plan that includes reviewing existing practices and those EBPs that Pennsylvania’s participants in the CWDP agreed would be used by all counties. The other counties participating in the CWDP are Philadelphia, Venango, Lackawanna and Dauphin.

Expansion of the requirement to use Evidence-Based Practices will continue through the fiscal year, specifically in non-placement services.

The working group is led by CYF Deputy Director Walter Smith and DARE Deputy Director Erin Dalton. Besides Abby, group members include Doug Spencer, consultant to the Conferencing and Teaming Initiative; and Michael Yonas, DARE Director of Research and Engagement.

For more about Evidence-Based Practices, go to http://www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs/ai/evidence-based_practices.aspx.



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