Fostering Accountability: Using Evidence to Guide and Improve Child Welfare Policy

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Overview

Fostering Accountability presents a model of child welfare decision making that holds public officials answerable for the integrity and validity of the actions they take on behalf of the children and families in their care. It operationalizes the concept of results-oriented accountability, which demands that administrators and practitioners show valid evidence of their success in improving child and family outcomes, not merely demonstrate mechanical procedural compliance.

Drawing on the experiences of directors, staff, and evaluators, this timely and practical book describes the emergence of results-oriented accountability in child welfare with a special focus on the editors' role in establishing a university-agency research partnership under a federal consent decree. Chapters elaborate on the five successive stages of the results-oriented accountability framework-outcomes monitoring, data analysis, research review, evaluation, and quality improvement-and provide examples of applications of each stage for agency managers. By refocusing the emphasis on developing policies based on agency data, instead of purely reactive approaches that grasp at solutions and often fall short, Fostering Accountability guides administrators in monitoring outcomes, using evidence to select interventions to enhance results, and applying management strategies to evaluate and improve these efforts.

The result is a pragmatic implementation guide for administrators seeking to bring safety, stability, continuity, permanence, and well-being to the lives of abused and neglected children in the United States.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fostering Accountability is much more than an edited volume; it is a well-integrated volume that is principally written by Testa and Poertner, who author or co-author all but a few chapters. This matters because these practitioner scholars have constructed a narrative that builds across the chapters and yields significant conclusions in many chapters and provides a sturdy platform for powerful recommendations in the concluding chapter. The volume succeeds in heralding the advances of child welfare accountability, but also indicating the shortcomings, possible fixes, and a large vision for fostering the next wave of progress."
—Richard P. Barth, Professor and Dean, School of Social Work, University of Maryland

"Child welfare has come so far in recent decades; practice and policy are shifting rapidly to meet the unique needs of families. Importantly, critical inquiry, data gathering, and research experimentation have bolstered many significant reforms. Fostering Accountability provides a road map to help child welfare agency administrators and policy makers build upon these successes, consider course adjustments along the way, and determine how to best develop and maintain evidence-informed practices that can benefit families."
—Jill Duerr Berrick, Zellerbach Family Professor, School of Social Welfare and Co-Director, Center for Child and Youth Policy, University of California at Berkeley

"In this era of evaluation, outcomes, and performance-based contracting, data and research have increasingly become required tools for policy and decision makers in child welfare and human services."—Erwin McEwen, Director, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

"This book provides a balanced critique of the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to accountability. It makes an invaluable contribution by showing the interconnections between the problems of improving the evidence base of practice and improving the audit system, making a strong argument that any approach that does not address both will be counterproductive."
—Eileen Munro, Professor of Social Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science

"This book brilliantly illustrates the need for the right kind of scientific investigations to answer some of the field's most challenging questions. The authors persuasively make the case that agencies serving our most powerless citizens, abused and neglected children, should be evaluated using the same technological tools the rest of us employ, such as controlled experiments, rather than relying on guesses. The book is critical reading not only for academics, but also for public officials and child advocates who want to measure human services policies' failures as well as their successes."—Benjamin Wolf, attorney and child advocate, lead counsel in the B. H. v. McEwen federal litigation on behalf of all of the foster children in Illinois

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195321302
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/4/2010
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark F. Testa, PhD, is the Sandra Reeves Spears and John B. Turner Distinguished Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

John Poertner, DSW, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction
Mark F. Testa

2. Child Welfare in the 21st Century: Outcomes, Value Tensions, and Agency Risks
Mark F. Testa and John Poertner

3. Logic of Results-Oriented Accountability: Populations, Interventions, Comparisons, and Outcomes
Mark F. Testa

4. Monitoring Outcomes in Child Welfare
Tom McDonald and Mark F. Testa

5. Data for Analysis and Planning
Mark F. Testa

6. Research Review of Evidence in Child Welfare
John Poertner

7. Evaluation of Child Welfare Interventions
Mark F. Testa

8. Results-Oriented Management: Using Evidence for Quality Improvement
Terry Moore

9. Flexibility, Innovation, and Experimentation: The Rise and Fall of Child Welfare Waiver Demonstrations
Mark Testa

10. Performance-Based Contracting: Aligning Incentives with Outcomes to Produce Results
Ken Taylor and Michael Shaver

11. Fostering and Sustaining University/Agency Partnerships
Joan Zlotnik

12. Conclusion
Mark F. Testa and John Poertner

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