The Evaluation of Programs for Permanency and Reunification expands upon the conceptual paper and reviews what must be learned to develop more effective programs for achieving permanency. It broadens the focus beyond the evaluation of particular programs to consider other empirical work that might inform policy making and program design. Based on information from state and local administrators and from site visits, the paper identifies possibilities for evaluation at various levels of rigor.
The core of all efforts to understand permanency and reunification in the current context is careful monitoring of system performance. Analysis of administrative data is central here, but should be augmented by special studies. Of particular importance are studies tracking children in various permanency arrangements, and collecting longitudinal information that goes beyond the data contained in administrative systems. In addition, studies are needed on topics that include:
- How decisions are made by child welfare workers, administrators, and judges. This includes the use of risk assessment procedures and their effectiveness and a determination of how concurrent planning is working.
- Evaluations of components of permanency and reunification practice, such as foster parent mentoring and family group conferencing.
- Evaluations of family drug courts.
- Evaluations of other approaches directed at substance abuse in families served by the child welfare system.
- Evaluations of specific programs for permanency and reunification, in particular, wraparound programs and community oriented programs such as Family to Family.
These studies, if conducted in the most rigorous manner possible, will provide the solid evidence necessary to make policy and program decisions that will serve the best interests of children and families.