|What incentives could be used to encourage evaluation of PAS programs?|
Moving forward: Incentives can facilitate evaluation by addressing both the resource and goodwill costs of evaluation activities. We do not know what kind of incentives would open the doors to using evaluation approaches with adoptive families. Some PAS providers have concerns about asking families to participate in evaluations, feeling that data collection activities are at odds with their effort to move from a clinical atmosphere to one of support. The introduction of random assignment to services, on top of rigorous data collection, is likely to be met with still greater levels of concern.
It is not clear what mix of incentives and technical assistance might be the most powerful accelerant for evaluation efforts. Because funding for post-adoption services is so diverse, incentivizing evaluations will be difficult. Funds to pay for additional services and not just for evaluation activities would be needed in order to gain the commitment of the necessary number of PAS program sites.
For providers to commit to evaluation, evaluation must be sensitive to their concerns about family sensitivities. Families may in fact be quite receptive to participating in evaluations that can help secure funding for services.
Funding agencies can promote evaluation as a tool for program improvement, building on the amply demonstrated commitment of PAS coordinators and providers to delivering the best possible support to adoptive families. This will involve structuring evaluation methods that can actually provide timely and useful input on questions of interest to program staff, and providing technical assistance to enable staff to interpret and apply evaluation findings.
Promoting Safe and Stable Families funds are often used for post-adoption services and could be used for evaluation. However, some states use these funds for recruitment of families and purchase of services to expedite adoptions; they use adoption bonuses or state funds to purchase post-adoption services. The Adoption Opportunity program could serve as a vehicle for soliciting competitive proposals for rigorous evaluations. State agencies funding PAS can also increase their support for evaluation. Such approaches may be needed but not sufficient to increase the level of evaluation activity. The field also needs to examine ways to add new resources for both evaluation and services. Just paying the ticket for evaluation without a companion ticket for additional services is unlikely to entice states and counties to attend the evaluation dance.