Feasibility Study for the Evaluation of DHHS Programs That Are or May Be Operated Under Tribal Self-Governance. Perspectives on Evaluation Research:  Congress, DHHS, and Tribes


When Congress authorizes a demonstration program, it is generally with an understanding that it will be designed and implemented for a limited period of time to determine whether the new approach can effectively and efficiently meet specific goals.  Evaluation of demonstration programs provides information and evidence on the process through which the programs are implemented, operational issues, and impacts and outcomes of the demonstration programs, relative to the goals of the programs. Evaluation findings may also provide information that can be used to refine and improve the demonstration program as it transitions to permanent status.  Because evaluation is an accepted tool for assessing new programs, Congress often requires that an evaluation be conducted of new demonstration programs that it authorizes.

Agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services may have an interest in evaluating new strategies for delivering services to target populations. Management and program staff who have responsibility for specific programs have often worked in their fields for many years to develop program designs they believe are effective to provide services and meet defined needs of the population they serve.  When a new delivery strategy is undertaken, there may be concerns about whether the program objectives will continue to be achieved and whether the target population will be as well served as it was when DHHS dictates the strategy for program management.  Evaluations of how the newly structured delivery systems operate and meet the needs of the target population may allay concerns and provide increased support for the new delivery model. 

Tribes may perceive evaluation as having the potential to provide support for and evidence regarding the program improvements that Tribes can achieve through Self-Governance.  Evaluation may also provide useful information on innovative management approaches and on “best practices” that could be adopted by more Tribes and other recipients of Federal program funds. In addition, evaluation findings could provide evidence that suggests that additional funding of programs would be warranted in order for Tribes to achieve specific objectives and desirable outcomes.