The Importance of Contextual Fit when Implementing Evidence-Based Interventions. Determining Need: The Kansas Intensive Permanency Project


 The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Children’s Bureau (CB) and Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) developed the Permanency Innovations Initiative (PII), a multisite federal demonstration project designed to improve permanency outcomes among children in foster care who face the most serious barriers to permanency. Implemented in 2010, this 5-year, $100-million initiative includes six grantees, each with a unique intervention designed to reduce long-term foster care stays and improve child and family outcomes. The project is distinguished by its provision of rigorous evaluation, purposeful application of implementation science, and coordinated dissemination of findings. In its intent to assist grantees to develop or adapt evidence-supported interventions (ESIs), PII aims to build an evidence base and disseminate findings throughout the child welfare field. Intensive technical assistance is available through federal program staff at CB and OPRE and from technical assistance contractors (Permanency Innovations Initiative Training and Technical Assistance Project & Permanency Innovations Initiative Evaluation Team, 2013).

One of the six PII grantees, the Kansas Intensive Permanency Project (KIPP), is a statewide public–private partnership between the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare, the Kansas Department for Children and Families, and Kansas’ private providers of foster care. KIPP is testing the effectiveness of an evidence-based parenting intervention on the safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes of a subpopulation of children at risk of long-term foster care (LTFC): children with serious emotional disturbance. The goal of the first stage of implementation—exploration—was to assess the match between community needs, evidence-based interventions, and community resources (Fixsen et al., 2005). (A more detailed discussion of KIPP can be found in Akin, Bryson, Testa, Blase, & McDonald, 2013). To determine need, KIPP engaged in a series of data mining activities to better identify and understand the target population, critical barriers encountered by parents, and system barriers to permanency. The activities included (1) review and analysis of administrative and program data to identify factors that place certain groups of children at risk for LTFC; (2) case reviews and data extraction to uncover family characteristics associated with LTFC; and (3) electronic informant surveys for child welfare staff, administrators, and advocates across the state to identify system barriers to permanency. Based on this input, the project team identified a list of parenting models and assessed their relevance to the selected target population. (For further information on how KIPP selected and implemented the chosen parenting intervention, see Bryson, Akin, Blase, McDonald, & Walker, 2014).

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