The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) administers a broad range of entitlement and discretionary programs, including income maintenance (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF]); child support; children and family services (Head Start, Child Welfare, Family Preservation and Support, and youth programs); four block grants; and special programs for targeted populations, such as the developmentally disabled, immigrants, and Native Americans.
The objectives of ACF's evaluations are to furnish information on designing and operating effective programs; to test new service delivery approaches capitalizing on the success of completed demonstrations; to apply evaluation data to policy development, legislative planning, budget decisions, program management, and strategic planning and performance measures development; and to disseminate findings of completed studies and promote application of results by State and local governments.
ACF actively engages with other Federal agencies, State and local policy and program officials, national organizations, foundations, professional groups and practitioners, and consumers to stay current on emerging issues affecting its programs and to identify questions for evaluation studies. Systems changes and how they affect vulnerable populations, particularly children, are of primary concern. The movement toward devolving responsibility for health and human services to State and local organizations--in particular, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996--offer both tremendous opportunities and unprecedented challenges in redefining and implementing services for families.
Evaluation study designs are negotiated carefully with the States and other interest groups. Studies often are funded as joint ventures with Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation and other Federal agencies and foundations. Such collaborations permit large-scale efforts that are better informed and more representative of varying perspectives. Proposals are reviewed by multidisciplinary experts. Work groups of various kinds are used to monitor the progress of projects and to advise on design refinements and the presentation of findings.