Performance Improvement 2008. Under What Circumstances Should a State or Community Consider Privatizing its Child Welfare Services?


This research provided information to State and local child welfare administrators considering privatizing foster care or adoption services. The analysis encouraged agency administrators and legislators to ask critical questions and make important choices prior to transitioning services to the private sector. Information was gathered from: telephone discussions with State child welfare administrators from 44 States and the District of Columbia; regional forums with public and private agency staff and community stakeholders that have privatized at least one component of the child welfare system; literature reviews; and follow up interviews and correspondence with public and private agency providers and key stakeholders from several States.

Researchers found that reasons for undertaking privatization reform were varied. A common theme was improving outcomes for children and families. To achieve these results, privatization efforts must be based on careful up-front assessment of current issues facing the child welfare system, thinking through where improvement is most desired, and scrutinizing the capacity of private providers to deliver expected results. Most experienced observers advised a thoughtful and inclusive planning process that includes a focus on contract design and infrastructure needs of the private provider community. Public agencies must also assess their own ability to take on new monitoring functions and oversee new or expanded contracts. Sites embarking on this assessment must be prepared to do this work in a politicized context.

Report Title: Assessing Site Readiness: Considerations about Transitioning to a Privatized Child Welfare System,
Agency Sponsor: ASPE-OHSP, Office of Human Services Policy
Federal Contact:
Laura Radel, 202-690-5938
Performer: Planning and Learning Technologies, Inc.
PIC ID: 8509

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"PerformanceImprovement2008.pdf" (pdf, 1.29Mb)

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