Senior Research Associate Heidi Melz spoke in Washington, DC, in May about the Permanency Innovations Initiative Evaluation, an evaluation of programs designed to help children in foster care find permanent homes more quickly. Westat partnered with JBA to conduct the evaluation, which is funded by the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Melz joined a panel presentation at the Research and Evaluation Conference (RECS) on Self-Sufficiency, a national event organized by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, ACF.
For nearly 20 years, RECS has brought together researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to support employment, well-being, and self-sufficiency among low-income families. The 2018 event took place May 30–June 1 at the Renaissance Hotel.
Melz spoke as part of an afternoon panel called “You Shall Not Pass: The Use of Evaluation Tollgates in Building Evidence for Social Programs.” Her presentation focused on using case studies to understand programs’ readiness to transition from formative evaluation, which is useful in the early stages of program implementation, to summative evaluation, which measures outcomes once full implementation is reached.
Melz shared highlights from JBA’s case study of California Partners for Permanency (CAPP), which developed a new child and family practice model to reduce kids’ time in foster care. The CAPP case study illustrates four factors important to assessing whether and how quickly programs moved from formative to summative evaluation:
- Agency characteristics
- Choice of intervention
- Development of training and coaching
- Staff turnover
“In highlighting this case study, we wanted to show conference attendees what they can look for early in a project to see if they’re on the path toward evaluating outcomes,” Melz says. “Knowing those cues can prevent projects from moving too quickly to summative evaluation and trying to measure the impact of activities that still need additional support.”
Fellow panel presenters included George Gabel from Westat and M.C. Bradley from Mathematica Policy Research.