Resource | Brief

Evaluating Family Engagement in Child Welfare: A Primer for Evaluators on Key Issues in Definition, Measurement, and Outcomes

Project: Technical Assistance on Evaluation for Discretionary Grant Programs

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This brief provides an overview of key issues encountered when evaluating a family engagement program or practice.

The child welfare system aims to ensure child safety and well-being while preserving vital family attachments and connections—goals that, historically, have been at odds with each other. While continuing to fulfill its mandate of protecting vulnerable children, the field has been shifting away from top-down practices that emphasize parental compliance and toward family-centered practices that promote family engagement in each step of the child welfare decision-making process.

As jurisdictions meet federal requirements and explore opportunities to engage families, evaluators will be asked to assess their efforts. This brief introduces evaluators to how family engagement is commonly defined in the child welfare context and reviews family engagement models and practices. It then turns to theoretical and methodological concerns in evaluating family engagement, including how it has been conceptualized and measured, and what outcomes have been found.