Monthly Archives: September 2015

Washington State Legislature Pairs Funding With Programs That Adhere To Evidence-Based and Research-Based Practice Standards

Three years ago the Washington State Legislature began requiring state funded programs for children and families to adhere to evidence-based and research based standards. House Bill 2536 passed in 2012 (chief sponsors Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson and Sen. Jim Hargrove) states: “The legislature recognizes that the use of evidence-based practices plays a very important role in the delivery of services to children and juveniles. Especially in times of diminished resources, it is critical to fund practices which are known to provide desired outcomes rather than continue to expend moneys on programs that may be familiar but less effective.

Evidence-based practices or programs are those that are cost-effective and include at least two randomized or statistically controlled evaluations across heterogeneous populations demonstrating that the program or practice is effective in obtaining improved outcomes for its intended population.”

Judy Lightfoot, writing for Crosscut, looks at the impact of HB 2536 on the state’s juvenile justice system and the foster-care sector of the child welfare system in her June 2015 article: Can science save abused, neglected kids – and money, too?

“Keeping children out of foster care,” Lightfoot writes, “(like reducing recidivism among youthful offenders) happens best when we strengthen families. Even in the case of families that have been reported to Protective Services, children are better off staying with their parents, as long as they are deemed reasonably safe, because pulling kids out of their homes to live with strangers inflicts further trauma. The 2014 inventory calls Homebuilders Intensive Family Preservation Services effective at keeping families intact by teaching parenting strategies and life skills that improve the way families function in crisis.”

Lightfoot explores the question: Can science really save money?

“Cost-benefit analyses depend on complex statistical calculations, and it’s hard to put a dollar value on inputs and outcomes in social services. In many instances, the data aren’t available to make same-year, apples-to-apples comparisons. That said, there are examples from juvenile crime, foster care and education systems suggesting that science-based interventions in Washington are already saving money — and promise additional savings in the future.

Turning to the foster care system: Cost-benefit data in the 2014 inventory sent to the legislature show that Homebuilders Family Preservation Services, besides getting high E/RBP marks, also saves child welfare dollars, partly by preventing the kind of abuse or neglect that lands children in foster settings. In 2008, per-child costs of the Homebuilders program were $3,224, and per-child benefits totaled $10,995, for a savings of $7,771 per child.

Having to send even a few of those kids into foster care would significantly strain the public purse. National data show that foster care costs more than $22,000 per child per year, and about 53 percent of foster children remain in the system for a year or more. In Washington State, 8,382 children were in out-of-home foster placements in the first quarter of 2015, according to Partners for Our Children. Using the national per-child-per-year figure above, keeping just 3,000 of these youngsters in foster care for one year would cost the state $66 million.”

Read the whole Crosscut article here