Have you heard the term "Evidence-Based Practice" thrown around the past couple of years? Although we know it is the ability to make informed decision based on research, how does that exactly work in the field? More importantly, when trying to do more with less, how can one work toward proven outcomes with budget cuts?
What is Evidence-Based Practice (EBP)?
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has defined EBP as consisting of "best research evidence, best clinical experience, and consistent with patient values." The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse has adapted these factors to define EBP in child welfare, with slight language variation: "Best research evidence, best clinical experience, and consistent with family/client values."
In adapting the definition of EBP to child welfare, we are not only acknowledging scientific research, but we are also "honoring the clinical experience of child welfare practitioners, and being fully cognizant of the values of the families we serve." At times there may be barriers to research in child welfare, such as finding a control group and the need to provide services versus the need to evaluate the efforts. Fortunately, there is a model used in the human service field: Continuum of Evidence-Based Practice.
Why is Evidence-Based Practice Important to Front-Line Worker and Supervisors?
According to The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse, because it:
How does Evidence-Based Practice Impact Child Welfare Policy?
The information gathered from studies completed on child welfare interventions and methods of practice will assist policy makers in making informed decisions about legislation and program funding. This could allow agencies the ability to provide services that are more effective and potentially less costly. Clients will also benefit from evidence-based practice because the intervention will be the most up-to-date and have proven outcomes for success.
The Center for the Study of Social Policy has developed criteria that will help ensure that policies are evidence-based:
- Demonstrate effectiveness in research, evaluation, or other studies;
- Are supported by collective wisdom of practitioners from the field;
- Address children and families with the poorest outcomes;
- Possess sufficient scope and scale to address the outcome;
- Are politically and administratively feasible; and
- Are compatible with the values and assumptions of a family-strengthening perspective.
Here are some resources for evidence-based practice in child welfare:
The California Evidence- Based Clearinghouse
Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy
National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices