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The 2019 National Child Welfare Evaluation Summit was a forum for partners from child welfare systems and the research community to participate in open discourse and share methods, findings, successes, and challenges. The Evaluation Summit brought together a wide variety of local and national stakeholders, and specifically targeted participation from the following groups:

  • Leaders and decision-makers, including continuous quality improvement (CQI) and program managers from state, local, and tribal child welfare agencies
  • Leaders from the legal and judicial community
  • Researchers and program evaluators from academia, philanthropy, and private industry
  • Directors and key staff of child welfare-related demonstration projects and studies
  • Technical assistance providers
  • Funders and policymakers
  • Leaders from national and community-based partners and providers
  • Critical stakeholders, including advocates, caregivers, and youth

Over 800 attendees participated in the event.


The Children's Bureau (CB) is committed to advancing efforts that prevent maltreatment and strengthen families' abilities to nurture and provide for their children's well-being. CB's vision is that child welfare will become a prevention-oriented, community-driven system that ensures families can thrive, reduces unnecessary family disruption, and keeps children in their communities whenever possible. Data analysis, research, program evaluation, performance measurement, and CQI are critical to achieving this vision for a more preventive system with more effective services that can ensure safety, permanency, and well-being for children, youth, and families.

The Evaluation Summit offered a unique opportunity for partners from child welfare systems and the research community interested in Leveraging Data and Evaluation to Strengthen Families and Promote Well-Being. Participants discussed practical, ethical, and methodological dilemmas that accompany efforts to conduct analyses, research, evaluation, CQI, and apply findings to improve child welfare services and inform goals for the future at the local and national levels.

Goals and Topical Areas

The purpose of the Evaluation Summit was to strengthen the use of data and evaluation in child welfare; disseminate information about effective and promising prevention and child welfare services, programs, and policies; and promote the use of data and evaluation to support sound decision-making and improved practice in state and local child welfare systems.

The Evaluation Summit supported three overarching goals aligned with its purpose:

  • Building evidence describes efforts to examine the existing evidence base in child welfare, employ strategies that will generate credible and useful evidence, and share recent research and evaluation findings.
  • Strengthening practice includes efforts to inform and improve case-level child welfare practice and program- and system-level decision-making (including through CQI and quality assurance processes), as well as efforts to strengthen the practice and process of evaluation itself.
  • Informing policy addresses the use of evaluation, data, and research findings to drive well-informed decision-making and policymaking, including selecting, designing, and implementing practices, programs, and initiatives that will improve outcomes for children, youth, and families.

Topical areas included: exploring evaluation methods and measurement; using data to understand characteristics, trends, predictors, and performance; communicating and applying findings to improve practice; demonstrating efficacy and effectiveness in child welfare; evaluating implementation and sustainability; leveraging technology and innovation in evaluation; and conducting population-specific research and evaluation.

Session Formats

Participants in the Evaluation Summit had the opportunity to dialogue with and learn from each other in various formal and informal settings. The Call for Abstracts solicited proposals for the following session formats:

  • Presentations of findings/methods (60 or 90 minutes): increase participant knowledge about research issues or evaluation findings, methods, concepts, or implications. Presentations typically have dedicated time for authors of one or more studies on a related topic to disseminate important findings or lessons learned.
  • Skill-building workshops (90 or 180 minutes): develop skills by offering participants the chance to practice and apply specific techniques. Interactive workshops typically include explanation or demonstration of approaches or methods followed by facilitated time for practice and exploration of the strategies.
  • Expert panel discussions/issue forums (90 minutes): are focused sessions designed to increase collective understanding and critical thinking by presenting diverse perspectives on a specific issue to promote discourse about solutions and potential courses of action. Typically, a facilitator will lead panelists and audience participants in discussion.
  • Poster presentations (2 hour formal display): provide an opportunity for individuals or groups to display their program and research findings in a poster format. Presentations on recent and emerging findings and research from emerging scholars are encouraged.