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Evaluation of Ohio’s IV-E Waiver Demonstration
Striving to improve child welfare in Ohio
Working with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, we’ve been evaluating the effects of flexible funding through the ProtectOHIO Title IV-E Waiver demonstration—providing evidence toward the use of innovative child welfare programs that aim to improve child and family outcomes.
Our study is helping ProtectOHIO county leaders understand the effectiveness of the strategies they’ve implemented through flexible funding to improve child safety, permanency and well-being. And our ongoing evaluation has helped county leaders delineate the use of IV-E Waiver funds to maximum effect.
Since 1997 we have worked with the ProtectOHIO counties to provide information to help county leaders make program decisions, develop standardized procedures for program implementation and ongoing training, and increase fidelity to chosen program models.
- Data Collection Protocols and Instruments
- Technical Assistance and Training
Identifying effective interventions
For nearly 20 years, Ohio has made use of IV-E Waiver funds to implement innovative programs. Throughout that time, and thanks in part to guidance from our evaluation team, county leaders have coalesced around a core group of particularly promising interventions.
As a county-administered child welfare system with state oversight, Ohio counties are relatively autonomous in their decision making. At the beginning of Ohio’s involvement in the IV-E Waiver, in 1997, participating counties had maximum flexibility in their use of this funding. By the second waiver period, counties honed their activities to a pool of five interventions. The third and forth waiver periods have further narrowed the ProtectOHIO focus to just two interventions: Family Team Meetings and Kinship Supports.
Kinship Supports ensure that a kin caregiver (a relative or a close family friend caring for a child who was removed from a birth parent’s home) has the support they need to meet the child’s physical, emotional, financial, and basic needs. Each of Ohio’s 16 demonstration counties has a trained kinship coordinator who serves as an expert resource; and specific activities, assessments, and caregiver support plans are completed by this person or other designated staff.
Family Team Meetings
Family Team Meetings are a method for engaging family members and people who can support the family in a process of collaborative case decision-making. Designed to increase the likelihood of creating a realistic and achievable case plan that will lead to lasting safety and permanency for children, FTMs provide an opportunity for parents, extended family, service providers, and members of the family’s natural support system to build partnerships. The approach involves regularly scheduled meetings that are facilitated by a trained professional, and the goal is to come up with creative and effective solutions to case challenges, link families to appropriate and timely services, and strengthen and empower families while keeping children safe and planning for their ongoing stability, care, and protection.
Comparing efficacy in the real world
We are using a quasi-experimental design to understand differences in child and family outcomes between the 16 Ohio demonstration counties and the 16 Ohio comparison counties. Propensity scores are used as a mechanism to adjust baseline differences and reduce selection bias. We also look for differences in how the demonstration counties are implementing the interventions and account for those when examining the results.
Collecting data and sharing findings
We work collaboratively with county staff and seek out the perspectives of families and kin caregivers—through site visits, key informant interviews, focus groups, and client and community surveys.
We examine administrative data from state-level data systems and have built a custom data system for county staff to input case-level data.
We present findings on an ongoing basis across the span of the evaluation. This stimulates regular discussion among state administrators, county directors, and agency staff—and these discussions provide us with important study insights. This method also creates opportunities for individual counties to learn from the evaluation and one another—and to make program adjustments as needed.
In the most recent phase of the evaluation, we found promising results for the two interventions focused on by ProtectOHIO counties.
- Among children placed in out-of-home care, children whose families received FTM were more likely to be placed with kin than in foster care.
- Once a permanency decision had been made, children whose families received FTM were less likely to reenter out-of-home care.
- Families that received FTM implemented with high fidelity to the model had significantly shorter case episodes than comparison families that did not receive FTM.
For children needing to be placed in out-of-home care:
- Kinship care was used as a placement option significantly more often in ProtectOHIO counties than in comparison counties.
- Children placed with kin in ProtectOHIO counties experienced greater placement stability than children placed with kin in comparison counties
- Children placed with kin in ProtectOHIO counties reached permanency in significantly fewer days than children placed with kin in comparison counties.