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What Strategies Are Appropriate for Monitoring Children Outside of Family Care and Evaluating the Impact of the Programs Intended to Serve Them?

NCJ Number
Child Abuse & Neglect Volume: 36 Issue: 10 Dated: October 2012 Pages: 732-742
Alastair Ager; Cathy Zimmerman; Kathy Unlu; Richard Rinehart; Kathleen Strottman; Beverly Nyberg; Charles Zeanah; Jean Hunleth; Ida Bastiaens; Andre Weldy; Gretchen Bachman; Alexander B. Blum
Date Published
October 2012
11 pages
To strengthen the evidence-base for policy and practice for support of children outside of family care requires effective, efficient and sustainable mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation. Toward that end, two core questions guided a systematic review of evidence: What strategies are appropriate for monitoring the needs and circumstances of children outside of family care? What strategies are suitable for evaluating the impact of the programs intended to serve such children?
A structured document search and review process was implemented within the context of the U.S. Government Evidence Summit on Protecting Children Outside of Family Care of December 2011. Through successive review phases, initially using structured screening criteria, followed by thematic review by an expert panel, 73 documents were identified for analysis. Analysis of models and strategies indicates that: (1) tools are available for assessment of children's needs, but require refining to accommodate contextual demands; (2) well-designed evaluations are able to identify the influence of assistance; (3) long-term follow-up is crucial to developing a strong evidence-base on effective strategies; and (4) insights into systems-wide monitoring mechanisms are emerging. In addition to describing key components of monitoring and evaluation strategies, findings draw attention to the evaluation of children's resiliency and protective factors, community based monitoring and the role of caregivers, as well as concerns over the stigmatization of children (through data collection methodologies encouraging the 'labeling' of children) and the importance of children's participation. Fostering a stronger evidence-base to improve protection for vulnerable children requires evaluations that are integrated into program development, use context-appropriate methodologies able to assess intervention scalability and employ more longitudinal designs to explore children's trajectories. Further, future programming will benefit from systems-wide data coordination and international comparisons, research that emphasizes coping and resilience mechanisms, and children's participation in monitoring and evaluation. (Published Abstract)