Arnold Ventures, formerly the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, is actively seeking applications to fund evaluations of child welfare-related services, with an emphasis on programs that could be funded under the Family First Prevention Services Act.
“We are very interested in more proposals in this area,” said Jon Baron, Vice President of Evidence-Based Policy. “We are especially interested in programs that could be funded through Family First because the law provides a potential pathway to scale.”
Family First provides matching funds to states for services that prevent child maltreatment and meet its evidence requirements. The law established the Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse to rate eligible programs. The clearinghouse has reviewed a dozen programs so far, with half receiving its highest evidence rating. Another 16 reviews are in the pipeline for release in the coming months.
The clearinghouse has been criticized for the slow pace of its approvals, but the primary barrier is a shortage of evidence-based programs. Of the 482 interventions catalogued by the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare, which has similar evidence standards, just 35 meet its criteria for being well supported by research.
Congress anticipated this shortfall when it enacted Family First. Under the law, states will not be able to access federal matching funds for evidence-based prevention programs until they have submitted and received approval of a five-year prevention plan. These plans must include evaluations for any services that do not meet the law’s highest evidence standard.
The Children’s Bureau announced in October that it will cover half the cost of these evaluations, but the remaining expense may be a barrier for some states. The District of Columbia is the only jurisdiction that has received federal approval of its plan so far, but at least eleven states are working their way through the process. It is not clear how they are handling the cost of evaluations.
Baron said that Arnold Ventures would be willing to help cover these expenses if the studies are sufficiently rigorous. “We have funded randomized controlled trials that are also partly funded by the federal government,” he said, citing previous projects in K-12 education. “We could do so in child welfare.” Continue reading