May Is National Foster Care Month

Using Evidence to Help Children in Need
May 18, 2016

May is Foster Care Month

After steadily declining for several years, the number of children entering foster care in the United States is now on the rise, increasing nearly four percent between 2013 and 2014. Enrollment in foster care can put a child at higher risk for poor outcomes in adulthood, including homelessness, involvement with the criminal justice system, and physical and mental health challenges.

In an environment where policymakers rely increasingly on evidence to design policies and programs, high-quality evidence and objective evaluations can help prevent children from being mistreated, keep them out of the foster care system, offer better services to those who are in foster care, and help foster youth once they “age out” of the system. Mathematica’s research is contributing to better policies and programs for children in a number of ways, including:

  • Helping policymakers understand and use evidence. In recognition of National Foster Care Month, Mathematica hosted a congressional briefing, Promoting Child Welfare Through Prevention: An Evidence-Based Perspective, on Wednesday, May 18. At the briefing, several child welfare experts, including Senior Fellows Kimberly Boller and Matthew Stagner, spoke about the current state of child welfare research and how expanded access to sophisticated administrative data can give child welfare agencies better evidence as they develop programs to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and families.
  • Home Visiting Evidence of Effectiveness (HomVEE) was launched in fall 2009 to conduct a thorough and transparent review of the home visiting research literature and assess the evidence of effectiveness for home visiting programs that serve families with pregnant women and children up to age 5. Each year, Mathematica identifies models that demonstrably contribute to better health and development outcomes for children and their families. Read the executive summary.
  • Design options for understanding the incidence of child maltreatment. New data and innovative research tools make it possible to better understand the risks for and incidence of child maltreatment and, in turn, design better practices and policies. Mathematica is working to identify design options for studies in order to identify practices that could improve the accuracy of surveillance for child maltreatment and its related risks. The findings, which draw on existing administrative data, innovative methods, and advanced statistical techniques, will inform the direction of future research.
  • New research yields real policy action for youth aging out of foster care. Mathematica recently collaborated with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago to learn more about public resources and policies that can help prevent or alleviate homelessness among the nearly 25,000 young adults that “age out” of the foster care system in the United States. Barely a year after we disseminated our final findings, policymakers and program developers used the information to make changes to the Office of Public and Indian Housing’s Family Unification Program and the Family Self-Sufficiency Program (within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). These changes helped offer more stable housing to this vulnerable population.
  • Using systematic reviews to expand and strengthen the evidence base. For the Department of Labor’s Clearinghouse for Labor Evaluation and Research, Mathematica disseminates the results of its review process on a website that offers a searchable database of all identified research on a given topic area, including opportunities for youth, along with brief highlights of the studies and links to the original research when possible. And since 2007, Mathematica has administered the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). The WWC produces a variety of publications and resources on 15 topics in education, including school dropout prevention. All of our work is designed to help practitioners find what works for their classrooms and schools and to promote rigorous standards in education research.

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