Child welfare systems are complex. State child welfare agencies work with local social service agencies and community-based organizations to deliver services, and professionals at all levels must manage competing and changing demands. This complexity limits the success of isolated attempts to promote research use within child welfare. In this study, Aarons and colleagues will investigate how research-practices partnerships can aid the integration of research use across a child welfare system—from its leadership to front-line workers. The team will study CAPTURE—Community Academic Partnership for Translational Use of Research Evidence—an approach that focuses on three core components to facilitate research use. A coordinating committee will attend to the relationships between the university and child welfare system. They will oversee a needs assessment workgroup to identify the child welfare agency’s priorities and a research workgroup that conducts systematic reviews to promptly respond to the priority areas. They will also support leadership to examine roles, procedures, and incentives that promote research use. CAPTURE members will work together to implement highly structured improvement efforts such as plan-do-study-act cycles to implement and test the research-informed strategies. The team will investigate how the partnership assists leaders in establishing policies and metrics that reinforce research use, mid-level managers in redesigning jobs and contracts with an evidence-based focus, and front-line workers in adhering to and valuing these approaches. The study involves a mixed-methods approach with some agencies receiving CAPTURE and others conducting business as usual. The team will observe meetings of CAPTURE members to examine whether partners interact in ways that promote trust, respect, and learning, conduct document reviews to assess changes in leadership and organizational practices, and survey participants about their use of research.
What strategies enable research-practice partnerships to improve the use of research evidence by child welfare agencies?