Wulczyn and Palinkas will document if and how research evidence is used by child welfare agencies to make clinical and administrative decisions. The investigators hypothesize that an individual’s propensity to use or not use research evidence is activated by an agency’s leadership and level of support for research evidence use. This project will be completed in two phases. In the first phase, the investigators will examine how organizational factors and individual attitudes relate to the consideration of research evidence when making decisions about services for youth in foster care. They will also determine the feasibility of collecting data on the use of research evidence from private child welfare agencies. If this initial effort yields a sufficient sample and reliable data about how welfare agencies use research evidence, phase II will examine how organizational factors interact with individual attitudes to shape use over time and whether an agency’s support and use of research evidence relates to the quality of services delivered. The project will utilize a longitudinal design to examine the interactions between individuals, agencies, and their operating context. The sample will include key informants from each of New York State’s 57 local social service districts, including the district’s director and senior staff overseeing quality improvement, research, program, permanency, and finance. The sample will also include staff from each of 40 private foster care agencies, including the executive director and a subset of middle managers and case workers for a total of 900 staff. Structured interviews with agency staff and key informants will be conducted in both phases. Interviews will measure the acquisition and application of research evidence as well as potential individual and agency determinants of research evidence use. The assessment of provider performance will use administrative data to create indicators of permanency, stability, and reentry into foster care. Phase II will involve at least one additional interview wave and analysis of interview data and county and agency policy documents.
The investigators will document if and how research evidence is used by child welfare agencies to make clinical and administrative decisions.