Technical Assistance and Uses of Research Evidence in Child Welfare: What do we know and where do we need to go?

What technical assistance strategies support locally-relevant and sustained uses of research evidence among child welfare providers?

Findings from studies on the use of research evidence demonstrate the importance of sustained and structured interactions between researchers and those who make decisions about practice. In this study, Metz and colleagues will investigate technical assistance strategies to facilitate the relationships, expertise, and resources necessary to improve research use. The federal government and private foundations spend millions of dollars each year supporting technical assistance to child welfare agencies, but little attention is paid to the quality of this assistance. The duration of technical assistance from federally-supported efforts ranges from months to several years, with most jurisdictions receiving more than 600 hours of support. Given these substantial investments, the team will develop a taxonomy of technical assistance strategies and investigate which strategies advance the sustained use of research evidence in ways that are appropriate for the local context, as well as the conditions under which these strategies are effective. The team will conduct a scoping review of relevant published work; gather knowledge on technical assistance from about 30 experts (researchers, funders, and providers) from the U.S. and U.K., using an iterative process of expert panels; and identify five to ten relevant case studies. Metz and colleagues will then analyze the case studies using a performance story methodology to assess the presence of a plausible theory of change, the strategies used, how strategies vary by context and purpose, and which strategies are most likely to result in sustained and relevant uses of high-quality evidence.