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Innovation in Child Welfare Through Pay for Success

LISC’s Pay for Success team shares an update on Safe Families for Children and our new report that covers the barriers and opportunities for innovation within the child welfare system. Below, the team provides insight into two new key opportunities that have presented themselves since the completion of the report.  

Since the completion of our white paper Innovation in Child Welfare Through Pay for Success: Lessons Learned from Safe Families for Children several updates of note have occurred with Safe Families for Children (Safe Families). The report was based on the experience of LISC and Safe Families engaging in child welfare Pay for Success (PFS) transaction structuring through a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service. The report presented barriers and opportunities to engage child welfare in outcomes-based contracting and PFS projects in the future.

A key opportunity listed in the report is to strengthen the evidence base for promising child welfare programs. Of 452 programs catalogued in the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse, only five of those specifically targeting children served by the child welfare system receive a rating of “well supported.” As of June 2019, Safe Families’ randomized control trial was under review and had been provisionally accepted for publication at the Journal of the Society of Social Work and Research. The report shows that the Safe Families intervention produced statistically significant improvements in its ability to reduce children entering state protective custody and ability to deflect children from entering foster care. This report is a keystone for Safe Families showing that they are one of few evidence-based practices aimed at deflecting children from the child welfare system.

A second opportunity outlined was working with states and local governments to launch pilot programs to allow a low-risk way to test and refine PFS models before full launch. As of July 1, 2019 Safe Families has launched a three-year, $2.5 million pilot program with Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) to address the needs of children and families at risk of entering the child welfare system. The program will test an outcomes-based financing model which DHS will fund based on Safe Families’ ability to reach goals to be set during the first year of the pilot using a technique similar to propensity score matching. The two outcomes of interest are: 1) Diversion from child welfare assessment, defined by child(ren) served through Safe Families not being named on an assigned investigation by child welfare and 2) Diversion from foster care, defined by child(ren) served by Safe Families not entering the foster care system.

LISC is thrilled to have supported the work of Safe Families to engage in outcomes-based financing and strengthen their evidence base.

To learn more about innovation in child welfare through PFS, please access the full report here.