Residential children’s homes are the most expensive link in the foster care system, yet there is little quantitative evidence to show their effectiveness in improving children’s lives. From 2006-2010, The Duke Endowment awarded almost $1.1 million to help create and pilot a standard approach to measuring impact in children’s homes across North Carolina and South Carolina. This initiative is closed.
There are few studies that show the impact that residential homes have on a child’s overall, long-term well-being, particularly regarding the six indicators that The Duke Endowment considers paramount: education; employability; connectivity; housing; access to healthcare; and avoidance of damaging behaviors.
The demands of a well-formed evaluation are simply too much and too expensive for a single residential children’s home to handle on its own. But with no data, it is difficult to determine if residential children’s homes, in their current form, are delivering positive results.
Furthermore, there are no standard measures of impact or benchmarks for success shared across the field. As a result, children’s homes typically are evaluated only by their cost relative to other forms of services, such as foster care, therapeutic foster care, or reunification with family.
In 2006, The Duke Endowment created a pilot project to attempt to evaluate the impact of several residential children’s homes on the children they serve. The Endowment partnered with the Benchmarks, the Palmetto Association for Children and Families and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Institute for Social Capital to identify a common set of outcomes that could be collected and analyzed.
Over four years (2006-2010), the project enrolled 40 homes, operated by 29 agencies. Collectively, these homes gathered data on more than 1,100 children. The children were evaluated on four different occasions: at intake, at three months, at six months and at 12 months.
The Institute for Social Capital used seven measurement tools that are recognized in the child welfare field as effective ways to evaluate physical, emotional and social health and well-being:
- Child Behavioral Check List
- Revised Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale
- Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory
- Children’s Global Assessment Scale
- Youth Coping Index
- Self-esteem Questionnaire
- Hopelessness Scale for Children
At each evaluation period, the Institute for Social Capital staff looked for changes in the scores for each child. They also collected data on gender, age, race and intensity of treatment to determine if these factors affected outcomes.
The evaluation did not include or recommend any specific intervention on the part of the participating homes, but instead focused on measuring the impact of each home’s current approach to providing service to children.
To help collect data, many participating homes used a common software system, Kids Integrated Data Systems (KIDS). The Duke Endowment provided nearly $2 million since 1996 to support implementation of the KIDS system.
During this project, four homes were unable to meet the demands of the evaluation and discontinued their involvement.
See original participating sites in North Carolina and South Carolina.