Expanding Choices for Evidence-Based Programming

Posted December 13, 2016
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog expandingchoicesevidencebasedprograms 2016

The demand for evi­dence-based pro­gram­ming to improve out­comes for chil­dren and fam­i­lies con­tin­ues to grow, fueled in part by increased require­ments for account­abil­i­ty by fun­ders and pub­lic agen­cies and inter­est from local and state gov­ern­ments in more effec­tive­ly address­ing urgent issues with pro­grams proven to work. This surg­ing inter­est in test­ed, effec­tive pro­gram­ming, how­ev­er, can pose chal­lenges for com­mu­ni­ties that want to imple­ment rig­or­ous­ly reviewed pro­grams but can­not find one that fits their par­tic­u­lar needs. Blue­prints for Healthy Youth Devel­op­ment, a nation­al online reg­istry of evi­dence-based pro­grams designed to pro­mote pos­i­tive youth devel­op­ment, has been seek­ing to meet this demand by increas­ing the range of pro­gram­mat­ic choic­es offered on its web­site with dif­fer­ent lev­els of evi­dence behind them.

When it was launched in 1996, Blue­prints orig­i­nal­ly focused on iden­ti­fy­ing and repli­cat­ing vio­lence pre­ven­tion pro­grams that met strict stan­dards of effec­tive­ness. With new fund­ing from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion in 2011, the reg­istry began to expand its list of approved pro­grams to cov­er a broad­er set of pos­i­tive youth devel­op­ment out­comes such as men­tal health, obe­si­ty, anx­i­ety and depres­sion and aca­d­e­m­ic suc­cess. The expan­sion in the out­comes of inter­est involve more than pre­vent­ing harm­ful behav­ior; they also involve pos­i­tive behav­iors and healthy youth devel­op­ment allow­ing us to focus on the whole child,” says Sharon Mihal­ic, Blue­prints director.

Blue­prints offers test­ed pro­grams that tar­get dif­fer­ent lev­els of need, from broad pre­ven­tion efforts that pro­mote pos­i­tive behav­iors to those focused on get­ting chil­dren of par­tic­u­lar risk back on track. The num­ber of evi­dence-based pro­grams list­ed has grown from few­er than a dozen at its incep­tion to 70 pro­grams today.

Blue­prints pro­grams are wide­ly rec­og­nized as meet­ing the most rig­or­ous stan­dards in the field and offers pro­grams rang­ing from Promis­ing to Mod­el Plus. Promis­ing” pro­grams meet the min­i­mum stan­dard of effec­tive­ness but still demon­strate sig­nif­i­cant pos­i­tive change in intend­ed out­comes, while Mod­el” pro­grams meet a high­er sci­en­tif­ic stan­dard and give com­mu­ni­ties greater con­fi­dence in the program’s capac­i­ty to improve out­comes. A recent­ly added des­ig­na­tion, Mod­el Plus,” shows that a pro­gram has met Mod­el” require­ments along with the addi­tion­al stan­dard of inde­pen­dent repli­ca­tion, which means that in at least one high-qual­i­ty study demon­strat­ing desired out­comes, author­ship, data col­lec­tion and analy­sis have been con­duct­ed by a researcher who is nei­ther a cur­rent or past mem­ber of the pro­gram devel­op­er’s research team and who has no finan­cial inter­est in the program.

While each Blue­prints pro­gram has been reviewed by a pan­el of experts and meets a clear set of sci­en­tif­ic stan­dards, this tiered stan­dard approach offers users greater flex­i­bil­i­ty and choice. In addi­tion, Blue­prints will be adding pro­grams focused on adult recidi­vism that meet their stan­dards with fund­ing from the Lau­ra and John Arnold Foundation. 

All of us must help build a greater con­tin­u­um of evi­dence-based pro­grams so that kids can have access to pro­grams that work and meet their needs,” says Suzanne Barnard, direc­tor of the Evi­dence-Based Prac­tice Group at the Casey Foun­da­tion. To do that, we need to sup­port more eval­u­a­tions of promis­ing pro­grams, encour­age com­mu­ni­ties to nom­i­nate results-dri­ven pro­grams for con­sid­er­a­tion by Blue­prints or oth­er reg­istries, and accel­er­ate the peer review process.”

Learn more about Blue­prints and pre­ven­tion science

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