ASSESSING THE IMPACT OF EVIDENCE-BASED PROGRAMS ON RACIAL MINORITIES
For more than a decade, The Duke Endowment has supported the expansion of certain evidence-based child welfare programs. We have done so because rigorous evaluations found these programs strengthen protective factors and reduce risk factors associated with child abuse and neglect. These programs include the Incredible Years, Strengthening Families Program and Multisystemic Therapy, among others.
In the summer of 2021, the Endowment partnered with the Institute for Child Success (ICS) in Greenville, S.C., to assess the relevancy of these types of evidence-based programs for racial and ethnic minorities. This assessment is critical because racial minorities participate in nearly all childhood programs, but historically, impact analyses center on white families. The question of relevancy for racial minorities was important to The Duke Endowment because 70 percent of participants in the Incredible Years and Strengthening Families Program were racial minorities. We want to make sure our investments support the needs of all families.
As part of the assessment, ICS reviewed hundreds of studies of the programs and looked for those that included an explicit racial analysis. Then within those studies, ICS examined the quality and rigor of the evaluation designs. Some of the characteristics of well-designed, quality evaluation include the use of a randomized control group, evidence that outcomes were sustained after the program ended and that the evaluations had a large enough sample size to detect meaningful change.
Based on the evidence, ICS recommended that the Endowment continue to champion the Incredible Years, Strengthening Families Program and Multi-Systemic Therapy as evidence-based programs that improve outcomes for white and racial minority families. Below is more information about each program.
The Incredible Years is designed to promote emotional and social competence and to prevent, reduce, and treat aggression and emotional problems in young children ages 0 to 12. It has curricula for children, parents and teachers. For more information: https://incredibleyears.com
The Endowment, the N.C. Division of Social Services, the N.C. Partnership for Children and others have collaboratively funded Incredible Years for more than 15 years, while Prevent Child Abuse N.C. has provided critical implementation support. An outcome monitor tracks seven outcomes. North Carolina programs consistently demonstrate statistically significant improvement across all outcomes.
The program is offered in more than 30 counties across North Carolina and reaches hundreds of families a year. Almost 70 percent of the participants were racial minorities. There are public and private providers across the Carolinas like Smart Start partnerships, family resource centers, head start centers, Prevent Child Abuse NC prevention network partners, faith-based organizations, and others; however, interest exists among public and private providers to increase its use given the positive child and parent outcomes being generated.
STRENGTHENING FAMILIES PROGRAM
The Strengthening Families Program (SFP) is a 14-week training session that is specifically designed for high-risk families struggling with substance abuse and other risk factors. Parents and children meet both separately and together. For more information: https://strengtheningfamiliesprogram.org
While present in a few counties in North Carolina, the South Carolina Department of Social Services and the Endowment have collaboratively funded SFP for the past seven years, while the Children’s Trust provides critical implementation support in more than 30 counties in South Carolina. Almost 70 percent of the participants were racial minorities. There are public and private providers across the Carolinas like Smart Start partnerships, family resource centers, children’s homes, faith-based organizations, public agencies and others; however, interest exists among public and private providers to increase its use given the positive child, parent and family outcomes generated already.
An outcome monitor tracks program outcomes. The Carolinas consistently score better than a national comparison group on the 14 SFP outcomes.
Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST) targets youths between the ages of 12 and 17 who present serious antisocial and problem behaviors and have serious criminal offenses. MST is a family-driven treatment centered in homes and communities. For more information: https://www.mstservices.com
MST research offers a compelling narrative about the program’s return on investment, which is estimated to be $23.59 for every dollar spent on a youth. Also, a convincing case is being built for MST as an effective and equitable medical intervention for asthma, obesity and similar illnesses.
There are only a handful of MST providers across the Carolinas; however, interest exists among public and private providers to increase its use given the child welfare, juvenile justice and physical health outcomes.
We applaud current support for these programs. However, to build a service array that effectively helps children and families across North Carolina and South Carolina, we need larger investments across more funding sources.
Policymakers, legislators, private funders and others can improve access to these programs by increasing public and private investment in them and in the implementation support as a strategy to ensure all our children are protected from child abuse and neglect. Let’s use what we know works.