Across North Carolina and South Carolina, children's advocacy centers provide a way for communities to respond to children who have been sexually, emotionally or physically abused. To help children's advocacy centers measure their impact, The Duke Endowment contracted with Innovation Network in Washington, D.C., to guide three dozen North Carolina and South Carolina centers through an evaluation process. This initiative is closed.
Children's advocacy centers help children and their caregivers find the help they need to reduce the impact of trauma. Focused on what's best for the child, advocacy centers bring together collaborative partners — including medical and mental health providers, child protective services, law enforcement officers and prosecutors — to provide services.
Need to Measure Performance and Impact
In June 2004, for a trial period, The Duke Endowment added children's advocacy centers in North Carolina and South Carolina to its group of eligible grantees. The centers had all met national accreditation standards, but initial grant requests showed little agreement regarding what constituted a good outcome and how it should be measured.
If children's advocacy centers were to become ongoing Endowment grantees, there needed to be a way to demonstrate their impact on children and families served. The Endowment wanted centers to measure impact and show how they make a significant difference in their communities.
Identifying Standard Measures
Figuring out what to measure, however, wasn't easy. Children's advocacy centers shape themselves to the needs of individual communities, so they all work differently. Some agencies see 1,000 children a year. Some, in rural areas, see only 50 children in a year.
What's more, approximately one-third of the participating centers had little to no experience with evaluation, while just over half had moderate experience.
In 2004, The Duke Endowment contracted with Innovation Network, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., to help design a consistent evaluation process.
Over three years, Innovation Network provided training and one-on-one technical assistance to more than 30 centers in North Carolina and South Carolina. Through workshops and conversations that bridged state lines, the groups successfully developed a workable logic model, a common set of outcomes, and a set of standardized data collection instruments.
The Endowment grant also included training in a computer software program that helped the centers collect and manage data, and the Endowment paid for a first-year subscription. The software program, developed by the National Children's Alliance, allowed the centers to input information into a common database and generate uniform reports.
View the list of child advocacy centers that participated in the original project.