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In 1994, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) authorized Child Welfare (Title IV-E) Waiver Demonstration Projects to provide states with opportunities to use federal funds to test innovative approaches to child welfare service delivery and financing. Unlike competitive discretionary grants, waiver demonstration projects do not provide additional funding to carry out new services; rather, they allow for more flexible use of federal funds in order to test new approaches to service delivery and financing structures in an effort to improve outcomes for children and families involved in the child welfare system.

In 2012, Pennsylvania's Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF) and five self-selected counties (Allegheny, Dauphin, Lackawanna, Philadelphia, and Venango) proposed a demonstration project to DHHS. DHHS subsequently approved the Pennsylvania Child Welfare Demonstration Project as well as projects from eight other states. The number of counties grew to six in July 2014 when Crawford County joined the Project.

The Project was carried out in FY 2013-2018. Pennsylvania's Project focused on implementing or expanding the use of family engagement strategies, conducting comprehensive assessments of child and family needs and strengths, and utilizing evidence-based practices (EBPs) in each of the participating counties. It was the intent that these activities would lead to improved placement decisions and child and family functioning, and would ultimately result in improved safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes for children and families involved in the state's child welfare system.  

The University of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Child Welfare Resource Center served as the independent evaluator for Pennsylvania’s Title IV-E Waiver Child Welfare Demonstration Project conducted between July 2013 and June 2018. The Evaluation Team implemented an evaluation to investigate the processes, outcomes, and costs associated with the project. The process and outcome evaluations focused on assessment, family engagement, and evidence-based practices in addition to collecting and synthesizing fiscal and outcome data. The waiver evaluation data collection ended June 30, 2018. The Evaluation Team developed the Final Evaluation Report in collaboration with Chapin Hall and submitted it to OCYF in January 2019. A summary of findings is shared below.

Outcome Evaluation Findings

The outcome evaluation used an interrupted time series design with each county acting as their own control.  Analyzing across multiple years of data per county, the evaluation found that the likelihood of entering a kinship placement as a first placement increased for all waiver counties with available data, ranging from a 4 percent increase in Dauphin County to a 20 percent increase in Lackawanna County. This increase was statistically significant for Allegheny, Lackawanna, and Philadelphia counties (< .05). The likelihood of entering congregate care as a first placement decreased for all counties with available data except for Dauphin County; this decreased likelihood of an initial congregate care placement was statistically significant in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties (< .05).  While we cannot say with certainty that these results were due to the waiver interventions (family conferencing and assessment), the timing and mechanism point toward the waiver interventions being associated with this shift in practice.   

Fiscal Evaluation Findings

Fiscally, all six demonstration counties saw total child welfare expenditures increase from SFY 2013 levels, although the magnitude of the increase varied by county. Crawford, Dauphin, and Venango saw double digit increases in overall expenditures, while Allegheny, Lackawanna, and Philadelphia saw more modest increases, between two to six percent. All demonstration counties saw an increase in all other child welfare expenses (from 9% in Philadelphia to 37% in Crawford) over the course of the waiver which points towards all counties investing in greater capacity and/or new interventions during the waiver. Finally, the trend in out of home (OOH) placement costs and the relationship between changes in OOH placement days, OOH placement costs and the proportion of OOH placement costs of all child welfare expenditures varied by county. Even controlling for inflation, all of the counties increased their total child welfare expenditures during the course of the waiver. In addition, the increase in all other child welfare expenses suggests that the counties invested in greater capacity and/or new interventions during the waiver period. 

Process Evaluation Findings

Findings from the process evaluation identified that family conferencing could be implemented for almost all families referred to children and youth services, and delivered with fidelity, producing plans which reflected family input. Assessment, while more challenging to implement, was in place by the end of the waiver.  Evidence-based practices were the most difficult aspect of the waiver intervention to implement. Caseworker attitudes did not show change over time regarding making referrals, but modest improvements were observed in one county after implementing the evidence-based program, Triple P.  Several counties “de-adopted” interventions due to the misfit between client needs and intervention requirements. 

You may access the complete Final Evaluation Report here.

CWDP Final Evaluation Report
Final Evaluation Report Appendices
Pennsylvania's Waiver Application
CWDP Information Guide
CWDP Evaluation Liaisons

Family Engagement Resources:


       Family Engagement Study Overview
       Baseline Form
       Family Conference Survey
         - Spanish Version
       Facilitator Face Sheet        
       Follow-Up Form
   User's Guide
   Frequently Asked Questions
   Instructional Video

Pennsylvania's Child Welfare Demonstration Project Newsletters:
   2019 Newsletters
   October 2019
   August 2019
   July 2019
   June 2019
   May 2019
   April 2019
   January 2019
   2018 Newsletters
   2017 Newsletters
   2016 Newsletters
      December 2016
      November 2016
      October 2016
      September 2016
      August 2016
      July 2016
      June 2016
      May 2016
      April 2016
      February 2016
      January 2016
   2015 Newsletters
      December 2015
      November 2015
      October 2015
      September 2015
      August 2015
      July 2015
      June 2015
      May 2015
      April 2015
      March 2015
      February 2015
      January 2015
   2014 Newsletters
      December 2014
      November 2014
      October 2014
      September 2014
      July 2014
      June 2014
      May 2014
      April 2014
      March 2014
      February 2014
      January 2014
   2013 Newsletters
      December 2013
      November 2013
      October 2013
      September 10, 2013
      August 23, 2013