Wednesday, March 30 Results for America and that William T Grant Foundation sponsored a Capitol Hill discussion on how to strengthen and promote the use of evidence-based practice in human services. The briefing titled Building State and Local Capacity for Evidenced-Based Policy Making: How Can the Federal Government Help, featured a panel of five individuals who have been involved in using research and evidenced-based models in several different policy areas or perspectives.

The panel included Commissioner Allison Blake, New Jersey Department of Children and Family Services, Co-Director Ron Haskins, Center on Children and Families, Brookings Institute, Director Evelyn Kappeler, Office of Adolescent Health, HHS, Ruth Lopez – Turley, National Network of Education Research-Practice Partnership, and Vice President and moderator Jeremy Ayers, Results for America.

There was consensus on several areas when it came to the role of the federal government in advancing research and evidence-based policy-making.  This included the need for the federal government to help fund partnerships and research at the state and local level and the need for the federal government to provide technical assistance at both the local and state program level.

Allison Blake discussed the child welfare arena and how it would be useful to have grant money to do pilot project that would allow the development and expansion of models that are working.  Such an approach might allow for a strengthening of effective practices and assist state and local agencies in the implementation process. When asked she suggested pilots project funding rather than simply drawing funding through waivers would be more effective.  Commissioner Blake also said that the federal government could play an important role in providing technical assistance and technical assistance teams that could work at both the state and local level to develop capacity both for the research and for building data systems.

Ron Haskins, who has written extensively on the growing federal promotion and use of evidenced-based models, emphasized that in evaluating any research you can’t label results as simply a failure and move on but you need to have a deeper analysis that may allow you to develop or make improvements in a program based on that research. In terms of political needs and strategy, Haskins pointed out the need to have some short-term outcomes because both policymakers including Congress as well as the public will demand some results.  But there also needs to be an on-going commitment beyond just the short term results and research.

Highlighting the progress in advancing the use of evidenced-based policies, Ron Haskins pointed out that there are over 1400 projects at the local level that are based on a rigorous evaluation and evidence-based model(s) including programs such as home visiting, promise neighborhoods, various placed-based initiatives and teen pregnancy prevention and also someplace based initiatives.

Evelyn Kappeler, Office of Adolescent Health, discussed the effective expansion of Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) models that are now building a catalogue of effective strategies.  She indicated that HRSA has attempted to put as much information out as possible.  Through greater dissemination states and localities are able to plug in the population dynamics and analyze the most effective program models.  One example is an increased focus on preventing unplanned pregnancies within the foster care population, an area of work CWLA hopes to expand on through work with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies.