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Building an Evidence Base for Family First Prevention Services


The Family First Prevention Services Act incentivizes state systems and local agencies to move intentionally toward child welfare approaches that prioritize keeping kids safe and families together. This legislation authorizes federal reimbursement to states for the delivery of evidence-based services aimed at preventing the need for foster care.

Eligibility for these federal funds requires ensuring prevention services are delivered with fidelity and that ongoing evaluation demonstrates the services are driving the expected outcomes for Colorado’s children, youth, and families. The Colorado Lab is guiding and coordinating the ongoing rigorous evaluation of evidence-based services that are part of Colorado’s Family First Prevention Services Plan, in partnership with the Colorado Department of Human Services.

“Colorado is forward thinking in its investments in rigorous evaluation and taking a proactive, coordinated approach to building evidence for promising programs,” says Dr. Elysia Clemens, the Colorado Lab’s Deputy Director and COO. “The goal is to inform selection and scaling of services that give Colorado’s children and youth the best possible chance to grow up with their family.”

The Lab serves as a coordinating hub and will identify and engage highly qualified research teams with specialized expertise to conduct rigorous evaluations for each identified service in Colorado’s Prevention Services Plan. The first evaluations will be of Child First and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The national research firm, MDRC, will evaluate Child First in partnership with Invest In Kids

Partnership Opportunity for Research Teams

The Lab is seeking a research team to design and conduct an evaluation of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. We encourage highly qualified local and national research teams to submit a letter of interest by November 15th, 2021.

“This process makes it possible to know with certainty the programs and services are working as intended and driving the outcomes we want to see. We also will be able to identify programs that have promise, are widely valued or perceived as important by county and local partners. This information will position these programs to build additional evidence and ultimately to also become eligible for federal reimbursement,” Dr. Clemens said.

State and national working groups will review the evidence-based programs, with recommendations incorporated into Colorado’s Prevention Services Plan. Additionally, the Colorado Lab will advise the state on resources needed to monitor program implementation fidelity and support continuous quality improvement.

To learn more about the Lab’s coordinating role in building an evidence base for Colorado’s Family First Prevention Services, contact Dr. Elysia Clemens.

Colorado is forward thinking—proactively building evidence on effective prevention services to leverage federal child welfare dollars and make it possible for more kids to stay with their family and thrive.