What are Evidence-Based Programs?

Evidence-based programs refers to the quality of the program being offered. To be called Evidence-based, a program has to meet a series of rigorous standards that show it is effective. Research of the program must illustrate that it actually helps children and families meet their treatment goals.

Evidence-based refer to programs that:

  • Have a book, manual or other available writings that specify the components of the practice protocol and describe how to administer it
  • Have no first-hand basis suggesting risk of harm
    • The risks to participants are reasonable in relation to the potential benefits to participants. The benefits of these services outweigh the possible risks
  • Have reliable and valid outcome measures
  • Are administered consistently and accurately across all those receiving the practice
    • Each child/family will receive the same foundational treatment

Evidence-Based Programs

The federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has contracted with Abt Associates to determine which prevention services and programs will be designated as evidence-based under Family First and to create a Title IV-E prevention-services clearinghouse. To be eligible for reimbursement, services must be described in state prevention plans, components of the service must be outlined in a manual, and the service must show a clear benefit. In addition, services must meet one of the following thresholds:

Invest IconWell-Supported

  • Improved outcomes must be based on the results of at least two studies with non-overlapping analytic samples
  • The studies arecarried out in a usual care or practice setting
  • Earned a rating of moderate or high on study design and execution
  • At least one of the studies must demonstrate a sustained favorable effect of at least 12 months beyond the end of treatment on at least one target outcome

Uphold IconSupported

  • Improved outcomes must be based on the results of at least one study carried out in a usual care or practice setting
  • Earned a rating of moderate or high on study design and execution
  • Demonstrates a sustained favorable effect of at least six months beyond the end of treatment on at least one target outcome

Support IconPromising

  • Improved outcomes must be based on the results of at least one study
  • Earned a rating of moderate or high on study design and execution
  • Demonstrates a favorable effect on at least one target outcome

Why is this Important?

Family First's strategic priority is to advance the implementation and sustainability of evidence-based, trauma informed services that appropriately and effectively improve child safety, ensure permanency, and promote child and family well-being. While many of the services we offer have positive outcomes, evidence-based programs are distinctly different in that they are based on research studies.

Evidence-based programs have demonstrated positive outcomes, and they provide a framework and structures for service providers in the delivery of their service. As we implement Family First, we know that the driving force of federal funds, is the impact services that are supported by research, will have on increasing child and family wellbeing and reducing unnecessary placement of children into foster care.

Under the new prevention program, Title IV-E funds are uncapped (partial matching dollars) for candidates for foster care and services may be paid for up to 12 months, with consecutive 12 month episodes possible if the child continues to meet eligibility criteria. There is no income test for children and families in the prevention program.

Title IV-E funds can be utilized for three types of services (All services must be trauma-informed)

  • Mental health prevention and treatment services
  • Substance use disorder prevention and treatment services
  • In-home parent skill-based programs

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) developed the Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse, a federal clearinghouse that ranks evidence-based programs and these programs can be reimbursed with federal dollars for eligible children and their caregivers. Additional information concerning the clearinghouse and identified programs can be found on the clearinghouse website.

Who is Impacted?

Children who are at imminent risk of foster care placement, as well as their families, can receive these services. Some service providers may need to make changes to the services they offer to ensure that they are evidence-based in order to receive, or continue receiving, federal funding for serving this population. This could be a significant shift for some service providers.

We advise service providers to:

  • Reach out to community partners to discuss community needs when choosing an evidence-based program
  • Consider the needs of the children and families in your community (especially those that qualify for Family First)
  • Consider costs associated with implementation of evidence-based programs
  • Consider your agency's organizational structure and the administrative support needed to support and sustain an evidence-based program
  • Check back to this page often for continued updates and feel free to reach out to familyfirst@dss.virginia.gov, if you have any questions