CP TIG Week: Melissa Strompolis and Suzanne Sutphin on Measuring Well-Being in Child Welfare

Hi!  We are Melissa Strompolis and Suzanne Sutphin.  Melissa is a Research Associate at the Center for Child and Family Studies (CCFS) in the College of Social Work at The University of South Carolina.  Suzanne is a Research Assistant Professor at CCFS.  We are both evaluators of South Carolina’s Child and Family Services Review (CFSR).  The review aims to ensure conformity to federal child welfare requirements, help states achieve positive outcomes, and capture the experiences of individuals receiving child welfare services.  We evaluate the state’s conformity to federal requirements using the CFSR Review Instrument, which measures outcomes related to safety, permanency, and well-being.  The last outcome, well-being, is a topic on which we would like to share our experience and advice.

Lesson Learned: Measuring Well-Being. The CFSR Review Instrument identifies three outcomes of child and family well-being. First, families should have the enhanced capacity to provide for their children. This is measured by assessing the needs of and providing services to children and families, involving the child and family in case planning, and visiting with the children and families. Second, children should receive appropriate services to meet their educational needs. Finally, children should receive adequate services to meet their physical and mental health needs.

The CFSR definition of well-being varies greatly from other definitions of well-being.  Some measures of well-being include all or parts of physical, economic, social, emotional, and psychological well-being; development and activity; life satisfaction; domain specific satisfaction; and engaging activities and work.  As such, the measurement and implications that can be drawn from data collected on well-being will also vary greatly.  The definition of well-being from the CFSR has led to some important lessons learned.

Lessons Learned:

1)     We need to be aware of what it is we are actually measuring.  The CFSR Review Instrument measures three well-being outcomes, however, states do not have a standard practice for navigating and assessing efforts to achieve well-being.  This can be problematic for making state- and national-level comparisons.

2)     We need to accurately report our measure of well-being in scholarly activities. This allows other researchers to use the same measures so that data can be compared across studies.

3)     We need to advocate for the usage of empirically validated measures of well-being.  Our rad resource below provides a great example for measuring child well-being.

Rad Resource: Check out The Foundation for Child Development’s Child Well-Being Index which is widely used in child well-being research. The index measures seven dimensions of child well-being: family economic well-being, health, safe/risky behavior, education attainment, community engagement, social relationships, and emotional/spiritual well-being.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating CP TIG Week with our colleagues in the Community Psychology Topical Interest Group. The contributions all week come from CP TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

1 thought on “CP TIG Week: Melissa Strompolis and Suzanne Sutphin on Measuring Well-Being in Child Welfare”

  1. Hi Melissa and Suzanne,
    I am a master’s student at Queens and just completing a course about program evaluation design. This post caught my attention because your work is essential, and I appreciate how you laid out the lessons.
    I like how you involve the family and child in case planning.

    Your first lesson about being aware of what to measure is so important. Most of the articles we read for this course emphasize checking back on the goal. For example, are the evaluation questions helping achieve the goal, and is that data answering those questions?

    Your second lesson discusses publishing data for other researchers to find. Would this data have to be presented as a study and put into a paper, or could you publish raw data? We were also taught about ethical standards when evaluating. How do you stay non-bias when you are dealing with vulnerable children?

    Coming from a teacher in Surrey, I see too many children struggle through school. In some classes, academics are put on the back burner, and we focus on being happy in a safe space. It saddens me to hear that you have to advocate for empirical data for this topic. I would think it would be government-run and funded.

    Thank you for this important post,

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