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.

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