Measuring the Next 30 Years

The last thirty years have seen many changes in the field of child protection, as child welfare law and policy have been undergoing nearly constant change. Those changes, however, have rarely been supported by data or scientific research; rather, they seem to have been largely driven by individual perception of events and gut instincts resulting in what has become essentially a folklore-based system. By focusing on data and scientific research, we hope for better outcomes, but short of that, we at least hope to know whether, and why, outcomes change. The move towards data collection and analysis has begun, but many scholars and practitioners appear to overlook the question we keep failing to answer-“Has this change benefited children?” Knowledge creates context for better decision-making. This assertion is an essential part of why so many national organizations are turning toward the use of data collection and analysis. The overwhelming needs of the children and families in our child welfare system are overshadowing the question of whether our responses are effective. This can no longer continue. Measuring process is not enough; we must measure outcomes. It is the right thing to do.