Evidence-Based Practice

Evidence-based practice, also referred to as evidence-informed practice, is practice in which effectiveness has been validated through experience or research. The concept began in other fields, including medicine and manufacturing, and is now receiving attention from child welfare agencies. Changes in practice and services are more likely to be successful in yielding positive outcomes if they have been proven through research, testing, or previous implementation.

Selecting or developing new practice, however, is only the first step. Once a new practice or intervention has been identified, care must be taken to ensure that it is implemented with adherence to its evidence-based design. If new practices are not implemented as intended, even if they have been shown by research to be effective, they will likely not succeed or, at best, will have only mixed results.

Another aspect of effective practice is providing trauma-informed services across the child welfare continuum. This may involve modifying the service delivery system so that it incorporates across-the-board screening for trauma symptoms when children enter the system, and, as necessary, ongoing trauma-informed assessments initially and at periodic intervals to determine if services are effective and children are progressing. These processes should be coordinated and integrated with any evidence-based, trauma-focused interventions that are currently used by child welfare agencies and/or trauma informed services delivered by mental health providers. Additionally, they should become part of the State's agency-wide continuous quality improvement (CQI) systems, but regularly measured, evaluated, and adapted as needed for maximum effectiveness.

This section discusses some specific evidence-based practices that agencies may want to consider as they begin to develop their own trauma-informed practices and policies. It also includes a look at some additional resources on evidence-based practice that agencies may find helpful.