This evaluation brief offers insights on the learning that took place during the planning year of the Child Safety Forward initiative. It identifies four opportunities for the field that, when addressed, will accelerate the advancement of a 21st-century child and family well-being system. Key findings include:

  • Using a public health approach that relies on ongoing assessment of need and rapid testing and evaluation to design and address strategy creates a cross-sector approach that is responsive and adaptable to community priorities.
  • Capacities and policies and practices for how to shift power dynamics between systems and families, address racism and disparate outcomes in child welfare, and engage in a higher-level dialogue about to support families across systems are underdeveloped.
  • If we want to accelerate progress toward a child and family well-being system, we need focus on learning by crediting multiple sources of data and information.
  • Capacities to design, experiment with and participate in learning collaboratives to sustain effective strategies for child maltreatment are not engrained in our systems yet, and technical assistance and shared learning are needed.

The Child Safety Forward (CSF) evaluation used the developmental evaluation approach to support the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities-Council on Accreditation (Alliance-COA) in planning for and adapting the technical assistance (TA), learning community, and communication strategy. This approach allowed Alliance-COA to stay nimble as it deployed early TA and coordinated the learning exchange in the planning year. Demonstration sites were to close out the planning year in October 2020, but it was extended through December of 2020 to allow the demonstration sites to adapt to COVID-19.

The planning year evaluation was organized around five learning cycles. Our learning around each of these cycles was aided by action learning activities (e.g., facilitated discussion around a framework, after-action reviews) with the demonstration sites and TA team, survey data collection, observation, and by prototyping different strategies for delivering technical assistance and learning opportunities and getting feedback and data on how successfully those strategies were in advancing our goals. 

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