UK receives $5 million for quality improvement in child welfare

College of Social Work to evaluate privatization efforts

A major grant is allowing the University of Kentucky College of Social Work to lead the nation in determining the impact of efforts to privatize child welfare services.

The College of Social Work in partnership with Planning and Learning Technologies, Inc. (Pal-Tech) is the recipient of a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children's Bureau. The funding will be used to establish a quality improvement center to evaluate the impact on children and families of using private agencies to provide child welfare services.

The National Quality Improvement Center on the Privatization of Child Welfare (QIC PCW) will serve as a resource for information on child welfare privatization and provide lessons learned from these efforts. Additionally, through the initiative, research and demonstration projects will be administered to test the effectiveness and efficiency of selected privatization models.

The QIC PCW is an important initiative of the UK College of Social Work as it strives to integrate research and service, responding through outreach to the priority needs of communities within the Commonwealth and the nation. The grant, part of the Children's Bureau Competitive Cooperative Agreements Awards for fiscal year 2005, is under the direction of UK's Crystal Collins-Camargo, the principal investigator on the grant and clinical assistant professor of social work.

Collins-Camargo feels UK and Pal-Tech garnered the funding due to the wealth of experience and services their partnership provided, "We competed against a number of other qualified institutions, but UK has already demonstrated with a prior program, the Southern Regional Quality Improvement Center for Child Protection, the university's unique ability to facilitate the cross-site evaluation of child welfare programs. Likewise, our partnership with a business, Pal-Tech, brings a model for collaboration to the table in evaluating privatization in child welfare."

During the next five years, QIC PCW will have numerous responsibilities. The center will fund, monitor and evaluate projects researching outcome and cost effectiveness of privatized child welfare services through public agencies, private organizations, and university partnerships; facilitate a collaborative information-sharing and problem-solving network among sub-grantees, Children's Bureau Training and Technical Assistance Network (T&TA), public child welfare agencies, and child welfare privatization stakeholders across the nation; promote and support evidence-based and outcomes-focused approaches to public child welfare programming and organizational improvement efforts; and build consensus on appropriate models of reform, the roles and responsibilities of public and private agencies, and policy and evaluation areas in which the child welfare field should focus.

The QIC PCW will proceed with those responsibilities by utilizing its first year conducting a nationwide needs assessment and gaps analysis evaluating the status of privatization in the current public child welfare system, which will help to identify potential research questions to be answered regarding privatization of child welfare services.

Various child welfare services, which vary widely between and within states, could be considered as a focus for research and demonstration grants in subsequent years, including:

  • preventive/supportive services for high-risk families;
  • child abuse/neglect investigative services;
  • in-home services;
  • foster care and reunification services;
  • and adoption assistance and independent living services.

The findings will allow the center to decide what research and demonstration projects to study. In years two through four, QIC PCW will begin their subgranting. Child welfare programs across the nation will be able to apply for financial assistance to fund research and demonstration projects regarding privatization efforts within their child welfare programs at this time. UK and Pal-Tech will provide technical assistance and continually evaluate and assess these efforts to distinguish what privatization successes may exist in the child welfare arena, and provide information to states to help them decide whether to consider using privatization to enhance their child welfare system.

"With UK and Pal-Tech's university and corporate partnership we can offer the nation's child welfare systems a balanced assessment of privatization efforts. We hope the knowledge developed will provide important information that public child welfare agencies will use to make key decisions regarding service delivery so the public, and more importantly, families and children in need reap benefits in programs and services," said Collins-Camargo.


To find out more about the National Quality Improvement Center on the Privatization of Child Welfare in UK's College of Social Work, contact Crystal Collins-Camargo at (859) 257-5476.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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