The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative partnered with the Montana Legislative Finance Committee and Legislative Fiscal Division in May 2017. Working collaboratively with the state Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) and its Child and Family Services Division, this cross-governmental partnership initially focused on assessing the level of evidence throughout child welfare programs. In its letter of support for Results First, the committee highlighted the importance of this policy area: Child welfare “impacts our most vulnerable residents and is an area that could benefit from more optimal policy approaches which will deliver better outcomes for Montana families.”
DPHHS, with the support of Results First, led efforts to inventory and assess prevention and preservation, or in-home, Child and Family Services programs. In June 2018, the department presented an interim report on this initiative, which included an inventory of programs and their level of evidence, to the finance committee. In September 2018, the Legislative Fiscal Division presented a final report to the committee with additional information on child welfare outcomes, cost-benefit analyses of selected in-home programs supported by Child and Family Services, and next steps and recommendations on using evidence in future budget and policy decisions in Montana.
Through this work, DPHHS and the Legislature gleaned important information about the expected efficacy of in-home programs, learned best practices in evidence-based policymaking, and highlighted the value of data collection at the service-delivery level. In addition, the department and Child and Family Services applied this information within their contracting processes by incorporating language that prioritizes evidence, data, and outcomes in select state-funded provider contracts.
The final report is expected to assist agency and legislative leaders in developing policy and funding recommendations in the upcoming legislative session. In addition, Child and Family Services has incorporated the principles of evidence-based policymaking into its strategic plan. The Legislative Fiscal Division is expected in the coming months to make additional efforts to use evidence in budget and policy decisions.