This page was updated Oct. 22, 2019, to note the conclusion of the state’s work with the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative.
In May 2017, the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative partnered with the Montana Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) and Legislative Fiscal Division (LFD) to assess the level of evidence behind the state’s child welfare programs. In the letter of invitation to Results First, LFC highlighted the importance of this policy area, stating that 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.”
To assess child welfare programs, LFD and LFC partnered with the Child and Family Services Division within the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS). With the support of Results First, DPHHS led the charge on the inventory process, and its analysis focused on prevention and preservation programs, otherwise known as in-home programs.
In June 2018, DPHHS presented its inventory of programs. In September 2018, LFD completed and presented a final report on state-funded programs with additional information on child welfare outcomes, cost-benefit analyses of selected in-home programs, and recommendations on using evidence in future budget and policy decisions.
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. DPHHS and LFD shared their learnings in January 2019 during a meeting hosted by the National Conference of State Legislatures for Montana’s legislators and legislative staff. The gathering featured national, state, and local experts on child welfare and included discussions on Montana’s current child welfare system, national trends, the federal Families First Services Prevention Act (FFSPA), and ways to improve existing programs. Information from this meeting helped inform Montana House Bill 604, which was enacted on April 26, 2019, and requires DPHHS to develop a strategic plan to apply for and utilize FFSPA funding to inventory and expand evidence-based, trauma-informed prevention services.
Internally, DPHHS and Child and Family Services have also embedded evidence into their procurement processes by requesting evidence, data, and outcomes in awarding select provider contracts. This keeps evidence at the forefront of considerations about child welfare programs and enables the agency to prioritize programs shown to best serve children and families.