Child Youth Serv Rev 32:103-112.
Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO, USA
Federal policymaking in the last decade has dramatically expanded performance measurement within child welfare systems, and states are currently being fiscally penalized for poor performance on defined outcomes. However, in contrast to performance measurement in health settings, current policy holds child welfare systems solely responsible for meeting outcomes, largely without taking into account the effects of factors at the level of the child, and his or her social ecology, that might undermine the performance of child welfare agencies. Appropriate measurement of performance is predicated upon the ability to disentangle individual, as opposed to organizational, determinants of outcomes, which is the goal of risk adjustment methodologies. This review briefly conceptualizes and examines risk adjustment approaches in health and child welfare, suggests approaches to expanding its use to appropriately measure the performance of child welfare agencies, and highlights research gaps that diminish the appropriate use of risk adjustment approaches — and which consequently suggest the need for caution — in policymaking around performance measurement of child welfare agencies.
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