Describes a process that determines whether a program qualifies as evidence-based and explains how programs can prepare to be evaluated.

“In recent years, social service providers of all kinds have felt a growing pressure to demonstrate that what they do is an ‘evidence-based practice.’ People who provide community-based services for youth involved in the juvenile justice system are not exempt. They, too, are being asked to provide evidence-based assessments of their work with ever-increasing frequency. Contracts and funding often can depend on a program’s ability to produce such evaluations. Not surprisingly, this trend has many service providers in the juvenile justice field wondering what, exactly, it means and how they can qualify.”

“The Vera Institute of Justice, funded by the MacArthur Foundation as part of its Models for Change initiative, assembled this guide in response to questions and requests for help from MacArthur juvenile justice grantees. It described the process that determines whether a program qualifies as evidence-based and explains how programs can prepare to be evaluated. Although this guide grew out of and was targeted to juvenile justice practitioners, it is generally applicable to programs in other social service fields as well.” (Abstractor: Author). (p. 3)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“To prepare for an outcome evaluation, you must first know whether your program is doing what it set out to do. Second, you must choose a research design for the evaluation and gather the appropriate information. Third, you must be ready, once the evaluation is complete, to take the next steps” (p. 5). 1. Is the program true to its original plan? "The founders of any program had an idea of services they wanted to provide. The first step in preparing for your outcome evaluation is to determine if your current operations are consistent with that original idea, which is usually spelled out in a program plan. A program plan is a consensus statement of your goals, objectives, and process. Usually, it will define who the target population is, the problem the program seeks to address, a set of measurable goals directly related to youth behavior, and the theory of change—the precise element of the program that will cause the desired improvement.” (p. 6). 2. The elements of an outcome evaluation "Once your project’s current operations are shown to be consistent with the program plan, it’s time to move on to the next level: the outcome evaluation. To carry it out, the research team will need to define the study group and control group and identify the sources for the data they will collect and analyze…Small programs may be able to include all of their clients in an evaluation. Studying the whole population can produce findings that are very accurate and also avoid errors that may occur in choosing a representative sample from the larger population” (p. 7). 3. After an outcome evaluation — Next steps "It is important to document an outcome evaluation. You can create a summary document or even a one-page overview of your evaluation that you can use to share your findings with fellow professionals. A full report tracing the steps of your evaluation and describing what was learned would be the best record of what you’ve done and what you’ve learned about your program. You can distribute copies to your partners, funders, and other practitioners” (p. 9). (Abstractor: Author)