Research Report A Guide to Writing High-Quality Evaluation Reports in Child Welfare
Sarah Prendergast, Katrina Brewsaugh
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Although the body of evidence on the effectiveness of child welfare programs is growing, to date very few child welfare programs have received the highest ratings from systematic evidence reviews, often called clearinghouses. Clearinghouses summarize the available evidence on programs and rate the evidence of their effectiveness in a systematic, transparent way. In addition to the sound design and execution of an evaluation, a high-quality evaluation report is also necessary to document evidence on the effectiveness of a child welfare program.

All evaluation reports should contain the same basic elements so readers can understand the research and judge its quality. Different clearinghouses also set specific evaluation reporting standards for authors to follow. You can ensure your evaluation report is high quality by following best practices. You can increase your chances of meeting clearinghouse criteria by understanding the various clearinghouses’ reporting standards.

The purpose of this guide is to support evaluators in writing high-quality reports that can contribute to the evidence base of child welfare programs and support children’s and families’ well-being. This guide walks you through the steps required to write a high-quality evaluation report. It also includes a checklist that you can easily reference as you write.

Key Findings and Highlights

High-quality evaluation reports can help readers understand a program’s effectiveness, make decisions about whether to fund or adopt a program, and replicate an evaluation’s findings in another study.

To write a high-quality evaluation report,

  • include introduction, methods, results, and discussion sections;
  • include detailed information about the program and how it was implemented during the evaluation;
  • describe the evaluation design and how it was carried out;
  • describe the analysis plan and how analyses were conducted;
  • describe the evaluation’s findings and limitations;
  • summarize the findings and explain how the evaluation contributes to the child welfare field.

Recommendations

Authors should ensure evaluation reports include all the information needed to clearly communicate the evaluation’s design, execution, and findings. In general, clearinghouse reviewers noted that authors should err on the side of including more detail, rather than less, to ensure an accurate review. Evaluators seeking a review from a specific clearinghouse should consult that clearinghouse’s published standards when writing evaluation reports.

This resource is part of the Roadmaps to Building Evidence in Child Welfare series—a collection of instructional resources about conducting child welfare evaluations. You can find more practical guidance on data, evaluation, and evidence in the child welfare field from CWEST in materials from the Child Welfare Evidence Building Academy, a program of trainings for child welfare agency staff, practitioners, and evaluators.

Research Areas Child welfare
Policy Centers Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population
Research Methods Performance measurement and management Research methods and data analytics