Skills for Collaboration: Training Graduate Students in Using Evidence to Evaluate a Homelessness Program

Journal Article

Skills for Collaboration: Training Graduate Students in Using Evidence to Evaluate a Homelessness Program

Abstract

This article describes how a university and public child welfare agency partnership and a federal demonstration project trained MSW and PhD social welfare students in homelessness intervention research using a continuous quality improvement approach. Over a period of 5 years, the Cal-Child Welfare Leadership Training model between University of California, Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare and San Francisco’s Human Services Agency sought to train graduate students how to find, generate, and use evidence for child welfare decision making. Simultaneously and independently, the partnership designed and implemented a 5-year randomized controlled trial testing the effectiveness of permanent supportive housing for homeless families entering the child welfare system, called Families Moving Forward. We took advantage of the congruity of these two efforts by bringing student interns directly into the ongoing implementation and evaluation of Families Moving Forward, exposing them to implementation challenges that contextualize and moderate expectations about how a complex program for complex families should lead to improved outcomes. The aim was to endow students with the knowledge, skills, and discipline necessary to help make complex interventions work by fostering cross-system collaboration. We propose ways this teaching model can be scaled and installed elsewhere.

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