- introduces the concept of an evidence-based approach to juvenile justice and child welfare,
- notes selected compilations of evidence-based best practices related to the juvenile justice and child welfare systems,
- points to additional sources to find social science studies that may suggest the best course of action in an individual case, and
- provides tips for effectively using these sources and evaluating the results.
What is Evidence-Based?
In an evidence-based approach, decisions are informed by systematic, scientific evaluation (empirical research) that assesses the effectiveness of different programs and interventions. Combined with professional expertise and a consideration of individual circumstances and values, an evidence-based approach can lead to better results and greater accountability. (See discussion from The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare.)
The following sources provide a more in-depth explanation of the concept of evidence-based practices:
Finding the Evidence
The first step in finding evidence is to have a clear understanding of what you are seeking. Determine the question you want to answer and write it out. This can help you determine where to look, what search terms to use, and whether you have found information that satisfies your need. The best questions focus on a single issue and should include the intervention, desired outcome, and service recipient.
Once you have a clear understanding of what you need to know, you can begin searching for evidence to answer the question and then assessing the strength and relevance of the evidence you found.
Rather than reading individual research studies and trying to derive principles from these, it is a good idea to search first for a completed analysis of this sort. This chapter from How to Read a Paper discusses these two types of papers that summarize research results:
“A systematic review is an overview of primary studies that used explicit and reproducible methods
A meta-analysis is a mathematical synthesis of the results of two or more primary studies that addressed the same hypothesis in the same way.”
Both systematic review and meta-analysis can be useful search terms when you are seeking articles. Subsequent tabs on this research guide suggest starting points for research, and the next box provides some basic information about research concepts that can help you assess results.
In order to find and evaluate research, it is necessary to have some understanding of research types and concepts. The following sources can help.