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How does performance-based funding change child welfare services?

Evaluating Michigan’s performance-based funding model

To address perceived inefficiencies in child welfare spending and improve child and family outcomes, the Michigan Legislature convened a task force in 2013 around performance-based funding for public and private child welfare services. It recommended the following activities:

  • A pilot project to test the new funding model
  • An independent evaluation to assess
    • Planning and implementation
    • Cost effectiveness
    • Child and family outcomes

Westat designed and is implementing a rigorous 5-year evaluation plan in 3 Michigan counties.

The mixed-method process evaluation, which includes annual onsite interviews and focus groups with state and county child welfare staff and leadership, provides the context for foster care service delivery in the 3 counties.

The outcome study examines changes in child and family outcomes using propensity score matching to create a statewide comparison group.

The cost study addresses changes in service delivery and administrative costs by examining system-level expenditure and revenue trends across multiple data sources.

In the pilot site, the transition to performance-based funding has resulted in the following changes

  • Process findings: increase in communication and collaboration among child-serving agencies
  • Cost findings: increase (50%+) in total expenditures for foster care services

Foster children are more likely to

  • Achieve permanency and exit care in fewer days
  • Experience fewer placement changes than comparison children 

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