Child Welfare Research and Evaluation in Alaska

The Child Welfare Evaluation Program is a partnership of the State of Alaska Office of Children’s Services, the Tribal-State Collaboration Group, the Casey Family Programs, and the University of Alaska Anchorage School of Social Work. Representatives from each of these four groups joined together in the spring of 2003 to begin the process of creating a child welfare research agenda for the state of Alaska .

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The Vision:
The partnership made a commitment to involve key stakeholders throughout the assessment and evaluation process. The members agreed to pursue the following common goals:
  • Improve child welfare practice for children and families
  • Build capacity for research
  • Identify compelling issues needing research
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of services and delivery of services to children and families
  • Increase the capacity to conduct stakeholder-driven, culturally competent evaluation and research.

As a result, 4 research projects were developed and completed by June 2005. Read below for a description and report of each project.

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Research Project 1:

Independent Living Skills for Alaska youth in care, ages 14-18
How do youth in care perceive their readiness to live independently?

  • How do youth in care perceive their readiness to live independently?
  • Does the Ansell Casey Life Skills Assessment (ACLSA) reflect the skills Alaskan youth think they need?
  • Conduct four focus groups around the state with youth currently in state custody.
  • Compile the responses of the youths to the research questions.

Desired Outcomes:

  • A report that reflects what skills Alaskan youth think they need to live independently in their communities, and recommendations from the youth regarding how they think they can best learn these skills. Click here to view report.
  • Information to use in deciding if an Alaskan supplement is needed for the ACSLA.
  • Data to shape future decisions on what resources are needed to help Alaskan youth make successful transitions to adulthood.

Research Project 2:

Status of Alaskan Foster Care Alumni Ages 19-29
How are Alaskan youth who were once in foster/residential care faring socially and economically?


  • How are Alaskan youth who were once in foster/residential care faring socially and economically?
  • How do they perceive their experiences in foster care?


  • Collaborate with OCS to find a sample of 140 young people, ages 19-29 who were in OCS custody and out of home care for at least one continuous year, and exited care on or before their 16th birthday.
  • Recruit young people from this sample who are willing to complete an interview covering the following areas:  their current life situations; their relationships; and perceptions of what was helpful to them while in care; and suggestions for what could have improved their time in care.

Desired outcomes:

  • A report which provides a picture of what our former foster care youths are doing and how their functioning as young adults. Click here to view report.
  • Data to improve child welfare practice throughout Alaska.

Research Project 3:

Parental Alcohol and Substance Abuse Programs
Examining the intersection of child abuse treatment and substance abuse treatment in families involved with the child welfare system.


  • What is happening in other states in the area of substance abuse treatment with families identified as abusive/neglectful?
  • What programs currently exist in our state for families with substance abuse and child abuse and neglect issues?
  • What are other tribal programs out of state doing in this area?
  • What do we know about “best practices” in this area?


  • Conduct a nation-wide search for components of successful programs and promising practices exemplified by those programs.
  • Specifically seek out information on promising practice in tribal programs.
  • Inventory treatment and prevention programs in Alaska which provide help to children, parents, and families.

Desired Outcomes:

  • A report which identifies current substance abuse prevention and intervention services for families in Alaska ; promising practices and programs in the field across North America; and gaps in services in our state. Click here to view report.
  • Recommendations for policy and practice changes in Alaska and future research in this field.

4th Research Project:

Family Preservation and Support
What are effective models of family preservation and support programs? How are people measuring outcomes? What models may work in Alaska?


  • What are other states doing in this area?  What models are they using?
  • How are people measuring outcomes? Are we using the “right” models here?


  • Complete a comprehensive inventory of family support and preservation programs in Alaska.
  • Complete a literature review of best/promising practices in family preservation and support, with special emphasis on tribal programs.

Desired Outcomes:

  • A report identifying gaps and overlaps in family preservation and support services in Alaska. Click here to view report.
  • Recommendations for possible policy changes and ways to incorporate promising practices into Alaskan programs.  

**CWEP was funded by a grant to the University of Alaska School of Social Work from the Administration for Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services.  The partnership has pursued on-going funding to provide a sustainable child welfare evaluation program here in Alaska.