Fall 2008 Course Description

Policy Research Project

Section Title: Outcome Evaluation: Improving Assessment in Child Advocacy Centers
Instructor(s): Sarah Rehnborg
Course: P A 682A - Policy Research Project
Unique Number: 64685
Day & Time: Tuesdays, 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Room: SRH 3.111
Waitlist Information:For LBJ Students: UT Waitlist Information
Notes: This course counts as a core course for the Portfolio in Nonprofit Studies

This course fulfills requirements for the following specialization(s):

Description: Working in collaboration with the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas (CACTX) this policy research project entails developing an outcome measurement system to facilitate the work and streamline the reporting procedures for the 61 Children’s Advocacy Centers operating in the state of Texas. Children’s Advocacy Centers work in partnership with state agencies, public safety officers, and area nonprofits ‘to restore the lives of abused children.’ For more information about CACTX go to http://www.cactx.org

To achieve this objective, students will

  1. Gather literature on outcome measurement and look for best practices in the human services for assessing and tracking client level and system level outcomes. In addition, the class will read the National Institute of Justice Special Report (2004), A Resource for Evaluating Child Advocacy Centers. Two staff members from CACTX will meet regularly with the class orienting students to the organization and the environment in which it operates.
  2. Visit at least three CACs in central Texas. The site visits will involve Center visitation to agencies of varying sizes and levels of operations. In addition, the class will attend one day of the Center’s annual training meeting participating in workshops on Wednesday, October 29. Location, the State headquarters on Anderson Lane in Austin.
  3. Develop a protocol for focus groups with center directors aimed at eliciting from directors what they believe are the critical outcomes and milestones in their work. Three executive director focus groups will be held in Austin. The focus groups would explore the way the local centers understand the critical outcomes or milestones in both achieving results in the criminal justice system and in helping children and families emerge successfully from the process. They would also create a sense of ownership with directors having a say in the process of formulating the future assessment tool.
  4. Analyze and synthesize the results of the focus groups into a two-part agenda for tracking system and family-level outcomes, the research team will work with CACTX to develop a draft document that sketches out a set of measurable and meaningful outcomes that centers could track and report on regularly. As the tracking system is developed, the class will compare the reporting system with existing data collection systems and work to streamline and unify reporting processes.
  5. Work with CACTX to bring as many of the centers together as possible for a collective review of the proposed outcomes and data collection methodology. This would be an Austin event hosted by CACTX but facilitated by the research team. It would further expand the participation of the centers in the development of the assessment tool.
  6. Finalize the outcome measurement methodology and field-test it at three centers near Austin. The goals will be to work out any obstacles to implementation and to show all centers what a completed outcome report card looks like. For outcomes that are longer term, the team will use retrospective case data. The team will also work with the centers on selected ongoing and new cases. The end result will be model reports that could be circulated to demonstrate what the new assessment and report regime entails.
  7. Deliver to CACTX a report on the project as well as a short handbook on how centers can and should measure their social impact.
Syllabus to be ready late summer of 2008

Return to Fall 2008 Course Schedule