Improving Outcomes for Children: Feasibility Study Findings from Our Second Social Innovation Fund Cohort (Institute for Child Success)

By Amber Posey

At the Institute for Child Success, we know and honor that many communities want to do more to improve outcomes for their youngest but lack the resources or strategies to always do so.  We see Pay for Success (PFS) financing as one promising tool to make lives better for children and their families.

With support from the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), we have been helping state and local government agencies across the U.S. explore whether and, if so, how PFS financing is the right tool at this time to improve child outcomes through expanded evidence-based interventions. For our second “SIF cohort” of feasibility studies, we selected four jurisdictions through a competitive process and began our work with them in May 2016.  Those partners are:

  • The Children and Families Commission of Orange County, California
  • Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth
  • The City of Evansville, Indiana
  • The City of Tempe, Arizona

A unique feature of ICS’ work on PFS is that we offer both consulting and coaching as models for completing feasibility studies.  Through the consulting model, ICS conducts the analyses in-house, though in consultation with the jurisdiction.  Through the coaching model, ICS guides government staff to conduct the analyses, providing TA remotely and through in-person site visits.  One of our four feasibility studies presented today – Evansville’s – was completed through ICS consulting.  The other three are results of ICS coaching, representing building of capacities on the ground within government that we hope will bear fruit for years to come.

Here are highlights of what we collectively concluded and learned:

PFS is feasible to expand child welfare programs in Orange County, CA. Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) each have at least one outcome that meets ICS criteria for PFS financing, and research shows that the benefits exceed the costs of implementing the programs.  For these among other reasons, Triple P is currently feasible for PFS financing in this community, and PCIT could be feasible with more investment into establishing baselines and projected impacts on child maltreatment

PFS is feasible to expand home visiting programs in Tennessee. Among other reasons, the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) produces at least three outcomes in Tennessee that meet ICS criteria for PFS financing, and research indicates that the benefits of investing in NFP significantly exceed the costs.

PFS is not yet feasible to expand high-quality pre-K in Evansville, IN, or Tempe, AZ. The expansion of pre-K via PFS is not immediately feasible in Evansville due to the need for more rigorous data collection and evaluation. An expansion in Tempe is not currently feasible using PFS due to the currently thin research base for the Quality First Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) and the current inability to quantify the impact of expansion on Teaching Strategies (TS) GOLD, Quality First’s assessment tool.

Exploring PFS through feasibility studies continues to confer significant benefits. For example, Tempe City Council voted to directly fund an expansion of high-quality preschool during the same meeting in which the feasibility study findings were presented.  ICS feasibility studies include viable expansion plans and compelling data on local need, among other features, that we believe helped make the case for direct funding.

Coaching government partners to conduct their own feasibility studies requires much more time – but builds significant and exciting expertise on the ground. Take it from Kim Goll, Director of the Orange County Commission on Children and Families, who noted: “One of the unanticipated outcomes of the memo process has been the robust discussion that it has yielded with our partners. Areas of scalability that we did not foresee exploring came to light and our program model changed as a result of it. Because of this process, we are able to point to data and have the support we need to make the case for expanding the program in a manner that will ultimately yield the greatest impact on the population we are trying to reach, and provide potential funders with an in-depth financial analysis that supports the feasibility of a modified and improved program model.”

You can find Executive Summaries of the studies and presentations of study highlights here.  Note that these are just highlights and not the sum total of the studies.

We are privileged to have partnered with this cohort of jurisdictions to explore PFS as a way to improve outcomes for young children.  And we look forward to following the progress these communities have already made in taking a hard look at the data and charting their next steps to make lives better for kids and their families.