An Ecological Approach to Evaluating a System of Care Program: Dollars Making Sense

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System of care (SOC) models in North America were developed in response to the needs of children with a severe emotional disturbance. Such children experience problems across life spheres including issues at home that put them at risk of abuse and neglect, difficulties at school including special education classification and dropping-out, and involvement with the juvenile courts. SOC evaluations and research suggests that an over-reliance of evaluative research efforts on standardized scales and preconceived measurable outcomes have resulted in a loss of other important data. This study's confirmatory and holistic approach to evaluation illuminates important information concerning commonly ignored variables when using traditional evaluation models. The evaluative research study described focuses on three often overlooked behavioral variables in one SOC initiative, KidsNet Georgia, of Rockdale County, GA. These variables are: (a) using cohort analysis over time; (b) costing out services utilized; and (c) focusing on behavioral indicators and chance over time. The evaluative strategy, data collection, data, and cost analysis are discussed along with implications for practice with severe emotional disturbance youth and their families.



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