Measuring Therapeutic Outcomes for Children: Visiting Cornell University Child Welfare Implementation Experts Share Their Key Learnings

Distinguished implementation expert Martha J. Holden, Dr Debbie Sellers, Research Director at Cornell University Residential Child Care Project and Dr Diana Boswell, Cornell Instructor, Therapeutic Welfare Interventions, were welcome return visitors to ACWA’s Best Practice Unit (BPU) last week. Martha and her colleagues, joined by their Australian child welfare agency partners, gave a day of stimulating presentations to an audience of 45 child welfare and legal practitioners, academics and policy makers.

The CARE model is a multi-level program for improving therapeutic outcomes for children living in out-of-home-care. The model has recently received a Scientific Rating of 3 (Promising Research Evidence) and a High Child Welfare System Relevance Level by the California Evidence Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare.

Using rich case studies, the Cornell team and their Australian partners Life Without Barriers and UnitingCare Queensland outlined the practical application of an evidence informed therapeutic residential CARE model, in particular to tracking outcomes. As Daniel Barakate, Director, Projects, Performance and Innovation, FACS, noted in his closing remarks, the considered and careful approach to measuring outcomes outlined by the presenters resonated with key Outcomes Frameworks that are being implemented in NSW such as the Quality Assurance Framework.

As a model developer and leader in the child welfare field, Martha aptly reminded the audience of the first principle she applies when examining program outcomes. She said whether practitioners or researchers we are each tasked with helping children in our care to succeed, before quoting the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese peace activist and meditation teacher: “When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce”.


Martha J Holden – A Brief Overview of the CARE Model

Life Without Barriers – The CARE Model in Practice


Main photo: Robert Urquhart and Wendy Foote (ACWA), Diana Boswell, Debbie Sellers and Martha J. Holden.