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CFS Research Assistant Professor Amy Vargo and Program Director Pamela Menendez Receive $1.6 Million Grant from Florida Department of Children & Families

The new grant, Evaluation of Implementation to Fidelity of Evidence-Based Services, will Involve Conducting a Statewide Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Florida's Child Welfare System

Amy Vargo, PhD

Grant PI: Amy Vargo, PhD

Pam Menendez

Grant Co-PI: Pam Menendez

CFS Research Assistant Professor Amy Vargo, PhD and Pamela Menendez, Program Director for Florida's Center for Child Welfare, have received a $1.6 million grant from the Florida Department of Children & Families to conduct statewide evaluations on the delivery and outcomes of nine evidence-based practices (EBPs) in Florida, as part of the Families First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA, 2018).

The FFPSA reforms child welfare financing streams to provide prevention services to families who are at risk of entering the child welfare system; allows for federal reimbursement for community mental health, substance use treatment, and in-home parenting skills training; and seeks to improve the well-being of children already in foster care by incentivizing states to reduce placement of children in congregate care.

"In order to meet these changes, states and local areas must be prepared to implement programs and practices that have been determined by the FFPSA Clearinghouse to be either well-supported, supported, or promising," said Dr. Vargo.

Florida has selected nine evidence-based practices (EBPs) to implement during the initial transition to FFPSA:

  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Multisystemic Therapy
  • Functional Family Therapy
  • Parent Child Interaction Therapy
  • Healthy Family Florida
  • Brief Strategic Family Therapy
  • Nurse Family Partnerships, and
  • Parents as Teachers
  • Homebuilders

"All of these practices have been reviewed by the FFPSA Clearinghouse and evaluated as ‘well-supported’ practices," added Dr. Vargo,  "however, the State must evaluate and document that these practices have been implemented with fidelity to their program models and are achieving their intended outcomes."

For the Evaluation of Implementation to Fidelity of Evidence-Based Services project, Vargo and Menendez have assembled a diverse team of researchers with extensive expertise in designing evaluation research studies, implementation science, and evaluation of evidence-based and promising practices, as well as a long history of relationships with organizations throughout Florida’s child welfare system, providing extensive technical assistance and training to child welfare professionals statewide. Team Members include:

  • Amy Vargo, PhD: PI
  • Pam Menendez: Project Director, Co-PI
  • Melissa Johnson, PhD: Lead Process Evaluator
  • Svetlana Yampolskaya, PhD: Lead Outcome Evaluator
  • Christopher Groeber: TA Director
  • Cathy Sowell, MSW: Fidelity Evaluator
  • Connie Walker, PhD: Outcome Evaluator
  • Lisa Coy: TA/CQI Facilitator
  • Donna Bell, MEd: Web Developer
  • Cindi Shockley: Project Coordinator
  • Sandra Dwinell: Project Editor
  • Riaan Van Zyl : CQI Director
  • Teri Walldren: Database Build

USF will be subcontracting with the Health Services Research Institute (HSRI) to form a research-to-practice partnership. This partnership will actively collaborate with DCF, Regional and CBC leadership, Subject Matter Experts, Universities and providers responsible for the training and implementation of the selected EBP’s, and other key stakeholders in order to promote optimal development, implementation, and sustainability effort to support Florida’s Families First prevention plan.