When announced in December 2014, the Partnering for Family Success (PFS) program was among the first Pay for Success projects in the United States and was the first sponsored by a U.S. county (Cuyahoga County, Ohio). With funding from Reinvestment Fund, The George Gund Foundation, the Cleveland Foundation, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, and Nonprofit Finance Fund, the project was conceived as an innovative intervention to address the particular needs of housing unstable families who had a child in the custody of the county child welfare agency. As part of the five-year Pay for Success project, a third-party evaluation was commissioned to be conducted by the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at Case Western Reserve University.
Study Design. Over the course of the project, the study enrolled 273 housing unstable caregivers who had a total of 540 children in out-of-home placement (OHP). Using a sequential random assignment procedure, the caregivers were assigned to either receive conventional services from DCFS (Control: 138 caregivers, 261 children) or DCFS services coupled with the PFS intervention (Treatment: 135 caregivers, 279 children). The original study included a fiveyear impact analysis and a two-year process evaluation examining the delivery of the program. A supplemental evaluation was added in 2019 to collect data from caregivers, DCFS caseworkers, and PFS program staff, and to explore additional aspects of program delivery and effectiveness.
Payable Metric. As a Pay for Success project, the design required identification of a key metric that was monetized as a basis for calculating how much the government sponsor would pay for the desired outcomes. For the PFS intervention, the agreed-upon payable metric was total days a child spent in temporary out-of-home placement (OHP), to be judged based on the average difference between the treatment and control groups. The results of the impact analysis reveal a nonsignificant difference between the two groups based on average days in OHP, with a pattern suggesting slightly shorter average stays in the control group (802 versus 871 days). However, when the exit destination is considered, the results also suggest that African-American caregivers in the PFS treatment were more likely to reunify with their child, as compared to African-American caregivers receiving conventional services alone. This greater likelihood to reunify for African-Americans is an important finding in child welfare contexts where this population is disproportionately represented.