Date of Conferral



Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Kristin V. Richards


The purpose of this action research project was to examine the screening and assessment behaviors of child welfare workers in the southwestern region of the United States. The study addressed whether social workers' knowledge of evidence-based practice influenced their implementation of evidence-based practice in child welfare screening and assessment, and whether the agency environment affects evidence-based practice implementation and use. The family systems theory was used to evaluate child welfare practitioner work and systems theory was used to evaluate the child welfare system in the region of the study. A focus group comprised of seven social workers practicing in the southwestern region was used to determine screening and assessment practices as well as agency factors that affect practice. Social workers' knowledge of evidence-based practices and agency environment were found to impact social workers' use of evidence-based practice. The overuse and misuse of evidence-based practice terminology confused the concept for social workers. This combined with the implementation approach in an agency setting led many of the social workers to avoid evidence-based models and revert to experiential practice knowledge. The client and agency behaviors interpreted in the findings might prompt future research and change to increase the use of evidence-based practice. Implications for social change resulting from these findings include the potential to improve evidence-based practice implementation by agencies and increase of social worker education and knowledge regarding evidence-based practice. These changes could affect greater social change with improved child welfare outcomes.

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