The influence of performance measurement on child welfare policy and practice
The increasing use of performance measurement in child welfare promises to have significant consequences. Performance indicators are not neutral or merely technical-they represent viewpoints and values that may influence policy and practice. This three-part article examines how this may occur. The first part outlines a theoretical approach to understanding the policy significance of performance indicators. As they become part of the framework within which policy debates occur, indicators may frame policy issues, create boundaries around options for solutions, define standards for evaluating results, and set the terms of public discourse. The second part discusses the background to the development of performance measurement in child welfare in Britain, the USA and Australia, locating it as integral to contemporary approaches to public sector management. The third part examines the performance indicators used in these jurisdictions-aspects of performance measured, underlying assumptions about 'good' performance, and how they construct child welfare. Existing indicators narrowly construct child welfare in terms of investigations and out-of-home care, whereas the child welfare literature suggests a broader approach with more attention to family support. The article argues that there is space to negotiate on the new managerialist terrain, developing an approach to performance measurement that contributes to better services and outcomes for children and families.
British Journal of Social Work