Usability Testing, Initial Implementation and Formative Evaluation of an Evidence-Based Intervention: Lessons from a Demonstration Project to Reduce Long-Term Foster Care

Becci Akin, Stephanie Bryson, Mark Testa, Karen Blase, Tom McDonald, Heidi Melz
The field of child welfare faces an undersupply of evidence-based interventions to address long-term foster care. The Permanency Innovations Initiative is a five-year federal demonstration project intended to generate evidence to reduce long stays in foster care for those youth who encounter the most substantial barriers to permanency. This article describes a systematic and staged approach to implementation and evaluation of a PII project that included usability testing as one of its key activities. Usability testing is an industry-derived practice which analyzes early implementation processes and evaluation procedures before they are finalized. This article describes the iterative selection, testing, and analysis of nine usability metrics that were designed to assess three important constructs of the project's initial implementation and evaluation: intervening early, obtaining consent, and engaging parents. Results showed that seven of nine metrics met a predetermined target. This study demonstrates how findings from usability testing influenced the initial implementation and formative evaluation of an evidence-supported intervention. Implications are discussed for usability testing as a quality improvement cycle that may contribute to better operationalized interventions and more reliable, valid, and replicable evidence.

Akin, B., Bryson, S., Testa, M., Blase, K., McDonald, T., Melz, H. (2013). Usability Testing, Initial Implementation and Formative Evaluation of an Evidence-Based Intervention: Lessons from a Demonstration Project to Reduce Long-Term Foster Care. Evaluation and Program Planning, 19-30.