Preparing Effective Contracts in Privatized Child Welfare Systems

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

This new guide underscores the reliance on privatized services by public child welfare agencies, stresses the need for those services to be of high quality, and discusses best practices for achieving that.

The fifth of six publications in a technical assistance series funded in 2006 by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the paper provides guidance on the “many steps and considerations that go into crafting effective contracts for more effective service service delivery.”

The authors cite studies of child welfare privatization that have identified common weaknesses in service contracts, including “a lack of clarity and detail about a range of direct services and activities,” as well as the opposite problem: “excessive detail about requirements that reduce the flexibility and creativity often expected from privatization.” The authors discuss the history of child welfare privatization, examine decision-making points in the procurement and contract renewal processes, and highlight lessons learned for preparing solicitations, selecting bidders and executing contracts. They also outline steps in writing contracts that “more clearly define expectations regarding the services to be provided, the target population to be served, the expected results and the means by which the services will be funded.” Free, 25 pages. (202) 690-7507,




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