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Higher Education for Care Leavers without Family Support

An international classification system for child welfare programs

Ezell, M., Spath, R., Zeira, A., Canali, C., Fernandez, E., Thoburn, J., & Vecchiato, T. (2011). An international classification system for child welfare. Children and Youth Services Review, 33, 1847-1854. 

A major challenge in child welfare is whether a program (or service) developed and successfully implemented in one jurisdiction, especially another country, will attain the same outcomes for children and families in another jurisdiction? This paper presents the “DCE Classification System” (Defining, Classifying, and Evaluating), a classification system that facilitates cross-jurisdiction comparisons of child and family services. The paper reviews the cross-national research literature in child and family services as well as literature on classification schemes and typologies. As an example of the issues that arise when importing a promising program, we briefly highlight the exporting and importing of family group conferencing. After tracing the history and development of the DCE Classification System, the paper describes the proposed classification scheme, and provides a brief example of how researchers and practitioners can use the classification system for cross-national comparisons of client outcomes and program costs. Finally, we discuss the strengths and weaknesses of this approach, as well as possible benefits for child and family practices.


Imported child welfare programs frequently under-perform original models.

► Besides policy and cultural differences, other key program features do not match the original.

► We propose a classification system for child welfare programs to ease cross-jurisdictional comparisons.

► Key dimensions include: degree of risk to child; focus of service; purpose of intervention; nature of intervention.


Classification system

Child welfare