Managing what you measure: Creating outcome-driven systems of care for youth with serious emotional disturbances

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This article presents the California System of Care Model for youth with severe emotional disturbances as an illustration of how ongoing assessment of the costs and outcomes of service delivery can be an integral part of a service delivery model. The core of this model, developed initially in Ventura County, California, is a five-step planning process that guides care system development and implementation. The implications of each stage of the planning process for evaluation and feedback at the child, family, and system levels are highlighted. A set of principles for selecting outcome measures deriving from the planning process are also presented that, in conjunction with the planning model, serve as guidelines for establishing outcome measures within care systems. The resulting specific plan for measuring system- and client-level outcomes deriving from this process, along with challenges to the implementation of the outcome management plan, is described.