Program Assessment

What is a Program Assessment?

Program assessment can be defined as actively engaging in self-evaluation and utilizing the findings to inform and improve the planning and implementation of program activities to more effectively carry out your mission and achieve programmatic outcomes.

Why is Program Assessment critical?

Program assessment plays a dynamic role in evaluation as part of a focused continuous quality improvement (CQI) effort. This internal assessment can provide targeted information on program effectiveness on a variety of topics. This internal reflection is a critical component of a comprehensive evaluation plan.

How is Program Assessment different than Peer Review?

Peer review is a specific sub-type of program assessment. The peer review process is one in which programs make connections and develop relationships with others who are working in the same field. This type of program assessment is a mutual relationship between similar but separate programs, supports peer learning, and advances goals in communities of practice. To better illustrate the peer review process, see the box for some definitions of peer review.

Family Support America provided the following:
Peer review brings together two family support centers or programs in a mentoring relationship and facilitates the sharing of expertise and information. Peer review is an opportunity for a center of learning and sharing ideas and strategies with another center that provides similar services. Program staff members, parents, and administrators help to review each center’s strengths and identify areas for potential improvement. Peer review is not a tool that allows funders or state or county governments to monitor a family support center.

The California Office of Child Abuse Prevention defines peer review as “…an opportunity for you to develop a supportive relationship with your colleagues and learn from one another so that families receive the best services possible.”

Similarly, the Wisconsin Children’s Trust Fund notes that peer reviews are “…comprehensive, face-to-face, reciprocal onsite visits by a team of peers that allow ample time for review and occur with regular frequency.”

What resources are available to CBCAP in Program Assessment?

The field has begun to widely recognize program assessment as a necessary strategy, and a variety of potential resources exist for CBCAP funded agencies. These include:

Understanding the Role of Program Assessment

This resource was created by FRIENDS and is designed for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) programs conducting direct service with children, youth, and families. The tool provides information on the background of program assessment in CBCAP and outlines the role assessment supports in evaluation, parent involvement, and protective factors. The resource is structured to be user-friendly for programs by providing assessments that are structured around various topical areas listed in the sidebar.

FRIENDS Fact Sheet on Program Assessment Tool
FRIENDS resources include a database for use in analyzing the data.

Community Based Program Self-Assessment

The program self-assessment is a key implementation tool for Strengthening Families. It helps programs compare their practices with what was learned from a national study of exemplary practice that supported families to build protective factors. It uses concrete, observable items to show how the Strengthening Families protective factors can be supported through “small but significant changes” in program practice. Over time it has been revised using what has been learned from Strengthening Families implementation across the country and in different kinds of programs. The concrete actions described in the self- assessment can be carried out in a variety of community-based programs such as family support and parenting education programs, health care settings, community centers and others. Complementary self-assessment tools are available for home visiting programs, early care and education centers and family child care providers. For more information on this tool, visit

Strengthing Families Self-Assessment Fact Sheet

Strengthening Families Protective Factors

1. Last accessed February 1, 2006.
2. DeLapp, J., Gowan, B., Marcus, A., and Sneed, S. Peer Review for California Family Resource Centers. A training manual prepared for California Department of Social Services Office of Child Abuse Prevention.
3. Wisconsin Children’s Trust Fund (2004). Peer Review Process for Family Resource Centers: A self assessment for Wisconsin family resource centers based on family support best practices and guidelines.