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Researchers Should Understand and Adapt Race and Ethnicity Data That Change Over Time

March 31, 2022

Embedding race equity principles into supports provided for young people who age out of foster care can better prepare them for a successful transition into adulthood. Child welfare practitioners and policymakers must consider how race and racism affect a young person's child welfare experience and the services and supports they receive. For example, practitioners and policymakers should understand how employment program outcomes vary by race/ethnicity, or the ways in which access to culturally competent sexual and reproductive health care varies by race/ethnicity. This focus on race equity principles ensures that all young people have access to services tailored to their needs.For practitioners and policymakers to accurately interpret data and make decisions about programming for all racial and ethnic groups, researchers must be able to capture someone's racial and ethnic identity alongside their outcomes. One common resource available to researchers who want to examine outcomes over time is panel, or longitudinal, data, for which the same people are repeatedly and regularly surveyed over an extended period of time. However, researchers should carefully consider how they use these data in analysis because individuals' responses to race/ethnicity and other demographic variables may change over time. When researchers treat race/ethnicity as an unchanging variable they potentially miss important equity considerations.Reviews of panel data show that responses to questions on racial and ethnic identity can and do change over time. While this is a fairly common occurrence in longitudinal data for respondents of all ages (adolescence through adulthood), such changes may be particularly meaningful for young people aging out of foster care. These young people's child welfare experiences (e.g., frequent moves, lack of information about family history, placement in foster homes with parents of a different racial and ethnic identity) may leave them without the information needed to form a healthy racial and ethnic identity. During the transition to adulthood, implicit and explicit biases around racial and ethnic identity from both individuals and systems can create opportunities and barriers at key moments in life, such as pursing postsecondary education or attaining first jobs. Despite the potential fluidity of racial and ethnic identity, however, this variable is commonly treated as static and unchanging in analysis. To date, there are few resources to guide researchers in designing and conducting analyses that both honor the racial and ethnic identities of young people and maximize the reliability of the data.In this brief, we first provide some background on racial and ethnic identity formation and describe some of the barriers to this identity formation process that child welfare system involvement may create for young people. Next, we qualitatively explore, through interviews with former foster youth, why racial and ethnic identity may shift during emerging adulthood, particularly among young people with foster care experience. The interviews provide context on the importance of honoring a young person's chosen identity as that identity shifts. We then explore the practical implications of these identity changes for researchers by quantitatively demonstrating how small decisions made while preparing longitudinal data for analysis can produce completely different results.After describing patterns of racial and ethnic changes observed in our dataset, we then undertake what we call a "three-approach analysis" in which we repeat the same analysis three different ways, with the only change being how we prepare the racial and ethnic data. We conclude by discussing the equity implications of being transparent and detailed when describing how racial and ethnic identity data is used in research studies.

Team Decision Making May Empower Child Welfare Decision Making and Improve Outcomes for Families

October 13, 2021

Public child welfare agencies are ultimately responsible for making the difficult decision of whether to remove a child from their home due to suspected abuse or neglect. Team Decision Making (TDM) is a model developed by agency staff to inform decision making in these situations. TDM values serving families in a culturally sensitive, community-based, and minimally disruptive way by considering the needs and strengths of each child and family.TDM is comprised of five key elements, of which the main component is a consistently held meeting between extended family members, formal and informal community agency representatives, and other supportive individuals to determine which services and assistance to offer to the family. A trained TDM facilitator guides meeting participants toward consensus on the least restrictive way to keep the child safe, with an emphasis on preventing removal of the child from home.This fact sheet provides an overview of key findings from a Child Trends evaluation of two TDM implementation sites and offers broader implications for the child welfare field.

Lessons Learned for Improving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion from Y-USA's Out-of-School Time Programs

July 21, 2020

From 2017 to 2020, Child Trends served as the evaluation partner for the YMCA of the USA's (Y-USA) Character Development Learning Institute (CDLI); through that work, we learned about efforts to improve DEI in afterschool, summer learning, camps, and other OST programs during site visits to more than 100 YMCAs around the country. In this brief, we summarize lessons learned from that research for OST programs seeking ways to be more intentional in their efforts to strengthen DEI.

Promoting Character Development in Youth Programs through Professional Development for Staff and Volunteers: Findings from an Evaluation of the YMCA of the USA’s Character Development Learning Institute

July 15, 2020

This brief summarizes the results from Child Trends' evaluation of the Character Development Learning Institute (CDLI), drawing from interviews, program observations, and surveys of staff and volunteers from many of the 208 Ys that participated in the final phase of the CDLI (see Appendix 3 for a summary of Ys in each phase). Child Trends has served as the evaluation and research partner for the CDLI since 2017, when the CDLI debuted its framework for a small cohort of Ys in what they called the "Translate phase" (Redd et. al., 2017; Stratford et. al, 2018; Redd et. al., 2019; Lantos et al., 2019). The data presented here were collected from fall 2019 to spring 2020. Following a brief summary of key findings, we provide background on the CDLI, describe the study methods, and offer detailed findings on the outcomes of the study.

Teen Pregnancy Prevention: Research-Based Policy Recommendations for Executive and Legislative Officials in 2017

February 15, 2017

Teen pregnancy and birth rates have been declining since 1990; the most recent reports found all-time-low rates of teen pregnancy and abortion. The U.S. teen birth rate—at 22.3 births per 1,000 teens in 2015—is down by almost half since 2007 and by almost two thirds since 1991. Continuing current investments in identifying, scaling up, and replicating evidence-based programs can help our nation sustain this momentum.

Parents Behind Bars: What Happens to Their Children?

October 1, 2015

Children do not often figure in discussions of incarceration, but new research finds more than five million U.S. children have had at least one parent in prison at one time or another -- about three times higher than earlier estimates that included only children with a parent currently incarcerated. This report uses the National Survey of Children's Health to examine both the prevalence of parental incarceration and child outcomes associated with it.Previous research has found connections between parental incarceration and childhood health problems, behavior problems, and grade retention. It has also been linked to poor mental and physical health in adulthood.

Bullies in the Block Area: The Early Childhood Origins of Mean Behavior

August 1, 2015

Bullying can pose a serious threat to children's immediate and long-term health and well-being, and can have profound impacts on all children involved in bullying behaviors, whether as the one bullying others, the one being bullied, or the one witnessing bullying. At least some of the roots of bullying behaviors, and conversely the roots of positive pro-social skills, can likely be found in adverse and positive experiences during early childhood, yet the research literature on these connections is limited. The early childhood field lacks a coherent, theoretical model that identifies the factors contributing to "mean" or aggressive behavior in young children, and establishes the developmental link between this early behavior and later bullying behavior. This white paper summarizes the literature on seven key hypotheses about the roots of bullying behavior in early childhood experiences.

A Blueprint for Early Care and Education Quality Improvement Initiatives: Final Report

March 3, 2015

As Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) continue to launch and mature across states, questions emerge from stakeholders about how to design and implement effective quality improvement (QI) initiatives that accompany a QRIS. Funders, policymakers and program developers with limited resources are looking to invest in activities that will be most successful in supporting early care and education (ECE) program quality improvement and ultimately improving outcomes for young children. The purpose of this report is to address questions about effective QI initiatives by proposing a blueprint of quality improvement practices and design considerations generated from a synthesis of the existing research literature and input from national experts in ECE quality improvement.

The Skills to Pay the Bills: An Evaluation of an Effort to Help Nonprofits Manage Their Finances

February 23, 2015

This study examines a Wallace Foundation-sponsored initiative aimed at improving the financial management skills and practices of 25 Chicago afterschool providers through training and coaching. Two models for this professional development were provided and each produced long-lasting improvements. Moreover, organizations receiving the less-expensive group training and coaching improved almost as much as those receiving more intensive customized coaching.

Family Finding Evaluations: A Summary of Recent Findings

January 1, 2015

This brief reviews the results from 13 evaluations of Family Finding that have been released over the past two years. Overall, the evidence available from the recent evaluations is not sufficient to conclude that Family Finding improves youth outcomes above and beyond existing, traditional services. At the same time, the evidence is not sufficient to conclude that Family Finding does not improve outcomes. We identify three hypotheses regarding the lack of consistently positive impacts, which are not mutually exclusive, and explore the implications of each: 1) Family Finding may not have been completely and consistently implemented, 2) study parameters may not have been sufficient to detect impacts, and 3) assumptions regarding how intervention activities and outputs will result in outcomes are flawed.

What Works for Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health: Lessons from Experimental Evaluations of Programs and Interventions

December 22, 2014

This brief synthesizes lessons learned from 118 evaluations of reproductive health programs located in Child Trends' database of social interventions designed for children and youth—LINKS (Lifecourse Interventions to Nurture Kids Successfully). Evaluations were selected if they were implemented primarily with youth under the age of 18, did not target expectant/pregnant and parenting adolescents, and assessed impacts on pregnancies, births, STIs, or the reproductive health behaviors that lead to these outcomes. Although psychosocial outcomes (such as attitudes or intentions) are also important predictors of teen births and STIs, they were not included in this synthesis because of space limitations. The goal was to examine whether and how programs affect outcomes for youth and adolescents, so no limit was placed on the type, structure, frequency, and duration of the programs. Therefore, this synthesis includes programs designed for and specifically targeting reproductive health outcomes, and those which were not aimed at impacting reproductive health outcomes but measured at least one of the following outcomes:SEXUAL INITIATION– the percentage of teens who ever had sex;FREQUENCY OR RECENCY OF SEX– how often or how recently youth had had sex; number of sexual partners;ANAL/ORAL SEX – the initiation or frequency of anal or oral sex, or number of anal or oral sex partners;SEX UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF DRUGS OR ALCOHOL;CONDOM USE — including recent use and consistency;CONTRACEPTIVE USE — including any use, hormonal method use, use of long-acting reversible methods (LARCs), such as IUDs and implants;CONTRACTING STIS; orPREGNANCY OR BIRTH.

Bricks, Mortar, and Community: The Foundations of Supportive Housing for Pregnant and Parenting Teens

October 7, 2014

The goal of Bricks, Mortar, and Community: The Foundations of Supportive Housing is to identify a set of core components for supportive housing programs serving pregnant and parenting teens and to identify case studies of programs meeting these standards. Articulating core components based on what we know ensures success among pregnant and parenting teens. The identification of the core components provides guidance for supportive housing programs to meet the needs of pregnant and parenting teens by providing the supports and resources needed to help them succeed. To achieve this goal, Healthy Teen Network and Child Trends employed strategic approaches, including: 1) working with a national advisory group consisting of partners in the fields of housing, child welfare, transitional living, and pregnant/parenting teen programs to identify a list of core components; 2) utilizing quantitative and qualitative survey methods to assess current supportive housing programs' implementation of the core components; and 3) developing case studies of supportive housing programs demonstrating strong implementation of the core components.