Casey Hosts 100 Experts to Explore Building Evidence for Two-Generation Approaches

Posted November 30, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog buildingevidenceforapproaches 2017

Two-gen­er­a­tion approach­es cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ties for par­ents and their chil­dren by seam­less­ly inte­grat­ing ser­vices. Advanc­ing this work involves build­ing evi­dence, which is a com­plex chal­lenge that requires data on both par­ents and chil­dren across racial and eth­nic groups as well as infor­ma­tion shar­ing across mul­ti­ple agencies.

To sup­port these efforts, the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion host­ed an event called Two-Gen­er­a­tion Talk Back. The gath­er­ing, which took place in Bal­ti­more, drew more than 100 researchers, eval­u­a­tors, fun­ders, providers and oth­er experts.

Through­out the event, par­tic­i­pants dis­cussed strate­gies for eval­u­at­ing two-gen­er­a­tion approach­es and cov­ered a wide range of rel­e­vant top­ics, includ­ing promis­ing pro­grams, data shar­ing across sys­tems and build­ing capac­i­ty to work with data. Many atten­dees not­ed that pro­grams are carv­ing out inno­v­a­tive solu­tions to the unique issues two-gen­er­a­tion approach­es present.

Con­ver­sa­tions also focused on the chal­lenges of build­ing evi­dence for two-gen­er­a­tion work.

Char­lyn Harp­er Browne is no stranger to this top­ic. She serves as a senior asso­ciate at the Cen­ter for the Study of Social Pol­i­cy and has authored a report for the Foun­da­tion on evi­dence-build­ing for two-gen­er­a­tion approach­es. Browne iden­ti­fies build­ing causal rela­tion­ships, not just cor­re­la­tion­al rela­tion­ships” as one major hurdle.

Few pro­grams have under­tak­en eval­u­a­tions of effec­tive­ness, accord­ing to Kath­leen Dwyer, a senior social research sci­en­tist with the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices’ Admin­is­tra­tion for Chil­dren and Fam­i­lies. Dwyer is cur­rent­ly work­ing on a scan of 52 two-gen­er­a­tion approach­es with col­league Car­li Wulff. The forth­com­ing scan, con­duct­ed by Math­e­mat­i­ca Pol­i­cy Research, looks at var­i­ous dimen­sions of two-gen­er­a­tion work, includ­ing ser­vices pro­vid­ed, pro­gram­ming sta­bil­i­ty and fund­ing mechanisms.

We know there is anx­i­ety and inter­est on the part of fun­ders to get to those eval­u­a­tions quick­ly, to get to what works,” Dwyer says. But because so many are just get­ting off the ground, it’s impor­tant to assess their readi­ness for eval­u­a­tion of effectiveness.”

Based on the find­ings from the scan, Dwyer out­lines three ways to begin this assessment:

  1. Exam­ine how well the pro­gram is operating. 
    Ask: How faith­ful is it to the orig­i­nal design? What is the lev­el of staff com­mit­ment? How many par­tic­i­pants does it serve, and what ser­vices are they receiving?
  2. Assess the strength of the program’s log­ic model. 
    Ask: Are the qual­i­ty and inten­si­ty of ser­vices suf­fi­cient to sup­port desired outcomes?
  3. Con­sid­er the max­i­mum lev­el of rig­or an eval­u­a­tion of this pro­gram could achieve.
    Ask: What is the size of the tar­get pop­u­la­tion? The capac­i­ty to serve and gath­er data on that pop­u­la­tion? The inter­est in and sup­port for eval­u­a­tion among pro­gram staff, lead­er­ship and the community?

Sev­er­al event pan­elists also not­ed a lack of mod­els for assess­ing and val­i­dat­ing pro­gram effec­tive­ness for dif­fer­ent racial and eth­nic groups.

Some­times we are con­trol­ling for race when race is the issue,” explains Keisha Bent­ley-Edwards, an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­o­gy at Duke Uni­ver­si­ty who stud­ies racial social­iza­tion and cul­tur­al strengths. If you actu­al­ly want to make changes, you have to look at who is doing well and who is not doing well in each of these groups.”

Despite these chal­lenges, evi­dence for two-gen­er­a­tion approach­es is evolving.

One of the things I hope peo­ple come out of this day feel­ing is, yes, there is a small research base and, yes, there is a lot to be learned,” said T’Pring West­brook, a senior asso­ciate at the Foun­da­tion who host­ed the meet­ing, but the work to date has gen­er­at­ed many lessons and the field is ben­e­fit­ing from this new knowledge.”

Read rec­om­men­da­tions for invest­ing in build­ing evi­dence for two-gen­er­a­tion approaches

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