Translational Research in Child Welfare

Friday, January 16, 2015: 10:00 AM-11:45 AM
Balconies J, Fourth Floor (New Orleans Marriott)
Cluster: Child Welfare
Symposium Organizer:
Joshua P. Mersky, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago
Background/Purpose:  Despite the enduring call for evidence-based practices in child welfare, the field continues to lack translational research on empirically validated models implemented under generalizable conditions.  This symposium integrates four experimental studies from the Midwest that aim to bridge this research-practice gap.  These investigations illustrate innovative approaches to implementation and evaluation that hold the promise of promoting child safety, permanency, and well-being.

Methods:  Study 1 presents results from a randomized trial of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), which was adapted and implemented in Wisconsin with foster parent-child dyads via experiential group trainings, phone consultation and homework.  Study 2 presents results from an experimental investigation in Illinois that tests the effect of adding interaction with a change agent to trainings for case managers and therapists who implement Parent Management Training (PMT) with foster parents.  Study 3 presents results from a formative evaluation of a five-year federal demonstration project, the Kansas Intensive Permanency Project (KIPP), a randomized consent trial that evaluates the impacts of implementing the Parent Management Training-Oregon model (PMTO) on child permanency and social-emotional well-being.  Study 4 also presents results from a formative evaluation of a federal demonstration project, the Illinois Birth to Three (IB3) Waiver, which uses an experimental design to test two interventions, Child-Parent Psychotherapy and the Nurturing Parent Program, that are being delivered on a large scale in the child welfare system. 

Results:  Study 1 demonstrated that both an extended course of PCIT and an abbreviated course of PCIT resulted in significantly improved parenting attitudes and practices compared to services as usual.  Study 2 showed that the addition of interaction with a change agent to training as usual increases use of PMT with foster parents.  Study 3 indicated that placement stability was significantly associated with well-being for children randomized to PMTO but was not significant for children in the service-as-usual comparison group.  Study 4 showed that a rotational assignment process can be used to match subjects under complex, real-world conditions, and it revealed that initiating a formative evaluation can help to identify threats to group equivalence prior to completing summative analyses.

Conclusions:  This symposium will highlight five salient themes.  First, there is an emergent demand in child welfare to evaluate (a) existing and untested interventions and (b) new interventions that have been empirically validated, but mainly under controlled clinical conditions.  Second, there are many barriers to model fidelity, replication, and uptake that should be addressed during the planning phases of program implementation and study design.  Thus, a third implication is that initiatives of this kind are complex, and their success hinges on the formation of lasting partnerships between researchers, practitioners, agencies, and systems.  Fourth, these studies show that there are different approaches to forming these partnerships and funding research in this area.  Last, and most importantly, this symposium underscores the great potential that translational research has for promoting more effective and cost-effective services in child welfare.  

* noted as presenting author
Integrating Parent-Child Interaction Therapy into Foster Parent Training
Joshua P. Mersky, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago; James Dimitri Topitzes, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Colleen Janczewski, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago; Meredith Norman, BS, West Virginia University; Cheryl B. McNeil, PhD, West Virginia University
Enhancement of Training As Usual in a Child Welfare Setting with a Change Agent
Sonya J. Leathers, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago; Jill E. Spielfogel, MSW, University of Illinois at Chicago; Marc S. Atkins, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago
Formative Evaluation: Illinois' Birth to Three IV-E Waiver
Nancy Rolock, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Susan M. Snyder, PhD, Georgia State University; Mark F. Testa, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Elizabeth Weigensberg, PhD, University of Chicago
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