Child welfare
Urban builds evidence to help child welfare systems make better decisions about how to support children, young people, and families. To improve policies, programs, and services, we explore the experiences of children and families involved in every aspect of the child welfare system, using rigorous quantitative, qualitative, and community-engaged research methods.

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    A new report finds government spending on children in 2022 fell from pandemic highs and will continue to decline in the coming decade.




    Research Areas Children and youth Social safety net

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    The child welfare system is made up of agencies and programs designed to support families and provide safe environments for children, whether in the community or as part of the child protection system. The system also supports young people transitioning out of foster care. Our researchers focus on:

    • Determining what works by evaluating the implementation and impact of programs and services.
      • Led by our Child Welfare Evidence Strengthening Team (CWEST), our Supporting Evidence Building in Child Welfare project is evaluating several programs aimed at helping young people and families involved in the child welfare system.
    • Building research capacity for child welfare professionals and researchers.
      • Roadmaps to Building Evidence in Child Welfare is an upcoming instructional series of reports about conducting child welfare evaluations.
      • The Evidence Building Academy includes trainings for child welfare agency staff, practitioners, and evaluators on topics ranging from applying basic scientific rules and tools to building greater capacity to carry out and support rigorous evaluation.
    • Understanding the experiences of young people transitioning out of foster care, including their experiences with housing,employment, higher education, case management, parenting, and extended foster care.
      • Our event series on strategies for supporting young people transitioning out of foster care shared insights from program managers, service providers, and from young people about policies, programs, and critical knowledge gaps:
      • Exploring housing and housing-related supportive services for children and families involved in the child welfare system.
        • The Supportive Housing for Families in the Child Welfare System project studies the impact of housing on families in the child welfare system experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
        • Our evaluation of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Family Unification Program describes the experiences of families and young adults receiving housing vouchers and how local child welfare and public housing agencies implement the voucher program.
      • Evaluating child maltreatment prevention policies, programs, and services intended to nurture families and communities, keep children safe, and support family and child well-being.
        • Our work includes evaluations of Hello Baby program in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, which identifies family risk levels to target the appropriate level of services, and Safe and Sound, which is a family resource center in San Francisco.
      • Providing technical assistance helping state and local child welfare agencies design, implement, and improve policies and programs to support children and families.
        • We’re helping New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) better identify which families will benefit most from supportive housing under their Keeping Families Together program. Also, by studying New Jersey’s Kinship Navigator Program, we can help DCF prepare to assess whether the program is helping kin caregivers and the children they are taking care of.
        • We are working with California’s Department of Social Services to evaluate how counties that implemented the state’s Commercially Sexually Exploited Children Program can improve policy responses for these children.
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