Our Research

Child Welfare

Child Trends conducts research, analyzes data, and evaluates programs in virtually every area in the child welfare field. Our areas of expertise include prevention of maltreatment, child protection, court oversight, foster care, kinship care, adoption, and youth leaving care. We work closely with practitioners and policymakers who rely on our research and advice to make positive change in child welfare systems.

Child Trends recently completed a comprehensive evaluation of the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids initiative, a program developed to promote adoption of children from foster care. In addition, our child welfare team is evaluating family finding programs across the country. We also conduct biennial state surveys examining the funding streams that support child welfare services.

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Child Well-Being

From our start more than 30 years ago, Child Trends has studied and reported on the well-being of children and youth. Our work in this area influences policies and practices in the U.S. and around the world. For us, child well-being is multi-dimensional and best measured over time. We look at positive and negative indicators that assess well-being across outcomes, behaviors and processes. We also review indicators that cover children of all ages from birth to their transition to adulthood. Our aim is to provide child well-being indicators that are easily and readily understood by policymakers, practitioners, and the public.

You can search our DataBank by topic and by the stages of children’s lives to examine trends and statistics measuring child well-being.

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Early Childhood Development

Child Trends researchers study young children from birth through early elementary school with a focus on understanding how the experiences children have across different settings promote optimal development and well-being. Our team works with the federal government, state agencies, communities, and foundations on research, evaluation, and policy projects that address important issues for policymakers, practitioners, and families. We are skilled at developing resources and reports that address complex topics in easy-to-understand terms. We are strong thought partners in addressing a range of early childhood issues.

Much of our work fits into five broad categories.

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Featured Publication
Wisconsin's Infants and Toddlers (PDF)
Apr 2015 |  David Murphey, et al

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Education

Child Trends’ education research focuses on how children and youth can flourish in school. We examine supportive characteristics of the individual, the school, and the family to improve student outcomes . Areas of research expertise include: social and emotional learning and non-academic competencies; college and workplace readiness; school climate and discipline; bullying; integrated student services; charter schools; family strengths and involvement in education; international comparisons; character education; dropout prevention and recovery; and afterschool and summer learning.  We offer technical assistance, including survey, measure, and indicator development, research syntheses, data and policy analysis, program evaluation, and reviews of best practices to identify what works and what doesn’t.

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Health

Child Trends researchers study the physical and mental health of children and adolescents. Our staff conduct literature reviews, provide training and technical assistance and analyze datasets pertaining to health and access to health care. Our research informs program providers and policymakers developing strategies for addressing the health needs of children.

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Hispanic Institute

The Child Trends Hispanic Institute provides timely and insightful research-based information and guidance to policymakers, practitioners, the media, corporate leaders, and private philanthropy who work to improve outcomes for Latino children and youth in the U.S.

Latino children, youth, and families are a large, fast-growing and diverse segment of the U.S. population. Latinos represent 16 percent of our nation’s population and 25 percent of children. For many groups of children in the U.S., there is already significant research to inform the nation’s thinking and guide our investments. This is less true for Hispanic children and youth, and this gap hinders our ability to invest wisely in their development and advance their prospects. The Hispanic Institute seeks to close this gap. Child Trends, alone among the nation’s leading child-study centers, has a platform from which to address some of the most serious challenges and opportunities facing Latino children and families today.

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Indicators

Child Trends develops and promotes indicators of child well-being used by researchers and policymakers to better understand children and youth and provide the means for assessing our shared accountability, as a nation, for their welfare. The Child Trends DataBank examines and monitors more than 100 indicators that focus on both risks and positive development for children. We also conduct in-depth reviews of subpopulations of children and youth – for example, children in adoptive families, infants and toddlers, and children in a particular region or jurisdiction.

For Venture Philanthropy Partners, Child Trends reported on the well-being of children and youth in the Washington, D.C. metro region.  Capital Kids: Shared Responsibility, Shared Future.

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Featured Publication
Wisconsin's Infants and Toddlers (PDF)
Apr 2015 |  David Murphey, et al

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International

Child Trends’ international work focuses on cross-national comparisons of child and family well-being. We produce international comparison reports, such as the World Family Map, develop international surveys, analyze international data on children and families, and collaborate with others to move the field toward a global consensus around indicator frameworks, surveys, best practices, and what works to improve child and family well-being globally. We adapt measures to specific contexts, develop global conceptual frameworks and indicators of well-being, synthesize cross-national research, monitor and evaluate projects, and provide technical assistance and consultation to nations and international non-governmental organizations on all of these topics.  We collaborate with organizations and universities in many regions of the world.

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Marriage and Cohabitation

Today’s children are born into and grow up in many different types of families.  For example, four in ten babies in the U.S. are born to unmarried parents – either single or cohabiting. Child Trends tracks and analyzes the changes taking place in the structure of the American family over recent decades and how these changes impact children. We review the research literature, examine trends in the data, conduct qualitative studies, and evaluate programs intended to promote and support healthy relationships within and outside of marriage.

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Parenting

Child Trends investigates family relationships that influence a child’s development from birth through the transition to adulthood. We look at all family and household structures from children living with two parents, single parents, extended family members, and with foster and adoptive parents. We also study the role of fathers in children’s development and ways to improve father engagement among diverse groups of fathers. We offer expertise in quantitative and qualitative research, program evaluation, policy design, and technical assistance.

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Positive Indicators

Child Trends is a leader in long-term efforts to conceptualize and measure positive indicators for children and adolescents. Child Trends has developed rigorous national indicators of flourishing among children and youth for inclusion in national surveys, research studies, and program evaluations. Read about our Positive Indicators Project.

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Poverty

Poverty poses both immediate and long-term threats to children’s development. Child Trends monitors the prevalence of child poverty over time, and its impact on child outcomes. In all of our research areas, from early childhood to youth development, we examine differences in child well-being by family income. We also evaluate the effects of programs and policies aimed at children and families in poverty.

Our DataBank provides annual updates on the number and percent of children living under key poverty thresholds.

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Program Implementation Matters

 

This research area provides support to organizations and programs serving children and youth. Our goal is to help them improve their quality and effectiveness in achieving intended outcomes. Our evaluation experts conduct implementation research, using multiple methods, to assess program, organizational, and community characteristics that influence program operations. Findings are used to provide formative feedback to help programs identify and address their challenges, to assess programs’ readiness for rigorous impact studies, and to understand the circumstances under which programs operate best.

We also work directly with organizations to promote their ability to act on information to improve their programs. We do this by helping them develop evidence-informed and testable theories of change that align program outcomes with activities, and strengthen how they collect, analyze, and use data to provide actionable information.  And we develop technical assistance materials and strategies to provide youth-serving programs with information that addresses common challenges to their operations, such as outreach and recruitment, communications, retention, and program scaling and sustainability.

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Teen Pregnancy/Reproductive Health

Child Trends examines sexual activity, contraceptive use, and fertility, focusing particularly on teens and young adults. Our research informs program providers and policymakers on strategies to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually-transmitted infections, and to promote healthy relationships. We collect and analyze data about teens and young adults, track trends, evaluate programs, and design and test new interventions and measures.

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Youth Development

Child Trends brings a multi-disciplinary perspective to its studies of adolescents and young adults and the programs that serve them. We conduct national and local evaluations of after-school and prevention programs (see brief about Abriendo Puertas). These evaluations include not only impact evaluations to examine whether programs are effective, but also implementation evaluations to examine how they work. We work with programs and funders to ensure that programs are ready for evaluation by helping develop logic models, conduct needs assessments, and develop and refine their performance management capacities. A critical part of our work is research to understand and measure adolescent and young adult well-being for national studies and evaluations (for example, the Positive Indicators Project).

We also compile evaluations by researchers from around the world and synthesize these studies to identify effective (and ineffective) programs and practices. The information is widely disseminated in clear language via research briefs, policy briefings, webinars and through technical assistance to practitioners and local communities.

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