Research Services

Child Trends helps people—from local service organizations to state and national policymakers—assess, manage, and improve the programs and policies that affect children’s lives.  The types of services we provide include:

Track and Analyze Trends

As our name suggests, Child Trends is a national leader in tracking and analyzing measures of child and family well-being.  We have extensive knowledge of the federal statistical system, as well as experience working with small-scale surveys and administrative data.  As a result, we excel in spotting, analyzing, and explaining trends that affect children’s well-being and in helping decision makers establish appropriate benchmarks and tracking systems. Child Trends’ DataBank of indicators and trends receives more than 20,000 visits each month.  Our national and international work in trend analysis has been featured in the New York Times, MSNBC, NPR, The Washington Post and other well-known media outlets.

Identify Evidence-Based Programs and Services

Child Trends serves as an expert source for grantmakers, policymakers, and programs to provide guidance on what works. For new initiatives, we point to strategies already found to be effective, through our extensive reviews of programs housed in our databases, such as our What Works LINKS database. For existing programs or policies, we assess the degree to which their strategies have a base of evidence in research and suggest ways to enhance or test the program’s effectiveness.

Produce Knowledge-to-Date Summary Reports

Many of our partners understand that innovations have the greatest chance of success when they come from a thorough understanding of what has come before. When helping partners to create new research-based interventions, we often begin with a summary and synthesis of what the field already knows.

Craft, Administer, and Analyze Surveys and Assessments

Surveys or assessments of participants, users, or target audiences appear throughout our work. Our surveys use benchmarked items where appropriate and are run through cognitive laboratories and pilot tests to ensure their effectiveness. Our assessments may be customized or off the shelf (e.g., Classroom Assessment Scoring System, CLASS), and are selected or designed based on the questions to be answered.

Develop Systems for Evaluation, Performance Management, and Program Quality Monitoring

As programs move from innovation to full-scale implementation, they need monitoring. The monitoring begins with an assessment of fidelity to the model and quality services, followed by reporting on performance management and culminating in rigorous evaluation. Child Trends helps leaders monitor their investments and progress toward goals by:

  • Providing quality monitoring and auditing—Child Trends helps programs and funders ensure that programs are implemented as intended. Often our data are used to provide transparency, such as our DC Early Childhood Risk and Reach reports.
  • Developing performance measurement systems—Our expertise in indicators and program effectiveness makes us a natural choice for performance measurement work.  From federal GPRA reporting to foundation grantmaking performance, Child Trends supports ongoing measurement and its use for program improvement. Our PerformWell web site, for example, is a one-stop shop for human service organizations seeking to use performance management in their organizations.
  • Assessing Random-Control-Trial Readiness—In the race to be evidence-based, programs can often find themselves moving prematurely to a rigorous impact evaluation. We know what it takes to be ready for a randomized controlled trial or other outcome evaluation and can get even programs on a budget to the finish line.

Evaluate Programs and Policies

Child Trends’ reputation is one reason why we are the first place leaders call when it is time for an implementation or outcome evaluation. Our experts on implementation evaluation understand how to translate observations into lessons and integrate this information with the latest knowledge of what works into recommendations. Our outcomes evaluations have been featured in the news and cited in Congressional testimony.  Our researchers are specifically trained in evaluation techniques including observations, surveys, cognitive and non-cognitive assessments, semi-structured and structured interviews, site visits, literature reviews, data syntheses, and analysis of extant data.

Provide Research-to-Practice Tools, Training, and Technical Assistance

Child Trends provides technical assistance to programs and public and private agencies at the federal, state and local levels. Our technical assistance efforts have varied from technical assistance to state and local agencies on service delivery systems to technical assistance to small, local non-profit organizations that provide direct services to clients. Our technical assistance activities for some government agencies has also included the provision of expertise in the areas of planning activities, evaluations, speeches, reports, and policy papers.

Convene Thought Leaders

Child Trends has a long history of bringing experts and thought leaders together for rigorous, unbiased, nonpartisan, research-based examinations of critical issues facing children and youth.  In doing so, we help set research agendas and inform policy and practice decisions that move the field forward.

Communicate Findings in New Ways

The old models of communicating research are no longer sufficient, and what works today is already transforming for tomorrow. At Child Trends, our mission is to use research to transform the lives of children and youth, which means that continuous communications innovation is no less than a mandate. We excel at providing online content, supporting social media networks, and providing new channels for research to reach the right audiences. Above all, we communicate the content of our research in ways that are accessible and actionable for decision-makers.