Child Trends actively collaborates with its clients and offers strategic guidance to help them meet their goals. We conduct independent, actionable research that describes and analyzes how children, youth, and families are faring; provide evidence-based technical assistance to programs; clearly communicate our findings to policymakers and practitioners in accessible and actionable ways; and conduct a range of activities to help organizations improve the efficacy of their direct services.
As programs move from innovation to full-scale implementation, they need high-quality information on the feasibility of scaling, the use of data to maintain service quality and improve programs, and assessing their programmatic impact. Evaluation tools can serve programs at all stages of development, from initial goal-setting and data collection to continuous goal improvement to rigorous impact studies. At Child Trends, we fit evaluation approaches to our clients’ needs—not the other way around—drawing from a full array of evaluation tools and approaches.
Child Trends helps program administrators and practitioners by:
- Monitoring program quality. Child Trends helps programs and funders collect and use data to ensure that programs are implemented as intended.
- Developing performance management systems. Child Trends supports programs in establishing, collecting, and using ongoing measurement for program improvement, grant-making, reporting, and more.
- Assessing readiness for an impact evaluation. Under pressure to show that their program is evidence-based, program administrators often undertake an impact evaluation prematurely. We understand what steps must precede a randomized control trial or other impact evaluation, and we work with programs to help them understand and conduct the research groundwork needed before an impact study.
- Evaluating impact. Our staff have conducted a range of program evaluations, including randomized control trials and quasi-experimental studies. We develop evaluation plans that are tailored to a program’s unique context while maintaining methodological rigor.
- Creating actionable evidence. Our staff work with clients to identify the best research design for answering their questions. This approach includes the use of several methods that may more quickly produce actionable answers, including rapid cycle evaluations, continuous quality improvement, and precision science methods.
Policy Analysis and Engagement
Federal, state, and local policies influence the lives of children and families. Policies shape how government agencies, and the programs they administer, support children’s development, health, and safety. They dictate which families qualify for a child care subsidy, how much money is available to fund child welfare services, and what data schools are required to report publicly. We understand the policy environment in which children and families live, and we share our research with our clients to inform the policy decisions that impact children and families.
- Our researchers monitor shifts in federal and state policy to anticipate the research needs of agencies, as well as the related needs of state, local, and community-based grant recipients. We also evaluate the role of policy in improving life outcomes for children.
- We develop policy briefs, blogs, fact sheets, web narratives, and infographics that make our research understandable and actionable. We participate in briefings and presentations on Capitol Hill and with state legislators, meet with key agency decision makers, and convene stakeholders to help ensure that policymakers ground their decisions in the strongest evidence.
Communications Planning and Outreach Consultation
We have deep experience with strategic planning and implementation, including digital, social, traditional media, and stakeholder outreach. We tailor dissemination to audiences’ needs so that the right information goes to the right people. Beyond providing communications services, we contribute to communications research through projects such as the Child Trends News Service.
Clients that have benefited from our communications expertise include the federal Office of Adolescent Health, the Alliance for Early Success, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Our communications team provides:
- Messaging and content development
- Web interactive and social media graphic creation
- Audience identification and stakeholder outreach
- Website and social media metrics analysis
- Traditional and digital media strategy training
Child Trends partners with experts and thought leaders to examine critical issues facing children and youth. By convening and engaging a range of stakeholders—from practitioners to policymakers to youth themselves—we ensure that their voices are factored into decisions.
We understand that innovations have the greatest chance of success when they are grounded in a thorough understanding of prior research and practice. Child Trends works with funders, policymakers, and program staff to summarize and synthesize the literature on a range of topics and programs affecting children and families.
Child Trends helps the field by:
- Conducting systematic reviews
- Reporting syntheses of findings and recommendations
- Assessing the quality of existing research
- Developing evidence-informed logic models and theories of change that influence program design
Data Collection and Analysis
Child Trends is a national leader in tracking and analyzing measures of child and family well-being. We possess extensive knowledge of the federal statistical system, as well as experience working with small- and large-scale surveys, online or “big” data, and administrative data. We excel at spotting, analyzing, and explaining trends that affect children’s well-being.
Our work includes:
- Identifying and analyzing important factors of child and family well-being
- Linking and analyzing administrative data that illuminate child and family well-being
- Scraping data from social media or websites to analyze trends or forecast changes
- Developing surveys, and conducting cognitive and psychometric testing of items
- Conducting interviews, focus groups, classroom observations, home visits, and other qualitative data collection tools
- Establishing appropriate benchmarks and performance measurement systems
Capacity Building and Technical Assistance
Child Trends’ training and technical assistance provide evidence-based support to bolster organizations’ and providers’ capacity to improve the well-being of families and children. We work with individual programs focused on community change and manage multi-million-dollar federal technical assistance centers.
We provide technical assistance that:
- Supports organizations as they work to become evidence-based
- Increases organizational readiness for evaluation, as well as the usefulness of evaluation
- Builds data collection and performance management systems
- Integrates research-based practices into services
- Improves client outreach and recruitment
- Develops effective funder and stakeholder communications