Supporting Policy Making with Research: Challenges, Opportunities, and Lessons Learned
Children, youth, and families encounter public systems in many ways throughout every stage of their development. From maternal access to prenatal care, through postsecondary and workforce supports, policies drive which services are available and to whom, the quality of these services, how they are accessed, and where they are located. The likelihood that federal, state, and local policies will yield the greatest benefit to children, youth, and families often depends on decision makers having access to high-quality information that is grounded in research, data, and on-the-ground experience. This creates an urgent imperative for researchers to increase their skills and capacity to understand the research needs of policymakers, and to communicate relevant—and often complex—data and findings in ways that respond to their time and resource constraints (Tseng, 2012).
Much is at stake: Public programs and policies have tremendous power to change the lives of children and families. Programs and policies can support children’s well-being by supporting parents; providing enriching early educational experiences; supporting the learning and social development of children and youth; strengthening families and children who interact with the child welfare system; and providing the core income, housing, and nutrition support necessary for families to provide for their children’s basic needs.