Jan DeCoursey, AM, is a senior research scientist and co-director of the child welfare research project area at Child Trends. She has over 20 years of experience in research, evaluation, and program operation in the fields of child welfare, transition to adulthood, and youth and adult workforce development. Jan works with programs and systems to build evidence of promising and effective practices through both formative and outcome studies. She is an expert in implementation and improvement science methods; formative, process, and evaluability assessment; and qualitative and mixed methods research. Her current work focuses on program improvement for both the child welfare system and systems serving transition-age youth, including building capacity in community collaborations to prevent child abuse, a study of the current evidence base for interventions to connect youth to education and employment, a study of continuous quality improvement in father engagement in child welfare, a study of post-adoption services in Virginia, and a multi-city study of foster youth transitioning to adulthood.
Prior to Child Trends, Jan held senior research roles at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and MEF Associates. In her early career, she designed and implemented youth development programs for the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago and the I Have a Dream Foundation. She began her career as a family educator in a diagnostic, residential foster youth home. Jan is currently active as a court appointed special advocate and is serving her second term as a commissioner for her city’s Commission on Youth. Jan publishes numerous reports and speaks regularly at conferences and convenings on best practice and program improvement in child welfare and the transition to adulthood. She earned her AM from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and her BS in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.