PIAL visits Jump$tart conference

PIAL staff ran an information booth yesterday at the Jump$tart conference for financial literacy, at DMACC in Ankeny. The booth was part of our ongoing outreach to Iowa teachers about the benefits of using the PIAL curriculum. For courses addressing financial literacy, the most relevant PIAL materials are Module 5, The costs of raising a child, and Module 6, Managing money.

Click this link to view or download the entire curriculum, and look for us at the 4-H conference next week in Ames!

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PIAL visits GMG High School

As the school year ends, the PIAL staff gets ready to attend summer conferences and reach out to Iowa teachers. But before we do, we’d like to thank Sandra Tracy of GMG High School in Garwin, Iowa. Last month, we facilitated the entire PIAL curriculum in Ms.Tracy’s FCS class. Ms. Tracy was pleased at how engaged her students were throughout the visits, and noted that “the module on costs was a real eye-opener. They had no idea how expensive it was to raise a child!”

If you’d like to arrange your own classroom visit for the 2016-17 school year, please contact PIAL coordinator Jo Ann Lee at or (515) 294-9061.

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CWRTP research improves child support collections

CWRTP staff have recently completed two data analysis projects that will help the Iowa Department of Human Services’ Child Support Recovery Unit (CSRU) improve collections. The Payment Analysis project identifies parents who are at risk of falling behind on child support payments, and the Arrears project identifies parents behind on payments who are most likely to get back on track. Both projects use predictive modeling to help CSRU field staff prioritize which cases to work on, either by contacting risky payors in advance, or by encouraging parents in arrears to pay more consistently.

CSRU program planner Shannon Thill says the research will help field staff take a more proactive approach to their cases. “Instead of waiting for them to fall behind, we can contact the parents most likely to get behind and encourage them to stay on track. That helps us develop relationships that will ensure steady payments for years to come.” The next step will be to pilot these proactive approaches in select field offices, before implementing them statewide.

Both projects succeeded thanks to extensive collaboration between CSRU staff with knowledge of field operations, and the CWRTP data analysts who developed the predictive models – graduate assistants Feng Zhao, Dong Zhang, and Chen Peng, statistician Erkuan Wang, and Director Jan Melby.

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Dr. Jan Melby, Chen Peng, Dong Zhang


Graduate assistant profiled on ISU alumni website

Graduate research assistant Maria Alcivar is one of several ISU students to share her personal story in an article for the ISU alumni website. Alcivar arrived in the US from Ecuador with her family at age 11, as an undocumented immigrant. She became a US citizen in 2015.

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Graduate assistants present research

CWRTP graduate assistants presented their research findings Wednesday in a poster session at the ISU Alumni Center. The session followed the final event of the Future of Healthy Families Lecture Series, sponsored by the College of Human Sciences.

Emily Sorenson, Carlee Konz, Shane Kavanaugh, Feng Zhao, Maria Alacazar-Zuniga, Kyuho Lee, and Erica Pang discussed their research projects with the assembled guests. Our GAs play an important role in the research CWRTP conducts for the Iowa Department of Human Services. Thanks for your help, and congratulations on another successful semester!


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CWRTP trainer wins CYtation award

Congratulations to CWRTP trainer Martha Stewart, who received an ISU CYtation award this month for her exemplary service to the university. Among her many accomplishments for the past year was the Connections Equal Collections (CEC) training program, which she delivered to Iowa Child Support Recovery Unit staff throughout the state. CEC offers psychology-based instruction on developing constructive relationships with non-custodial parents, in order to improve child support collections.

Martha has been with CWRTP since 2003. According to CWRTP supervisor Kate Goudy-Haht, “Martha takes great pride in the training she creates. She will not say it is complete until she is fully satisfied it will meet the expectations of her audience. She is sincerely dedicated to her work, offers unconditional support to her co-workers, and is a true asset to the Child Welfare Research & Training Project.”

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Martha Stewart & Dr. Jonathan Wickert, ISU Senior VP and Provost

PIAL adds outreach coordinator

Parenting: It’s a Life is pleased to announce that Jo Ann Lee has joined the program as a full-time outreach coordinator. She will be responsible for coordinating PIAL staff and classroom visits, and expanding the program to reach alternative high schools, college-age students, and community organizations that serve at-risk youth. She will also use her knowledge of trauma-informed care to update the PIAL curriculum module on risk and protective factors.

Jo Ann has worked in child welfare since 2007 and spent the past 3 years as a CWRTP trainer, delivering courses to DHS social workers and their community partners. She is excited to roll up her sleeves and get back to working with young people. Welcome Jo Ann!

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PIAL begins outreach campaign for ISU students

This week, Parenting: It’s A Life begins an outreach campaign for ISU students with children. Thanks to financial support from the ISU Women’s and Diversity Grants program, we are distributing brochures and posters to help connect ISU moms with helpful resources, both on campus and within the Iowa Department of Human Services. Brochures are available at the Thielen Student Health Center, Margaret Sloss Women’s Center, and ISU Multicultural Center.

PIAL research assistant Ellie Havlik helped create the brochures and coordinate with on-campus resources. “We’re excited to make these resources more available to young mothers trying to finish college, and to see what new directions the program can go in,” said Havlik. PIAL is currently looking at ways to expand the program into community colleges across the state, to provide resources to emerging adults (ages 18-25).


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Shared parenting and family interaction training

On November 17, Shelly Ramus and Jo Ann Lee led a workshop on shared parenting and family interaction for 12 DHS case managers and child protection assessment workers. The workshop taught participants how to support healthy parent-child attachments, and how to create alliances with birth and foster/adoptive parents that help children achieve safety and permanency.

Participants were given an overview of the 10-week training program required for Iowa foster/adoptive parents, then completed a family sculpting activity that demonstrates the value of the alliance model. Through video clips and in-class activities, they learned about foster children’s perspective on grief and loss, and how to identify resiliency. Family scenarios also demonstrated how they could promote healthy attachments and interaction during supervised visits.

If you have questions about shared parenting, please contact Shelly at

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CWRTP supervisor wins award

On September 21, Kate Goudy-Haht received the university’s Professional and Scientific Outstanding New Professional Award, at a presentation in the Memorial Union’s Great Hall. This award recognizes professional and scientific staff who have demonstrated outstanding accomplishments unusually early in their careers.

Kate Goudy-Haht has been with ISU’s Child Welfare Research and Training Project since 2010. She has coordinated and managed the Child Support Recovery Unit (CSRU) Training contract with the Iowa Department of Human Services. Along with these duties, she has also been a member of the ISU Professional and Scientific Council since 2012. She is the current Secretary/Treasurer, and has served on the council’s Professional Development Committee.

In support of her award application, one colleague wrote: “Kate has worked with patience and persistence to elevate our reputation with CSRU. She seems to have perfected the tight-rope technique of balancing ISU’s research and teaching mission with CSRU’s staffing and training needs.”


(Photo by Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)

Kate Goudy-Haht with President Steven Leath (photo by Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)