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CWRTP co-principal investigator makes sense of big data, receives grant

Heather Rouse is the co-principal investigator for the CSRU contract and was recently featured by Iowa State University’s College of Human Sciences for two separate research projects.


Firstly, Heather Rouse and Cassandra Dorius, both assistant professors in human development and family studies, are using existing data to help the state solve problems and make evidence-based decisions in the areas of public health, education, and child welfare. The numbers allow them to be strategic in identifying “low-hanging fruit” among problems needing to be solved, and targeting people who need help the most.

Read more about the research project from the College of Human Sciences.


Secondly, Heather Rouse, Ji-Young Choi, and Daniel Russell, in human development and family studies, recently received a research grant of $40,000 from the Spencer Foundation. Their project builds on a current research study to understand the comprehensive sets of child and family risks that hinder young children’s school readiness capacities. This new effort will examine patterns and predictors of early non-parental care experiences (e.g., child care, preschool) for children prior to kindergarten entry, with a specific focus on the needs and services of Native American children.

This story was originally published by Iowa State University’s College of Human Sciences.

CWRTP staff and graduate students published in Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance journal

Kyuho Lee (postdoctoral researcher), Yuk Pang (Ph. D. candidate), Jo Ann Lee (PIAL outreach coordinator), and Janet Melby (CWRTP director) published their research in the Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance.

Their article, titled, “A Study of Adverse Childhood Experiences, Coping Strategies, Work Stress, and Self-Care in the Child Welfare Profession,” examines the negative influences of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on child welfare professionals’ work stress and coping strategies, as well as the challenges they face in self-care. ACEs experiences include verbal, physical, sexual abuse, and family dysfunction (e.g., an imprisoned, mentally ill, or substance-abusing family member; domestic violence; or absence of a parent because of divorce or separation). Prior research shows that the existence of any ACE can disrupt negative social, emotional, and cognitive development and contribute to adoption of health-risk behaviors.

The research team surveyed over 100 child welfare professionals about their stress levels and coping strategies, in addition to their ACE scores, which were found to be higher than the general population’s scores. Results also showed that stress levels were high and coping strategies were unhealthy. When combined with high ACE scores, this resulted in more work stress. These findings underscore the importance for child welfare professionals to be supported in dealing with their work-related stress.

For more information on the research study, please email Janet Melby at jmelby@iastate.edu or view the article’s abstract.

This research was supported through the Service Training Contract between the Iowa Department of Human Services Service Training and the Iowa State University Child Welfare Research and Training Project.

CWRTP graduate students present research at HDFS Research and Poster Symposium

Iowa State’s Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) department held a poster symposium on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, which eight students presented their CWRTP-related research at.

Maria Alcivar-Zuniga (Ph. D. HDFS student), Sesong Jeon (Ph. D.  HDFS student), Carlee Konz (M.S. HDFS student), Peggy Lockhart (Ph. D. HDFS student) Courtney Mull (junior – elementary education), Erica Pang (Ph. D. HDFS student), Cheng Peng (Ph. D.  HDFS student), Katie Riley (Ph. D.  HDFS student), Dong Zhang (postdoctoral researcher), and Feng Zhao (Ph. D.  HDFS student) presented research on a variety of topics at the poster symposium.

The following posters were presented:

  • A New Approach to Increase Past-Due Child Support Collections – This research project analyzed past child support cases to determine a method of determining which cases should be prioritized. The method led to the collection of more than $314,000 by the Child Support Recovery Unit in past-due payments in three months. (presented by Feng Zhao)
  • Creating a New Approach to Contacting Child Support Payors – A new approach was created to help case workers to determine needed to be contacted to prevent missing payments and/or remind individuals to resume their payments. (presented by Cheng Peng and Dong Zhang)
  • Family and Consumer Sciences National Standards Supported by Parenting: It’s a Life Curriculum – Parenting: It’s a Life (PIAL) is mainly presented in Family and Consumer Science classrooms. In order to make the PIAL curriculum more desirable to teachers, who are encouraged to follow their subject’s standards, the Family and Consumer Sciences National Standards were analyzed to determine how the PIAL curriculum aligned. (presented by Courtney Mull, Katie Riley, and Carlee Konz)
  • Parenting: It’s a Life: A Case Study of a Rural Town’s Access to Life Skills and Parenting Curriculum – One Iowa rural community was analyzed to determine if the use of Parenting: It’s a Life (PIAL) curriculum had impacted the area’s teens. Results showed that 61.8% of surveyed students found that PIAL’s life skills content was helpful or strongly helpful to them. (presented by Katie Riley, Carlee Konz, and Sesong Jeon)
  • Parenting: It’s a Life Teen Information Sources on Module Topics – Parenting: It’s a Life (PIAL) teaches middle and high school students about topics related to life skills PIAL staff were interested in learning about where the students learned about life skills from in the past. Results showed that the students’ age and gender impacted who they were learning from, including peers, teachers, and parents. (presented by Carlee Konz and Sesong Jeon)
  • Trauma and Self-Care Among New Iowa DHS Workers – This research project analyzed the readiness of DHS workers to work with trauma cases and their self-care practices. Results showed DHS workers who perceived higher supervisor support were more likely to engage in self-care practices. DHS workers that engaged in more self-care practices were less likely to experience burn out. (presented by Emily McKnight and Erica Pang)
  • “Race: the Power of an Illusion” – A Learning Exchange – This research project analyzed if feelings and knowledge of DHS workers changed from pre to post survey and if urban/rural living status was a factor. Results show feelings and knowledge improved across all learning objectives from before to after receiving this training opportunity. There was a difference in learning between urban and rural, indicating more opportunities need to be made available to DHS workers in rural areas. (presented by Maria Alcivar-Zuniga and Peggy Lockhart)
A New Approach to Increase Past-Due Child Support Collections
Feng Zhao
Creating a New Approach to Contacting Child Support Payors
Cheng Peng (pictured) and Dong Zhang
Family and Consumer Sciences National Standards Supported by Parenting: It’s a Life Curriculum
Courtney Mull (pictured), Katie Riley, and Carlee Konz
Parenting: It’s a Life: A Case Study of a Rural Town’s Access to Life Skills and Parenting Curriculum
Katie Riley (pictured, right), Carlee Konz, and Sesong Jeon (pictured, left)
Parenting: It’s a Life Teen Information Sources on Module Topics
Carlee Konz and Sesong Jeon
Trauma and Self-Care Among New Iowa DHS Workers
Emily McKnight (pictured) and Erica Pang
“Race: the Power of an Illusion” – A Learning Exchange
Maria Alcivar-Zuniga (pictured) and Peggy Lockhart

PIAL undergraduate student presents research at Annual Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression

Courtney answers questions from one of the judges at the Annual Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression.

Courtney Mull is an undergraduate student worker for Parenting: It’s a Life (PIAL). Recently, she examined the national Family and Consumer Science standards and how these standards relate to the PIAL curriculum.

Mull’s research was presented at the Annual Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression, held on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. Her poster was titled, “Parenting: It’s a Life’s Curriculum Supported by FCS Standards.” The symposium gives undergraduate students an opportunity to present their research in oral and poster presentation.

Mull is a junior with a major in elementary education.

Courtney’s poster was titled, “Parenting: It’s a Life’s Curriculum Supported by FCS Standards.”

CWRTP Data Analysis Leads to Increased Arrears Collections

What if the State of Iowa could help reduce the number of child support cases in arrears? What if there was a way to predict which individuals are more likely to pay off arrears in the future? These two questions guided a joint, two-year data mining project between the Iowa State University (ISU) Child Welfare Research and Training Project (CWRTP) and the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) Child Support Recovery Unit (CSRU) and led to the collection of more than $314,000 in IV-D payments during a three-month period in 2016.

Child support arrears are past due child support payments that a non custodial parent—or the parent without primary custody of the child—owes to the custodial parent. The purpose of the ISU-CSRU arrears project was twofold: (1) to design a new system or tool with better indicators to help reduce existing arrears and prevent the accumulation of future arrears; and (2) for ISU to assist CSRU in prioritizing arrears cases based on the non custodial parent’s likelihood to pay.

Most of the work was completed on the ISU campus by staff and graduate students in close collaboration with CSRU staff. Meetings were conducted through email, conference calls, and face-to-face consultations. ISU staff and students played a key role in the literature review, data analysis, and creation of statistical modeling procedures, while CSRU staff provided several sets of data for the project, including information on arrears payments from fiscal years 2010-12 and 2014-15.

Feng Zhao

Feng Zhao is a doctoral student in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and was the primary researcher on this project.

Working with CWRTP Director Dr. Janet Melby, Feng Zhao (pictured), a doctoral student in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, performed statistical analysis on the datasets, excluding data related to interstate cases and cases with incarcerated payors. After identifying key variables in both paying and non-paid arrears cases, Zhao built two analytical models: (1) one that could predict whether a case got paid in fiscal year 2013, which, in turn, allowed him to determine the probability of cases receiving payments (PGP); and (2) another predicting the variables associated with higher payment in fiscal year 2013, which then allowed him to obtain a regression equation that could be used to calculate the expected annual payment (EAP) for non-paid cases. The final step was to create a “priority table” using both PGP and EAP to categorize arrears cases according to likelihood of payment, as well as the amount of expected payment.

As a result of this analysis, CSRU was able to assign two “clean-up” projects to field workers that ultimately allowed the organization to collect payments on high-priority arrears cases. In September 2015, the first clean-up project asked workers to review 264 non-paying cases where it appeared the payor was receiving social security disability (SSD) or social security retirement (SSR) benefits. After reviewing the 264 initial cases, it was found that 221 cases had payors who were still receiving SSD or SSR benefits.  After further review of the 221 cases

  • Workers sent income withholding notices on 30.77% of the cases,
  • As a result of sending these income withholding notices, 29.86% of the cases received an income withholding payment.

The second clean-up project was intended to determine whether the verified employer listed was still accurate on the non-paying arrears cases.  This project  was sent to the field on April 22, 2016. As of August 1, 2016, the 3,294 active cases showed:

  • The workers removed the employer on 52.70% of the cases as they were no longer valid.
  • On the remaining cases where the employer was valid the workers called and/or sent the employer a new income withholding order. Due to this effort, 612 cases received a payment.
  • From April 22 to July 20, 2016, these cases have collected a total of $314,460.58 in IV-D payments

“After completing these clean-up projects, we discovered that the cases where clean-up was done were the same cases with the highest priority scores and had already been worked,  Many of these cases were now receiving payments as a result of the hard work of our field staff,” explained CSRU program planner Shannon Thill. More importantly, though, she notes that “through this project, we were able to locate sets of cases that could be worked easily and updated by field workers in order to increase our arrears collections.”

Ultimately, the project succeeded thanks to extensive collaboration between CSRU staff with their knowledge of field operations and CWRTP data analysts—graduate assistants Feng Zhao, Dong Zhang, and Chen Peng, Research Analyst Erkuan Wang, and Director Jan Melby—who developed the predictive models.

The arrears project was conducted as part of the contractual partnership between Iowa State University and the Iowa Department of Human Services. Providing oversight for the partnership are Dr. Gong-Soog Hong, Principal Investigator at ISU, and Carol Eaton, Bureau Chief at the Iowa DHS Child Support Recovery Unit.

HDFS Research and Poster Symposium hosts CWRTP graduate students

CWRTP graduate students presented three posters at the the HDFS Research and Poster Symposium, held Wednesday, October 26, 2016.

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Maria Alcivar explains her research to another CWRTP research assistant, Carlee Konz

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Sesong Jeon and Erica Pang present research at the HDFS Research and Poster Symposium

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Carlee Konz, Sesong Jeon, and Katie Riley present PIAL-related research

CWRTP research assistants present research

Research assistants

CWRTP research assistants (Yuk (Erica) Pang, Shane Kabanaugh, and Randie Camp) attended the National Council on Family Relations, where they presented their research.

CWRTP’s research assistants presented their research at the 2016 National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) annual conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Shane Kabanaugh and Randie Camp are former CWRTP research assistants, and Yuk (Erica) Pang is a current CWRTP research assistant. The three graduate students, as well as Janet Melby (CWRTP program manager and human development and family studies adjunct professor), presented their research on Wednesday, November 2, 2016. The research, titled “Infant Reunification: The Role of Kinship Placements and Parental Substance Abuse,” focuses on infants who are placed with relatives in the foster care system. The infants in the study were removed from the home after parental substance abuse.

Read more about the conference, research results, and presentation at Iowa State University’s College of Human Sciences.

Present research

Shane Kabanaugh, former CWRTP research assistant, presents research, titled “Infant Reunification: The Role of Kinship Placements and Parental Substance Abuse.”

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.

Jan, Dong, Chen

Dr. Jan Melby, Chen Peng, Dong Zhang

 

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!

 

Maria Shane Feng Emily Carlee