PIAL Expansion Objective 2 Preliminary Report

The Child Support Contract's research team has compiled preliminary reports from our analysis of Objective 2 of our responsible parenting grant with Iowa Child Support and OCSE. The team has created two preliminary reports for Objective 2: one long report and one brief report. We plan to use this type of format throughout the grant period as we report the data results.

You may review each report with the following links:

Long Report

Brief Report

Special thanks to our excellent graduate research assistant, Maneesha Gammana Liyanage (pictured above), who was the primary person to conduct the analysis and create this format to present the data.

PIAL Expansion Objective 1 Preliminary Results

The Child Support Contract's research team has compiled the preliminary results from our analysis for Objective 1 of our responsible parenting grant with Iowa Child Support and OCSE. The team has created two preliminary reports for Objective 1: one long report and one brief report. We plan to use this type of format throughout the grant period as we report the data results.

You may review each report with the following links:

Long Report

Brief Report

Special thanks to our excellent graduate research assistant, Bethany McCurdy (pictured above), who was the primary person to conduct the analysis and create this format to present the data.

PIAL Strives to Achieve Evidence-Based Status

Click to read.

CWRTP GRA Alison White quoted in Iowa State Daily article

Click to read: What are "daddy issues" and how they can be harmful in today's society

Research: Students’ Long-Term Application of Money Management

More free time for students over the summer also means more spending opportunities,
so making sure students know how to manage money becomes extra important! Even though
many teachers probably can’t relate to having much free time over the summer with the
amount of prepping that goes into the upcoming school year, students will find themselves with
more opportunities to practice managing money throughout the next few months. Remember
calculating whether it would be worth it to buy a pool pass for the whole summer or just pay
for each visit and going back and forth with our parents on whether we would really make use
of the investment? Moments like these are great examples of how money management skills
may be practiced over the summer!

Parenting: It’s a Life incorporates concepts on parenting into our modules. These are
important skills for students to understand before they consider becoming a parent because
being able to manage money while taking care of yourself and a child is a whole different
undertaking! If students choose to become parents, they will need to be prepared and have a
plan in place in order to meet the needs of their child financially. Even if students do not have
parenthood on their minds, they may still apply these skills to their day to day lives.

The objectives of PIAL’s Module 7: Managing Money include having students first
distinguish between a want versus a need and secondly create a monthly budget. As a part of
the post-visit survey, students are asked to complete a short-response question where they
have time to elaborate on how they can apply the content of the module. Graduate Research
Assistant Mikaela Scozzafava, Madeline Robinson. and Isha Crawla analyzed themes emerging
from students’ responses. They found students understood the importance of money
management. Out of the two module objectives noted above, students were more likely to
show comprehension of creating a budget rather than distinguishing between wants and needs.
You can see this represented in the frequencies of themes in the chart below. This may be a
result of students feeling like a budget has more long-term applicability to their lives than
wants versus needs. These 4 major themes present in the responses indicate to PIAL that
students have a variety of takeaways from the module related to money management. Overall,
the content addressed in module 7 is very relevant and applicable to student’s own finances.
We encourage students to take this information with them into the summer months and
continue to both spend and save responsibly while keeping their long-term financial goals in

Written by
Madeline Robinson

CWRTP members published in the Journal of Children and Youth Services Review

Current and former team members of CWRTP have just been published in the Journal of Children and Youth Services Review.

Bethany McCurdy, Carl Weems, Heather Rouse, Sesong Jeon, Maya Bartel, Janet Melby, Kate Goudy, and Jo Ann Lee authored a journal article titled Parenting - It’s a Life: Where and How Youth Learn about Establishing Paternity, Child Support, and Co-Parenting . The article will be published in the July 2021 (v. 126) issue of Children and Youth Services Review.

The article can be viewed here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2021.106023.

PIAL evaluates effectiveness of Teen Dating Violence Awareness program

Teens in America are facing a staggering amount of dating violence. A report from 2018 found that 41% of teens under 18 reported experiencing at least one type of intimate partner violence. The needs highlighted by the alarming statistics surrounding teen dating violence are what Parenting: It’s A Life (PIAL) works to address through its Teen Dating Violence Awareness (TDVA) program.

A recent study conducted by Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) Bethany McCurdy and others from CWRTP evaluated the effectiveness of PIAL’s TDVA. PIAL uses a TDV simulation obtained and adapted from the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 2017 to create awareness around TDV. PIAL delivers modules to youth in middle schools and high schools across Iowa and covers topics such as decisions and goals, peer pressure, and healthy relationships. Currently, the TDVS is a supplement to the module on healthy relationships and is an important addition to PIAL’s TDVA program.

Graduate Research Assistant Bethany McCurdy said, “From what we have learned, we know that PIAL's delivery of the TDVA program significantly increased youths' knowledge and was an effective method of addressing the existing gaps in knowledge.” Further, an updated version of PIAL’s TDVA program implemented in 2020 revealed students’ increased knowledge on how to help friends in unhealthy relationships, as well as identify sources of information about teen dating violence.

PIAL program coordinator Rhonda Evans said, “These report findings encourage us that students are recognizing unhealthy characteristics in their lives and others lives and have the resources and courage to take action to remove themselves or seek help.”

Evans also shared feedback she received from a teacher in Moulton, IA who said her students made comments about how much they learned and how much the simulation helped them understand unhealthy relationships. The teacher finished her statement with, “[T]hank you all for the work that you do.  It is so important and so often ignored.”

The following is taken from the study’s Conclusions and Recommendation: “The TDVA program, including the simulation In Their Shoes, proved to be an effective tool in teaching youth about various topics surrounding teen dating violence, as reported through students’ responses on retrospective surveys. After completing the PIAL TDVA program, youth reported significant improvement on their knowledge regarding recognizing unhealthy patterns and abuse in relationships. Furthermore, youth expressed a gain in knowledge on removing oneself or a friend from an unhealthy/abusive relationship.”

Evans commented on how the study’s findings will affect PIAL and the TDVA program moving forward. “Based on the successful findings of the student-reported data, we'd like to keep improving the program by creating more relevant stories and adding debrief activities such as a Courageous Conversations activity where students follow a prepared script and practice listening and sharing with a partner.”

If you would like to review the study’s findings, you can view a brief version here and the full version here.

Feng Zhao defends dissertation, to receive PhD.

Feng Zhao, a graduate research assistant with CWRTP, defended his doctoral dissertation in November 2020. He is set to complete his doctorate in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) with minors in Gerontology and Statistics from Iowa State University in December 2020. He will continue working with CWRTP after receiving his PhD.

“I cannot wait to bring the knowledge and skills I have gained to impact social change for good and to optimize the well-being of children, youth, and families,” Zhao reflected on his future with CWRTP.

CWRTP Director Dr. Janet Melby has worked closely with Zhao on various projects. She said, “Through his graduate assistantship with CWRTP, Feng Zhao has a demonstrated strong performance record that illustrates his technical, analytic, and writing expertise. His work is exceptionally well received by staff in state government—by both those who have an analytic data background and those who do not.”

Within CWRTP, Zhao frequently volunteers to research techniques and approaches relevant to a given project, and he contributes suggestions for consideration by team members. He has investigated and learned advanced statistical methods and machine learning algorithms. He has also studied statistical programming languages and participated in the Kaggle Data Science competition.

“These skills are essential to a data analyst in any setting,” explained Zhao.

Zhao has meticulously applied the research techniques he has studied in various projects. For example, he helped the Child Support Recovery Unit (CSRU) identify which child support payors were likely to stop making payments. He also helped CSRU prioritize paternity establishment cases and cases with child support due. Furthermore, he has applied his programming skills to solve issues quickly that would otherwise take a long time. For example, he generated a 24-month payment pattern for CSRU field workers’ reference and used Python programming to extract critical information from every payment pattern based on thousands of patterns.

Following is a list of projects that Feng either led or contributed significantly:

  • Arrears project
  • Customer survey
  • Outreach project
  • Time study (Toggl) project
  • Voluntary Paternity Affidavit Project
  • Data Analytic Tips & Tools
  • SPSS Basics for CSRU Staff
  • Paternity Establishment Project (PEP)
  • Payment Analysis Project
  • Confidentiality Training Evaluation
  • MAPPS Project
  • Pregnant and Parenting Teens Study
  • Positivity Promotes Positivity and Cultural Change (Px4C2)
  • Parenting: It’s A Life Clarke County Pilot
  • Mentoring of Junior Graduate Assistants
  • LooMiS
  • PIAL Qualtrics Survey (pre/post-knowledge checks)
  • Confidentiality
  • FUNdamentals Evaluation
  • Systematic Review of PIAL data

CWRTP involved in journal article authorship

Dr. Daeyong Lee, Dr. Carl Weems, Dr. Heather Rouse, Dr. Janet Melby, Feng Zhao, Kate Goudy, and others authored a journal article titled Targeted child support enforcement and its association with child support payments: Evidence from a program evaluation. The article will be published in the November 2020 (v. 118) issue of Children and Youth Services Review. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2020.105343