VPA Hospital Survey Report

CWRTP Graduate Assistant Alison White recently completed a research report related to the Voluntary Paternity Affidavit (VPA) hospital survey results, VPA rejection data and hospital score cards. The research Alison completed provided a clear path forward for targeted outreach to hospitals.

Read: VPA Hospital Survey Report - December 2022

Research Reports for ADMYRE Program Complete

CWRTP Graduate Assistant, Mikaela Scozzafava recently completed research reports for the ADMYRE program. Scozzafava analyzed data from spring 2021 from in-person PIAL facilitated ADMYRE offerings to schools across the state. These are the first research reports for ADMYRE. There will be additional follow-up analysis and reports as more data is collected.

You may review each report with the following links:

Brief Report

Long Report

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.

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

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.

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.

Arrears 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.

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.

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 assistants present Shane Feng Emily Carlee