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:

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.

ISU-CSRU contract successfully completes first training on new LMS

In the fall of 2019, a new learning management system (LMS) was implemented to provide training as part of the ISU-CSRU annual contract. The system was nicknamed, LooMiS (the mascot pictured above was given the same name). The first major training completed by child support workers was the annual confidentiality training.

Confidentiality training is required for everyone associated with the Child Support Recovery Unit. This year a test-out option was implemented for workers and contractors who had previously taken the course at least two times while employed in the Child Support program. At the end of the training, workers completed a survey related to their experience with the training.

Most respondents reported a positive experience with the confidentiality training, and this is especially true for training with the test-out option. More specifically, most respondents reported that the knowledge gained from the training could be applied to their work on a daily or weekly basis.

Overall, most respondents reported positive experience with LooMiS, the new learning management system. About 80% of respondents found LooMiS to be better than the previous learning management system. The great majority of them found LooMiS easy to use. Some respondents experienced technical issues when using LooMiS, but most issues were successfully resolved.

If you would like to read more about the survey results regarding LooMiS or the Confidentiality and Safeguarding training, click on the links below:

LooMiS Report

Confidentiality Report

Dr. Lee assists with PIAL improvements

Parenting: It’s a Life recently conducted an interview with Dr. Daeyong Lee, Assistant Professor in Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University. Dr. Lee first became familiar with the PIAL program in April 2019 when PIAL graduate student, Maneesha, asked him to assist with the PIAL research process. Immediately his interest was piqued because PIAL is, "one of the few programs existing at Iowa State that provides education around co-parenting, the costs of raising a child, budgeting, establishing paternity, and child support education.” As a member of the advising faculty of the CWRTP team, Dr. Lee has been involved in three major intervention programs for the state including Parenting: It’s a Life.

Much of the work Dr. Lee has done for PIAL has revolved around improving our survey methods. This included adding a pre-visit survey before students experience the PIAL module. “In the past, PIAL collected both pre- and post-visit knowledge about teen parenting all at once after the lectures, which resulted in recall bias. My suggestion addressed the recall bias problem and helped the PIAL team precisely evaluate how the lectures affect students’ knowledge about teen parenting.” The new pre-visit survey is a two minute e-survey that is sent out a few days before PIAL comes to the classroom. The information we receive from these surveys make it much easier to analyze how much knowledge students gain from PIAL. Maneesha, who worked closely with Dr. Lee, commented, “These surveys took progressive steps under his guidance. While I was working on survey development, he provided insightful knowledge about how to develop surveys to answer possible research questions in the future.”

When asked what excites him most about the PIAL program, Dr. Lee mentioned providing “results [from] the effectiveness of the program relying more on research-based intervention set-up analysis” and then suggesting to “policy makers to adopt and expand this program to nationwide in the near future.” Thank you, Dr. Lee, for all your help with the PIAL program!

HDFS Poster Symposium-Fall 2019

On December 4, 2019, the Department of Human Development and Family Studies held its Fall Research Poster Session. CWRTP Graduate Assistants presented their research from the 2019 Fall semester. Below is a list of posters and pictures from the event.

Depression and Cognitive Decline of older adults in the Transition to Widowhood

Authors: Feng Zhao, Janet Melby, & Daeyong Lee

2019 Fall
Feng Zhao-Depression and Cognitive Decline of older adults in the Transition to Widowhood

Parenting: It's a Life - Clarke County School District Evaluation Plan

Authors: Mikaela Scozzafava, Maneesha Gammana-Liyanage, Jo Ann Lee, Kate Goudy, Rhonda Evans, & Janet Melby

2019 Fall
Mikaela Scozzafava & Maneesha Gammana-Liyanage-Parenting: It's a Life - Clarke County School District Evaluation Plan

A Comparative Analysis of Paternity Establishment Outcomes

Authors: Isha Chawla, Feng Zhao, Janet Melby, & Daeyong Lee

Financial Aliteracy: Measurement and Connection to Financial Behaviors and Economic Pressure

Authors: Isha Chawla, Jonathan Fox, & Suzanne Bartholomae

2019 Fall
Isha Chawla-A Comparative Analysis of Paternity Establishment Outcomes & Financial Literacy: Measurement and Connection to Financial Behaviors and Economic Pressure

CWRTP 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 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.