Integrated Approaches to Supporting Child Development and Improving Family Economic Security

Prepared for
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families

Low-income families with young children often face barriers that can affect a child's development. Addressing the needs of low-income parents and children through intentionally combined sets of activities holds promise for reducing the transmission of poverty across generations. Developments in human capital theory and human development theory guided programs designed in the 1980s and 1990s, but more recent advances in neuroscience and implementation science provide key insights for new programs that may prove more effective. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, is funding research on the research basis, design, and evaluability of programs that combine services for parents, children, and families in innovative ways.

This project provided evidence-based research to assist ACF, program designers, and other stakeholders when they are considering investments in programs for families and children. The project focused on economic security programs for parents that also provide child development and well-being services for children from birth to age 12. Mathematica conducted the project in partnership with researchers from the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

A targeted literature review explored the theory and research evidence behind these programs, and a scan identified and cataloged contemporary programs of this type in the United States. Through additional field work, consisting of visits to six programs, the project gathered more information on program theory, context, implementation, and outcomes. The team developed a conceptual framework and model of partnership among organizations focused on parent- and child-oriented services. The project identified programs that are ready for evaluation, as well as those that require additional time or development.