Center for Healthy Children


Dissemination and Outreach Core

The Dissemination & Outreach Core will support TCCMS researchers by translating discoveries, developing and testing solutions through collaborative partnerships, and packaging findings and solutions for multiple audiences. Specifically, the DOC’s translation, engagement, and packaging efforts will form the foundation for the TCCMS Research-to-Policy Bridge scaffolded by the Admin Core. With this bridge in place, the DOC will support partnerships between scientists and policy-makers to accelerate research on child maltreatment and support evidence- based policy.

Administrative Data Accelerator

Located in the College of Health and Human Development’s Prevention Research Center, and supported by the Social Science Research Institute, The Penn State Administrative Data Accelerator collaborates with interdisciplinary teams to aqcuire and securely store administrative data to inform policy and improve lives.

The Data Accelerator operates a NIST 800-171 compliant enclave, has Authority to Operate (ATO) status at Penn State, and over 109 security controls in alignment with Penn State Policy AD95. The Data Accelerator meets, and exceeds, requirements for storage of data protected by HIPAA, FERPA, CAPTA, and CHRIA regulations. 

Community-based Participatory Research

Pennsylvania Time Use Study

Start Date and Timeline:

Conceptualized in 2016, actual work began in January 2017 when data access was obtained

Overview:

Child Welfare System (CWS) caseworkers tend to experience high workloads and more demanding work environments than other social services employees, factors which contribute to worker burnout and chronically high turnover. Numerous settled lawsuits have alleged unreasonable workloads in state child welfare systems (e.g., Dwayne B. v. Snyder [Michigan]; M.D. v. Abbott [Texas]; Jeanine B. v. Walker [Wisconsin]), and many states struggle to determine appropriate caseloads and to obtain the necessary funding to bring caseload sizes down. One barrier to caseload reforms is that the number or composition of cases that constitutes a manageable workload is not based on transparent and replicable empirical analysis. Existing approaches to time use estimation raise serious concerns about validity, generalizability, cost, and replicability. Moreover, the diversity of cases handled by CWS may mean that the time for completing a ‘typical’ case is not an especially useful metric. This study aims to generate a viable approach to prospective case‐specific time use estimation through the use of case management records.

Objectives and Impact:

The main objectives of the study are to quantify case activities (travel, face‐to‐ face contacts, collateral communications, and data entry) for child welfare cases to ascertain: (1) the average time expenditure per case per unit of time; and (2) case‐specific sources of variation in time usage within and across counties. The intended end product is a parsimonious prediction equation that can prospectively estimate the time needed to complete a case.

 

Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative

Start Date and Timeline:

1/1/18 – 12/31/20

Overview:

The Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative is a prevention trial involving four selected counties, each implementing a series of three county-level programs. The prevention of childhood sexual abuse is complex and involves the effort of several sectors within each community. A universal prevention strategy, involving three selected programs, will target and train distinct groups who are important agents in protecting children from sexual abuse. The three programs are:

Stewards of Children (to be implemented with the community at large) promotes awareness, education and skills to adults in the community. This component also includes a media campaign designed to deliver educational and awareness content at a broader level through radio ads, social media posts, and mass mailings.

Safe Touches (to be implemented with second graders) delivers curriculum to elementary school‐ aged students within the classroom setting. The curriculum teaches children about healthy boundaries, that it is okay to say “no,” and how to get help from adults.

SafeCare, Incredible Years, etc., (to be implemented with parents) are parent‐focused components in which a sexual abuse prevention curricula will be added to the evidence‐based parent education programs that are currently in use to teach parenting skills. The added sexual abuse prevention curriculum will teach parents about healthy sexual development, communicating with children about sexual boundaries, ensuring safety, and obtaining help and resources.

To measure the potency of our intervention strategy, we will measure the effect in several ways. First, we will insert knowledge and awareness questions into a statewide random digit dialing survey conducted by The Pennsylvania State University Center for Survey Research. This will provide information about the saturation of our prevention work in intervention counties and non‐intervention counties. Second, we will conduct pre‐ and post‐intervention assessments with a 6‐ and 12‐month follow‐up among all intervention recipients (e.g., adults in the community, second graders, and at‐risk parents). This will advance intervention science as none of the evidence‐based programs selected have such a long follow‐up period. Third, we will examine administrative data from statewide data systems to assess the fluctuations in reports and substantiations of child sexual abuse at different stages of implementation.

Objectives and Impact:

The objective is to coordinate county efforts to collectively address child sexual abuse prevention and document the effectiveness of each individual EBP as well as the impact of the overall strategy. The overarching impact of this prevention pilot is to develop a model approach that other counties, regions, or states could implement feasibly and sustainably, thereby impacting child sexual abuse rates within Pennsylvania and across the nation.

 

Incidence Rates and Risk Factors for Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) in Rural and Urban Counties in Pennsylvania

Start Date and Timeline:

January 2018‐ January 2019

Overview:

This analysis of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) in PA will use Children and Youth Services case management data from 2016‐ 2017 to investigate CSEC in rural and urban settings. This study will provide evidence on the scope of CSEC in PA and differences in risk factors among rural and urban victims.

Objectives and Impact:

The main objectives of the CSEC Study are to estimate the incidence of CSEC in rural and urban areas among CYS‐involved youth. The study also seeks to classify cases identified as involving sexual exploitation in to one of 10 established typologies and identify individual, family, and environmental risk factors associated with specific types of CSEC in PA rural and urban counties. The study will result in a report of findings to the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, CYS state leadership, and key stakeholders to provide information to help guide legislation, inform optimal prevention efforts and guide identification and service provision to address CSEC across the state.

 

The Pennsylvania Sexual Assault Forensic Examination and Telehealth (SAFE‐T) Center

Start Date and Timeline: Planning phase 1: January, 2017‐ present

Overview:

The Pennsylvania Sexual Assault Forensic Examination and Telehealth (SAFE‐T) Center at The Pennsylvania State University (PSU) was established with a planning grant from the Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime in 2017. The goal of the Center is to enhance access to high quality sexual assault examinations for adolescents and adults living in underserved areas.

Objectives and Impact:

Phase 1 of the SAFE‐ T Center involved the following goals to prepare for implementation of expert Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) live exam support to less experienced SANE nurses conducting forensic examinations in rural communities:

  1. Established a statewide advisory board to advise and guide SAFE‐T Center leadership about how best to create a sustainable statewide system which will establish a stable cadre of well‐supported and well‐ trained SANEs throughout the state
  2. Established the Virtual Teleforensic Program to provide 24/7 expert exam consultation to underserved pilot sites
  3. Established 4 rural pilot sites
  4. Created training curriculum on advanced topics to be delivered to SANEs through telemedicine
  5. Created streamlined, secure, and fiscally responsible telehealth systems for deployment in rural and underserved communities
  6. Developed measures to evaluate program effectiveness

Phase 2 of SAFE- T Center implementation will focus on:

  1. Implementation of the core objectives outlined in Phase 1
  2. Development of a hybrid model (online and hands‐on) 40 hour SANE‐A training
  3. Creating a business and sustainability plan for the SAFE‐T Center
  4. Growing and sustaining a forensic workforce
  5. Conducting rigorous cost‐benefit and controlled trial research to evaluate impact of telehealth consultation on forensic exam quality

The SAFE‐T Center will demonstrate an effective model for developing a compelling statewide network of SANE‐led and SANE‐sustained response that is victim‐centered and results in high‐quality, forensically defensible care.

 

General Protective Services (GPS) Outcome Study

Start Date and Timeline:

To be determined

Overview:

Pennsylvania’s General Protective Services (GPS) system represents an alternative response to incidents of maltreatment that do not rise to the level of child abuse, as defined by State statute. These incidents are primarily comprised of allegations of non‐serious injury and neglect. GPS‐referred cases may receive one of three responses: (1) screen‐out/no response; (2) low‐risk response – referral to community agency for assistance; and (3) high‐risk response – investigation and assessment, development and implementation of family service plan.

Objectives and Impact: 

The primary aim of the study is to investigate the effects of involvement with the GPS system on subsequent contact with GPS or CPS and subsequent out‐of‐home placement; and to assess the effects of post‐GPS services on child behavioral health and wellbeing outcomes. By leveraging statewide Child Welfare Information System (CWIS) data, the GPS Study will identify child, case, and county‐level predictors of GPS response track and examine strategies to construct GPS‐based comparison groups based on response (e.g., instrumental variable and/or propensity score methods). Comparative analyses will examine a range of outcomes including: post‐contact service utilization, subsequent system contact (e.g., new referrals to GPS and/or CPS, foster care placement), indicators of child behavioral health and wellbeing.

The GPS Study will provide evidence on whether, how, and for whom the GPS system response links families to appropriate services, prevents subsequent system contact, and promotes child health and wellbeing outcomes for system‐involved youth – guiding State quality improvement efforts and informing development of evidence‐based practices and policies to improve GPS services.

 

Impact of Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN) Child‐focused Services on Child Permanency and Post‐Permanency Transitions

Start Date and Timeline:

Target date is January 2018 with initial 12‐month timeframe

Overview:

The Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN) is a partnership among the Department of Human Services (DHS), the Pennsylvania Adoption Exchange, public and private adoption agencies and other organizations and stakeholders (e.g., the courts, the legal community, and foster and adoptive parents). SWAN serves children in CYS custody, working with county agencies to support permanency efforts on behalf of children and families. The SWAN study is a collaborative study with the Network, SWAN, and DHS to study the effects of child‐focused permanency services, managed by SWAN, on adoption, permanency, and post‐permanency outcomes. Child‐focused services include child preparation, child‐specific recruitment, placement, and post‐ permanency services. The study will leverage multiple administrative data systems, linking SWAN case records to child welfare and other data sources.

Objectives and Impact:

Specific research objectives examined include determining the uptake and utilization rates of SWAN child services, as well as individual, case, and county-level factors that influence variation in these rates. These factors will help to determine feasibility of comparing outcomes for youth receiving SWAN services to a matched comparison group of youth who did not receive child‐focused services through SWAN. This comparative group design will then permit the study team to evaluate effects of SWAN child preparation and placement services on achieving permanency through adoption or guardianship, as well as to look at post-permanency outcomes (e.g., placement stability or disruption). In addition, the SWAN study will examine effects of SWAN services on short‐ and long‐term physical, mental, and behavioral health outcomes for youth.

Producing evidence on whether, how, and for whom child‐focused services affect the timely attainment of permanency—and whether such services promote positive adjustment among youth regardless of permanency outcome—will aid state quality improvement efforts and inform development of evidence‐based practices and policies to improve adoption services.

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