2020 was a challenging year. Like many others, we in OPRE managed concerns about our families’, our friends’, and our own health; mourned losses; and adjusted to working from home and extra caregiving responsibilities. We also handled interruptions or adjustments in many data collection efforts and several conferences. I applaud the resilience and creativity of OPRE staff and our partners as we adjusted studies to explore the impacts and implications of the pandemic, and embraced our new virtual reality.
Throughout all that 2020 brought us, we maintained our focus on building objective empirical evidence to inform human services.
We are excited about releasing our first-ever ACF Research and Evaluation Agenda, highlighting research and evaluation activities across select ACF program areas through fiscal year 2020. ACF has been pursuing learning agendas and related activities at multiple levels. At the broadest level, ACF contributes to the HHS multi-year evidence plan and HHS annual evaluation plan required by the Foundations of Evidence-Based Policy Making Act. At a more focused level, OPRE and many ACF offices are working together to develop detailed learning agendas related to specific ACF programs. Our ACF Research and Evaluation agenda draws upon and includes selected examples from those more focused efforts.
The five principles of ACF’s evaluation policy — rigor, relevance, transparency, independence, and ethics — continue to guide our work. For example, the principles of relevance and transparency drive the way that OPRE thinks about disseminating our work to make it more accessible, engaging, and useful. In 2020, OPRE sponsored over 150 publications. We’re proud to have expanded our dissemination work in the last year by joining LinkedIn Visit disclaimer page , launching the new OPRE Insights blog, redesigning our newsletter, and creating a new multimedia page on our website. We registered more than two million impressions on Twitter Visit disclaimer page alone in 2020!
For the 8th year in a row, Results for America recognized ACF as a top-performing federal agency in the areas of data, evidence, and evaluation.
Our work this past year covered topics from early childhood and child welfare to self-sufficiency, welfare and employment, strengthening families, healthy marriage, responsible fatherhood, youth services, and data improvement and interoperability. I’m proud to share some specific highlights of OPRE’s 2020 work in all of these areas.
Self-Sufficiency, Welfare, and Employment
- Launched the Pathways to Work Evidence Clearinghouse Visit disclaimer page
- Pivoted from an in-person Research and Evaluation Conference on Self-Sufficiency Visit disclaimer page to a virtual one
- Supported Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) programs in adapting evaluation procedures to remote operations in light of COVID-19 restrictions
- Released three-year impact findings for HPOG 1.0 programs and presented HPOG 2.0 short-term impact findings
- Released impact findings on the effectiveness of TANF program job search services
- Released a synthesis of findings from evaluations of 13 subsidized employment programs
Early Childhood and Child Welfare
- Switched to a virtual format to host the biennial National Research Conference on Early Childhood Visit disclaimer page , which set new registration records
- Began data collection to follow up the workforce surveys from the 2019 National Survey of Early Care and Education, which will provide insights about how programs are weathering the pandemic
- Released a compendium of measures on Competencies of Infant and Toddler Caregivers and Teachers
- Released ratings for 28 new programs and services reviewed by the Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse Visit disclaimer page
- Completed multiple large-scale data collection efforts focused on how Head Start programs are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic through the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey, American Indian/Alaska Native Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey, and Child Care Early Education Policy Research Analysis project
- Released several publications from the American Indian Alaska Native Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey
- Published a brief on the link between foster care runaway episodes and human trafficking
- Released findings from the National Descriptive Study of Early Head Start - Child Care Partnerships
Strengthening Families, Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood; and Youth Services
- Released the first major update to the standards and procedure Visit disclaimer page s for the Home Visiting Evidence of Effectiveness (HomVEE) review since HomVEE began in 2009
- Released findings from a study of the home visiting workforce, including information about staff backgrounds, career paths, and professional development needs and experiences; and initiated a new project that will examine professional well-being and use of reflective supervision in the home visiting workforce
- Released a series of briefs that share the story of the Tribal MIECHV grantees’ rigorous evaluations and provide recommendations for those who oversee evaluations with tribal communities or are seeking to support evaluations with tribal populations
- Released a range of research-based briefs for healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood practitioners on topics such as addressing intimate partner violence, developing strong recruitment practices, and encouraging engagement
- Released a final report, brief, and snapshot reporting short-term outcome findings from an evaluation of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and loveisrespect help line
- Released a number of products from a collaboration between ACF and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health on issues related to sexual risk avoidance and cessation, including a publication on conceptual models for sexual risk avoidance and cessation
Data Interoperability and Learning
- Made it easier to find data for analysis by releasing two Compendia of administrative data sources that are related to ACF programs and outcomes and creating a single point of entry for hundreds of OPRE’s archived data sets
- Developed data analysis skills and infrastructure in eight state TANF programs, including conducting research on topics that are relevant to each state
- Put infrastructure in place to support Evidence Act implementation across ACF. Two newly awarded flexible support contracts are designed to help ACF continue to advance a culture of evidence and modernize ACF’s data governance practices
- Supported state improper payment detection and recovery efforts; held the first PARIS State Training Conference since 2016; and in August--for the second time ever--all states participated in the quarterly PARIS match
- Began to examine important ethical and practical issues associated with the use of artificial intelligence specific to the health and human services sectors
In these times, as in more ordinary times, our motivation is to improve human services programs, and to better the lives of the children, families, and individuals that ACF serves. We’d love to have you join us as we head into 2021, so please sign up for our newsletter and connect with us on Twitter Visit disclaimer page , Facebook Visit disclaimer page , Instagram Visit disclaimer page , and our new LinkedIn Visit disclaimer page page!
Thank you, and best wishes for a safe and healthy new year.