OPRE and our research partners are working hard to capture information about the pandemic-related experiences of ACF programs and the families they serve. In July, we shared how OPRE was Responding to Challenges and Embracing Learning Opportunities from COVID-19, including the three overarching questions that frame our pandemic-related learning:
- How does the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery efforts affect ACF programs and service delivery?
- How do current and potential recipients of ACF services experience the COVID-19 pandemic?
- How do OPRE technical assistance efforts contribute to evidence building and program improvement during the COVID-19 pandemic?
In the last year, over 60 OPRE projects planned or began collecting and analyzing information relevant to our learning questions.
Examples of how our projects are answering these learning questions include:
How do the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery efforts affect ACF programs and service delivery?
- Evaluation of Employment Coaching for TANF and Related Populations
This multisite randomized controlled trial of employment coaching interventions interviewed program staff at its evaluation sites regarding decisions, changes, successes, challenges, and lessons learned in responding to COVID-19.
- Assessing the Implementation and Cost of High Quality Early Care and Education (ECE-ICHQ)
In 2017, this study collected cost and implementation data from providers in 30 ECE centers, and is returning to those centers to see how their costs and practices changed in the pandemic. The team is also analyzing existing data to understand pre-COVID practices that can inform recovery, such as the fixed versus variable costs of delivering services.
- Strengthening Relationship Education and Marriage Services (STREAMS)
This multisite impact and process evaluation is conducting a case study to understand how the shift to virtual programming due to COVID-19 affected program operations and services in one healthy marriage and relationship education program.
How do current and potential recipients of ACF services experience the COVID-19 pandemic?
- The Transitional Living Program (TLP) Youth Outcomes Study
This longitudinal study of runaway and homeless youth served through the Transitional Living Program is collecting information about the impact of COVID-19 on youth employment, education, and housing goals and services.
- National Survey of Early Care and Education of 2019 - COVID 19 Follow Up Study (NSECE 2019)
This nationally-representative study characterizes the use and availability of early care and education. The COVID-19 follow-up will capture information on the effects of the pandemic in programs serving low-income children and families. Analysis will include how these effects differ across different community characteristics and the demographic makeup of families and children the programs serve.
- Next Generation of Enhanced Employment Strategies (NextGen)
This study is collecting information on the experiences of low-wage workers during COVID-19 through in-depth interviews with participants in programs being evaluated under this descriptive and impact study. This effort will provide insights about how to meet low-wage workers’ needs during an ongoing or future public health emergency. The team also added items to study instruments to capture changes to program operations and challenges to employment for study participants.
- Mother and Infant Home Visiting Program Evaluation Long-Term Follow-Up (MIHOPE-LT)
This longitudinal study of participants in home visiting programs funded by the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program conducted a survey and qualitative interviews with families to learn about their experiences during COVID-19. This information will be combined with extensive pre-pandemic and post-pandemic data to enable analysis of changes in families before and after COVID-19.
How do OPRE technical assistance efforts contribute to evidence building and program improvement during the pandemic?
- The TANF Data Collaborative Visit disclaimer page
Eight states in the TANF Data Collaborative Pilot initiative are working to incorporate new data analyses into the administration of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. In several sites, the pandemic brought statewide hiring freezes or pulled team members away from their regular duties to respond to the pandemic. The TDC Pilots states are working together as a learning community and with pilot coaches to push projects forward despite the challenges posed by COVID-19.
- Tribal Home Visiting Evaluation Institute 3 (TEI 3)
This project provided technical assistance to Tribal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting programs on how to move to virtual data collection for required performance measures. The project included coaching on how to conduct Continuous Quality Improvement projects in a virtual setting.
- Child Care and Early Education Policy and Research Analyses (CCEEPRA 2020)
This project supports expert consultation focusing on child care and early education services. It is convening an expert panel that involves researchers, policy makers, economists, and other key experts in the field to develop a research agenda focusing on COVID 19, including the key questions and data sources relevant to the field.
Despite the challenges to our work posed by COVID-19, OPRE studies, projects, and conferences have quickly pivoted to take advantage of learning opportunities. By organizing our work around a set of learning questions, we are able to track the production of pandemic-related information, and share with one another about challenges encountered and lessons learned in this challenging time.