Conceptual Frameworks for Intentional Approaches to Improving Economic Security and Child Well-being

Publication Date: February 2, 2018
Conceptual Frameworks for Intentional Approaches to Improving Economic Security and Child Well-Being

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The Exploration of Integrated Approaches to Supporting Child Development and Improving Family Economic Security project investigated the design and evaluability of approaches to alleviating poverty that address the needs of low-income parents and children. The project examined programs that deliberately combine services that are intended to support both child development and parental economic security. Recent advances in implementation science and other fields of research can provide key insights for new programs that may prove more effective than similar programs designed in the 1980s and 1990s. The project was funded by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research and Northwestern University.


The project provided ACF, program designers, researchers, and other stakeholders with information to consider for future investments in programs intended to meet the needs of both children and parents. It involved several activities:

  • Consultation with experts informed a targeted literature review and a scan of currently operating programs.
  • Mathematica identified and described program models gleaned from diverse programs across the country and field work with four programs.
  • Mathematica and its consultants from Northwestern University developed conceptual frameworks to inform ACF’s future work on a program that, by design, integrates services for low-income adults and children.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • The first conceptual framework, a change model, depicts the populations served by integrated programs, the services offered, and the short- and longer-term outcomes that can be expected. This model can help programs and evaluators to jointly define potential target populations, services, and short- and longer term outcomes for parents, children, and families.
  • The change model could also be used by programs as a model for their own conceptual framework, which they would then use to guide how they measure the effects of services on parents and children.
  • The second conceptual framework shows the development of partnerships in programs that serve parents and children. It could help staff to define and discuss opportunities for strengthening and deepening partnerships.
  • Together, the pair of frameworks could help stakeholders of all types to structure plans for data collection that could help programs monitor progress, identify areas that need improvement, and evaluate results for clients.


  • A targeted literature review, scan to identify programs operating as of January 2016, consultation with experts, and field work to learn more about selected programs;
  • Development of conceptual frameworks to inform program design and research;
  • Assessment of existing research on programs that provide economic security services to adults along with services to children up through age 12; and
  • An assessment of opportunities for future research and evaluation on such programs.


Sommer, Teresa Eckrich, P. Lindsay ChaseLansdale, Emily Sama-Miller, Christine Ross, and Scott Baumgartner (2018). Conceptual Frameworks for Intentional Approaches to Improving Economic Security and Child Wellbeing, OPRE Report #2018-03, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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