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Current Projects

Expanded Substance Abuse Treatment Capacity for Family Drug Courts: Iowa Court Collaborative Evaluation

Principal Investigators: Michelle Johnson Motoyama, PhD; Jody Brook, PhD; Becci Akin, PhD

Research Staff: Mindi Moses, GRA

The Iowa Court Collaborative (ICC) is a federally-funded project evaluating expanded substance abuse treatment capacities at five Iowa family drug courts.  The project includes implementation of two evidence-based parenting programs: Strengthening Families Program and Celebrating Families. This project partners with the Iowa Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee for Children’s Justice. Subcontract with Iowa State Court Administration. Primary funding from Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ($175,500 over 5 years for evaluation). The project began in 2012 and is expected to end in 2017.

Families and Communities Together

Principal Investigators: Jody Brook, PhD; Becci Akin, PhD

Research Staff: Margaret Lloyd, GRA

Families and Communities Together (FACT) is a federally-funded Regional Partnership Grant project designed to expand the family drug court model in Wapello County, Iowa, to include a system of service coordination for families with children ages 0-12 who are in, or are at risk of entering, foster care placement due to parental substance abuse.  This project partners with the Iowa Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee for Children’s Justice.  Subcontract with Iowa State Court Administration. Primary funding from DHHS, Administration for Children and Families (primary funding for $2,500,000; subcontract amount approximately $500,000 over 5 years). The project began in 2012 and is expected to end in 2017.

Kansas Adoption Permanency Project (KAPP)

Principal Investigators: Becci Akin, PhD; Alice Lieberman, PhD

Project Manager: Kim Bruns, MS. Ed

Research Staff: Aly Romero, GRA; Margaret Lloyd, GRA; Jackie Bhattarai, PhD Candidate

The KAPP project is a five-year, $2.5 million project with the principal purpose to implement a child welfare and mental/behavioral health system that: (1) uses evidence-informed and evidence-based interventions matched to the needs of children and families; and (2) promotes strong social-emotional well-being and permanency outcomes, especially adoption outcomes. Project KAPP will be sustainable statewide, disseminate practical and useful products to child welfare stakeholders, and serve as a model site for child welfare systems (especially those that are privatized);that seek to improve safety, permanency, and well-being. Our primary goal is the implementation of a comprehensive approach for ongoing trauma-informed, age-appropriate, functional and outcomes-oriented screening and assessment that will guide case planning throughout the life of a case, for all adoption-eligible Kansas children.

Mariscal, S. E., Akin, B. A., Lieberman, A. A., & Washington, D. (2015). Exploring the path from foster care to stable and lasting adoption: Perceptions of foster care alumni. Children and Youth Services Review, 55(0), 111-120. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2015.05.017

Kansas Intensive Permanency Project (KIPP)

Principal Investigators: Becci Akin, PhD; Thomas McDonald, PhD

Project Manager: Kim Bruns, MS. Ed

Research Staff: Jackie Bhattarai, GRA; Sachiko Gomi, PhD Candidate; Yueqi Yan, PhD Candidate

KIPP is one of six cooperative agreements funded in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children, Youth and Families’ Permanency Innovations Initiative (PII). PII is a five-year, multi-site demonstration project to improve permanency outcomes by targeting specific groups of children in foster care that experience the highest risk for long stays. PII aims to: (1) build the implementation and evaluation capacity of public child welfare systems, and (2) strengthen the child welfare evidence base for reducing long-term foster care. The initiative funded cooperative agreements between the ACYF and six grantees, each selecting a unique service approach to reducing long-term foster care.

In Kansas, KIPP is a statewide public-private partnership between the University of Kansas (KU) School of Social Welfare, Kansas Department for Children and Families, and Kansas’ private providers of foster care (KVC Behavioral Healthcare, Inc. and St. Francis Community and Family Services, Inc.). As a demonstration grant, KIPP is using a randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of Parent Management Training, Oregon Model (PMTO) on well-being and permanency outcomes for families of children with serious emotional disturbance (SED). The project began in 2010 and will continue through 2015.

Related Publications:

Akin, B. A., Brook, J., & Lloyd, M. (in press). Co-occurrence of parental substance abuse and child serious emotional disturbance: Understanding multiple pathways to improved child and family outcomes. Child Welfare.

Akin, B. A., Bryson, S. A., McDonald, T. P., & Walker, S. (2012). Defining a target population at high-risk of long-term foster care: Barriers to permanency for families of children with severe emotional disturbances. Child Welfare, 91(6), 79-101.

Akin, B. A., Bryson, S. A., Testa, M. F., Blase, K. A., McDonald, T. P., & Melz, H. (2013). Usability testing, initial implementation, and formative evaluation of an evidence-based intervention: Lessons from a demonstration project to reduce long-term foster care. Evaluation and Program Planning, 41(0), 19-30. doi: 10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2013.06.003

Akin, B. A., Mariscal, S. E., Bass, L., McArthur, V. B., Bhattarai, J., & Bruns, K. (2014). Implementation of an evidence-based intervention to reduce long-term foster care: Practitioner perceptions of key challenges and supports. Children and Youth Services Review, 46(0), 285-293. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2014.09.006

Akin, B. A., Testa, M. F., McDonald, T. P., Melz, H., Blase, K. A., & Barclay, A. (2014). Formative evaluation of an evidence-based intervention to reduce long-term foster care: Assessing readiness for summative evaluation. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 1-29. doi: 10.1080/15548732.2014.939250

Bryson, S. A., Akin, B. A., Blase, K. A., McDonald, T. P., & Walker, S. (2014). Selecting an EBP to reduce long-term foster care: Lessons from a university-child welfare agency partnership. Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work, 11(1-2), 208-221. doi: 10.1080/15433714.2013.850325

Kansas Serves Substance Affected Families (KSSAF)

Principal Investigators: Tom McDonald, PhD; Susana Mariscal, PhD

Project Manager: Kaela Byers, PhD, LMSW

Research Staff: Yueqi Yan, PhD, GRA; Kiley Liming, PhD Student, GRA; Tina Woods, Student Assistant; Cali Welch, Student Assistant; Kelsey Smith, Student Assistant

The KSSAF project is a five-year, $2.9 million project funded through a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services administration for Children and Families Regional Partnership Grant. Regional Partnership Grants seek to promote interagency collaboration to enhance services for substance-affected families, with a specific focus of improving safety, well-being, and permanency for children. KSSAF is conducted in partnership between the KU School of Social Welfare, the Kansas Department for Children and Families, the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, and the state’s two foster care agencies: KVC Kansas and Saint Francis Community Services Inc. KSSAF serves families with children ages zero to three who are in out-of-home placements due to reasons associated with parental substance use. KSSAF is implementing a randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of the Strengthening Families Program: Birth to Three (SFP B-3) on safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes for children and families. The project began in 2014 and will continue through 2019.

Parent Support and Training (PST)

Principal Investigator: Thomas McDonald, PhD

Research Staff: Sharah Davis-Groves, LMSW; Kathy Byrnes, MA, LMSW, RN; April Patton; Lori Daly

The Parent Support and Training (PST) Team is engaged in two projects funded by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services to promote family engagement in children’s mental health care. The first is a multi-site program evaluation to investigate the intervention effects of the PST Practice Protocol in relationship to caregiver’s perceived strain, social support, parenting strategies, family empowerment, and home stability through structural equation modeling. Specifically, we hypothesize that when the PST Practice Protocol is carried out with high fidelity and when team practices are family-driven, parents will experience decreased strain, enhanced social support, enhanced parenting strategies, and increased empowerment, which all mediate home stability outcomes for youth. The second project focuses on training and technical assistance supports to implement the PST Practice Protocol with high fidelity.

Strengthening Families to Buffer Toxic Stress

Principle Investigators:  Kaela Byers, PhD, LMSW

Co-Principle Investigators: Thomas McDonald, PhD; David Lindeman, PhD

The Strengthening Families to Buffer Toxic Stress study seeks to promote healthy social-emotional development and long-term well-being for children experiencing adverse early environments. The purpose of this study, which began in 2012 in partnership with the KU Lifespan Institute at Parsons, is to: 1) develop a screening tool validated by a neurobiological marker of stress to enhance early identification of children ages zero to three who are at increased risk of developing a toxic stress response and negative long-term outcomes as a result of adverse environmental factors; and 2) pilot test a biobehavioral intervention (Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-Up; Dozier et al., 2006) intended to buffer the effects of this stress among young children in order to prevent changes to brain architecture and regulatory system development that result in negative health and mental health outcomes throughout the lifespan, while also building child and family capacity to cope with and withstand the effects of an adverse early environment. Phase 1 of this project was conducted with support from the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services and in collaboration with Early Head Start programs in northeast and southeast Kansas. Phase 2 of this project is being conducted with support from the United Methodist Health Ministries Fund and in collaboration with Early Head Start and Smart Start sites in southeast and western Kansas.

The Oklahoma Partnership Initiative - 2 (OPI-2)

Principal Investigators: Jody Brook, PhD; Becci Akin, PhD

Research Staff: Yeuqi Yan, GRA; Margaret Lloyd, GRA

This project is a continuation of the Oklahoma Partnership Initiative, which is a federally-funded project to address the risks to children associated with parental substance abuse. The primary goals include improving outcomes for children in, or at risk of entering, foster care by continued utilization of a universal substance abuse screen in the Oklahoma child welfare system. Primary funding from DHHS, Administration for Children and Families (primary funding for $3,250,000; subcontract amount approximately $500,000 over 5 years). The project began in 2012 and will end in 2017.

Understanding How Formal and Informal Support of New and Expectant Fathers Impacts Family Violence Related Outcomes

Principal Investigator: Juliana Carlson, PhD

This phenomenological study aims to explore the perceived relationship between formal and informal support and the experience of the transition to fatherhood for men who have engaged in violence against their female partners. This study will use in-depth interviews with men to retrospectively examine their beliefs about formal and informal support, attitudes toward help-seeking behaviors, as well as their perception of family violence during their transition to fatherhood. The study is funded by a New Faculty General Research Program Grant ($8,000) and will run from August 2014 to June 2016.


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