Faculty and Staff: Michelle Graef

Personal Information

Michelle and her husband have three young adult children. She particularly enjoys cooking (and eating) Italian specialties and anything that features chocolate as a main ingredient.


  • Northwestern University, B.A. (Psychology)
  • Iowa State University, M.S. (Industrial/Organizational Psychology)
  • Iowa State University, Ph.D. (Industrial/Organizational Psychology)

Areas of Interest

  • Organizational change and implementation science
  • Human resource management (job analysis, personnel selection, retention, turnover, performance management, supervision)
  • Program and training evaluation
  • CPS case decision-making
  • Community ethnography

CCFL Projects

  • Program Evaluation of the QIC-AG (2015 – 2016) Spaulding for Children has subcontracted with CCFL to conduct the self-evaluation of National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation (QIC-AG) www.qic-ag.org. This program evaluation will focus on the internal processes, outcomes and dissemination activities of the QIC-AG. The QIC-AG is funded by the DHHS Children’s Bureau.
  • Evaluation Consultation for the Capacity Building Center for States (2015–2016) The Children’s Bureau has funded the Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative to partner with state child welfare agencies, tribes and courts to assess and enhance child welfare capacity. CCFL has partnered with the Capacity Building Center for States to provide evaluation consultation to states engaged in intensive capacity building projects.  Five CCFL evaluators participate in this contract. For more information about the Child Welfare Capacity Building Center for States
    see https://capacity.childwelfare.gov/states/
  • Program Evaluation of Nebraska’s Title IV-E Child Welfare Demonstration Project (2013–2019) Process and outcome evaluation, as well as cost analysis for the State’s implementation of two statewide interventions: Alternative Response (AR), and Results Based Accountability (RBA). The evaluation utilizes an experimental design with random assignment to evaluate AR and a longitudinal time series design to evaluate RBA. For AR, the outcome evaluation will address differences between the experimental and control groups for a number of specific child and family outcomes, as well as a longitudinal examination of organizational outcomes such as worker job satisfaction and retention. For RBA, child and family outcomes will be assessed using both a retrospective and prospective cohort design to compare outcomes for entry cohorts prior to and after RBA implementation. The RBA evaluation will also track and measure contracted provider outcomes using a one-group, post-test design.
  • Midwest Child Welfare Implementation Center (2008–2013) The Midwest Child Welfare Implementation Center (MCWIC) was one of five Child Welfare Implementation Centers established by cooperative agreement with the U.S. DHHS ACF Children’s Bureau. Our role was to support and facilitate communication and networking across public child welfare systems in a 10-state region, and to assist States and Tribes to develop and execute multi-year strategic plans for sustainable systems change to improve the quality and effectiveness of child welfare services. Those implementation efforts were focused on organizational culture, administration, and direct practice with children and families. We provided intensive, on-site technical assistance, resources, and program evaluation to support statewide implementation projects conducted in Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
  • The Community Context of Rural and Urban Child Neglect (2001- 2005) This research study was conducted in partnership with Pennsylvania State University, funded by the National Institutes of Health. The study examined the community effects on the incidence, identification and response to child neglect across rural and urban communities. The focus was on rural and urban communities and between communities varying in levels of social organization. Included in our study of responses to child neglect was an examination of CPS case decision-making and the influence of community contextual factors on these decision processes.
  • NHHS Child Welfare Training (1992–2008) Director of team responsible for the development and validation of competency assessments (including written knowledge tests, skills demonstrations, evaluation of probationary work performance) for Nebraska's child welfare workers. Also responsible for training needs assessment, training program evaluation, development and validation of a personnel selection system for child welfare staff, statistical/methodological support for quality assurance case file reviews, and research and consultation on child welfare training and administration issues.

Selected Projects/Presentations/Publications

  • Armstrong, M. I., McCrae, J. S., Graef, M. I., Richards, T., Lambert, D., Bright, C. L., & Sowell, C. (2014). Development and initial findings of an implementation process measure for child welfare system change. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 8, 94-117.
  • Parry, C., & Graef, M. (2013, May). Measuring impact with a single case design: Evaluating training on the Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act. Pre-conference workshop at the Sixteenth Annual National Human Services Training Evaluation Symposium, Pittsburgh, PA.
  • Porter, L. L., Park-Zink, P., Gebhardt, A. R., Ells, M., & Graef, M. I. (2012). Best outcomes for Indian children. Child Welfare, 91(3), 135-156.
  • Graef, M., & Gilbert, K. (2012, May). Organizational culture and climate in Ohio’s Office of Families and Children. Invited presentation as part of National Child Welfare Resource Center on Organizational Improvement’s national webinar “Assessing and improving organizational culture and climate.” Available at http://muskie.usm.maine.edu/helpkids/tele_detail.htm
  • Paul, M., Graef, M., & Saathoff, K. (2012, May). Developing behavior-based rating scales for performance assessments. Skill-building workshop at the Fifteenth Annual National Human Services Training Evaluation Symposium, Berkeley, CA.
  • Graef, M., Gilbert, K., Yoder, C., & Thomas, D. (2012, April). Back to the future: Strategies for sustained innovation in a state-supervised, county- administered system. Presentation at the Eighteenth National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect, Washington, D.C.
  • McCrae, J., Graef, M., Armstrong, M., & DePanfilis, D. (2011, August). Developing a shared process measure for implementation projects in child welfare. Presentation at the Second National Child Welfare Evaluation Summit, Washington, D.C.
  • Graef, M. & Leake, R. (2011, June). Re-examining the role of professional development and training evaluation through an implementation science lens. Presentation at the Fourteenth Annual National Human Services Training Evaluation Symposium, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
  • Graef, M. I., Paul, M. E., & Myers, T. L. (2009). Recruiting and selecting child welfare staff. In Alwon, F., Steib, S., & Schmitt, B. (Eds.), On the Job in Child Welfare: Recruiting, Retaining, and Supporting a Competent Workforce. Washington, D.C.: Child Welfare League of America.
  • Paul, M. E., Graef, M. I., Robinson, E. J., & Saathoff, K. I. (2009). Managing performance. In Potter, C., & Brittain, C. (Eds.), Supervision in Child Welfare. New York: Oxford.
  • Goodvin, R., Johnson, D.R., Hardy, S.A., Graef, M.I., & Chambers, J.M. (2007). Development and confirmatory factor analysis of the Community Norms of Child Neglect Scale. Child Maltreatment, 12(1) , 68-85.
  • Graef, M. & Potter, M. (2007). Evaluating trainees' testifying behaviors. Training and Development in Human Services, 4, 161- 167.
  • Paul, M. & Graef, M. (2007). Strengthening child welfare supervision as a key practice change strategy. Curriculum developed for the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement, for use nationally as part of their training and technical assistance package for state child welfare agencies.
  • Graef, M. (2005, January). Discovering the best person for the job: Using structured hiring interviews. Invited presentation at the Western Regional Recruitment and Retention Project Institute, Denver, CO.
  • Graef, M., Potter, M., Wilson, L., & Caplan, P. (2004, November). Planning an organization's future: Creating systems to build leadership capacity. Workshop presentation at the Seventeenth Annual Conference of the National Staff Development and Training Association, Chicago, IL.
  • Graef, M., & Potter, M. (2004, June). Factors related to turnover and retention of child welfare staff: Research-based implications for practice. Invited presentation at the ACYF Children's Bureau Biennial Child Welfare Conference: Focus on Evidence-Based Practice, Washington, D.C.
  • Potter, M., & Graef, M. (2003, September). Building a solid foundation for successful hiring, training, and performance management. Workshop presentation at the Sixteenth Annual Conference of the National Staff Development and Training Association, Anaheim, CA.
  • Graef, M. (2002, November). Developing and implementing a realistic job preview. Workshop presentation at the Fifteenth Annual Conference of the National Staff Development and Training Association, Nashville, TN.
  • Graef, M. I., Rohde, T. L., & Potter, M. E. (2002). An intake in-basket test for child protective services trainees. Training and Development in Human Services, 2, 56-60.
  • Graef, M. I., & Potter, M. E. (2002). Alternative solutions to the child protective services staffing crisis: Innovations from industrial/organizational psychology. Protecting Children, 17(3), 18- 31. (This article is reprinted with permission from American Humane Association, http://www.americanhumane.org/
  • Graef, M. I., & Hill, E. (2000). Costing child protective services staff turnover. Child Welfare, 79 (5), 517-533.
Photo of Michelle Graef.