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Research, Training and Technical Assistance in the Service of Children and Families

Silohuettes of children holding hands The mission of the Center on Children, Families and the Law (CCFL) is to enhance the well-being of children, youth, and families through research, policy analysis, education and community service. The Center's faculty and staff bring a unique and comprehensive array of educational backgrounds and skills to bear on issues related to the well-being of children, youth, families, and the agencies that serve them. Technical assistance and capacity-building activities for human service agencies are available in nine interrelated areas of expertise.

Program Evaluation

Human service agencies use program evaluation as a strategic tool to gauge program effectiveness and guide program improvement. Outcomes for children and families can be enhanced through the use of ongoing and recursive evaluation based on process and outcome data. CCFL provides independent, third-party program evaluations for a wide variety of community and human service agencies and programs. The primary focus of the Center's evaluation work has been with programs that are focused on child and youth issues and on the families and communities in which children and youth reside. The program evaluations conducted by CCFL have been diverse in size and scope, ranging from local community programs to national programs focusing on a wide range of substantive topic areas, including teen pregnancy prevention programs and programs designed to reduce utility costs for low-income families.

Legal/Policy Research

A number of CCFL staff are actively engaged in legal and policy analyses, publishing articles in law review and policy-oriented journals and providing technical assistance to state, national, and international committees and commissions. CCFL has conducted numerous policy seminars for state legislators and agency policy makers. CCFL faculty have also participated in national congressional briefings on child protection subjects. Specific larger projects have included a proposed complete revision of the Nebraska Juvenile Code and the coordination of a Family Impact Seminar series for state legislators. Recent research in this area includes studies investigating the impact of mental health diagnoses on juvenile judges' decision-making regarding detention, investigating the weight decision-makers give to parental compliance in determining termination of parental rights' filings, legal and policy analyses of child bone marrow donor laws, research on parental preference laws, and procedural justice and therapeutic jurisprudence in processes involving children and youth. CCFL is the home of the Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative, which is a statewide effort to improve permanency for children in foster care.

Data Management

In their evaluation and research partnerships with human service agencies, CCFL staff have seen the challenges faced by human service providers in the design and management of data systems. The Center has worked extensively with large and small organizations to modify current data systems, train staff on system use, improve data collection methods, and extract and effectively interpret data collected for the agency and external funders. As part of this effort, CCFL was a founding partner in the Nebraska Management Information System, which provides users with powerful client tracking and case management software. Center staff have substantial expertise in the design, implementation, analysis, and reporting of a wide array of data.

The Midwest Child Welfare Implementation Center

The Midwest Child Welfare Implementation Center (MCWIC) is one of five Child Welfare Implementation Centers established by cooperative agreement with the Children's Bureau in October 2008. Our role is to support and facilitate communication and networking across public child welfare systems, 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. These changes will be focused on organizational culture, administration, and direct practice with children and families. Each Child Welfare Implementation Center is regionally-focused, serving two of the ten Federal regions. The MCWIC will work with the States and Native American Tribes in Region V (Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota) and Region VII (Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas). MCWIC is a member of the Children's Bureau Training and Technical Assistance (T/ TA) Network and will work collaboratively with the Child Welfare National Resource Centers and other members of the T/TA Network that are also providing assistance to child welfare agencies.

Human Resources Management

CCFL's personnel specialists focus on applying behavioral science to the improvement of employees and organizations. The goal is to assist human service agencies in achieving positive outcomes for children and families through the creation of a high-performing, committed workforce. Center staff provide evidence-based consultation on a wide variety of human resource questions and have experience developing high-quality, legally defensible personnel interventions tailored to meet specific agency needs. Examples of recent projects include: employee surveys, development of personnel selection methods (e.g., structured interviews, tests), development of performance evaluation systems, process reengineering, analyses of staff turnover, and realistic job previews. CCFL staff have provided human resource management solutions in a variety of human service settings, such as child protection, child support enforcement, juvenile parole, juvenile detention, and law enforcement.
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Research

Basic and applied research on issues related to children, families and communities is also central to our mission. Staff expertise encompasses a wide range of substantive topics, methodologies, and analytic techniques. CCFL's research portfolio includes basic research examining the socio- economic correlates of abuse and neglect report rates, study of the social and community influences on the identification and response to child neglect, poverty and economic self-sufficiency, and child protection worker decision- making. Consistent with CCFL's university home, utilizing research to inform practice and policy has been a longstanding priority. CCFL published a quarterly newsletter entitled "Research Advancing Practice" that summarized recent research findings in child welfare and juvenile justice for child protection and legal professionals.

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Community Services Planning

In working with human service agencies, CCFL recognized a need and has gained expertise in community services planning. This work focuses on the programs and services provided to clients and examines the community where clients reside, where the services are provided, from a macro level - such as the state level, to a micro level - such as a single neighborhood. Community service planning is a key component in a comprehensive program evaluation and is an integral piece of fully understanding the effectiveness of any service program.

Resource Information and Referral Services

CCFL is the home of the Answers4Families Project, and has provided internet-based support and information since 1994. This clearinghouse of information on topics across the lifespan has evolved to include several thousand pages of information, with several hundred Nebraskans participating in different discussion groups on topics ranging from children's mental health and traumatic brain injury to assisted living and Alzheimer's. The site has earned accreditation by the Health on the Net Foundation, signifying that the site has been evaluated by professionals in the field and found to be a reliable and credible source of health care information. The Nebraska Resource and Referral System is a statewide database created with input from Nebraska families, service providers, and organizations. It includes over 28 searchable categories, 20,000+ resources, and up-to-date index listings.

CCFL staff have also developed resource materials regarding mental health, substance abuse, and health problems for child protection workers and judicial/legal professionals. Center staff introduced Family Group Conferencing to Nebraska, piloting the first projects and providing technical assistance and evaluation as it developed into a statewide system. CCFL assisted in the development of Nebraska's first child advocacy center and has participated in the development of a statewide system of trained interviewers.

Training and Needs Assessment

A training system is a management tool that supports the work and mission of the agency, sustains organizational improvements, and assures that personnel at every level of the agency have needed knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes. An effective training system should support the agency's practice model, supervision, and internal systems such as policy and quality assurance. In an effort to ensure better outcomes from children and their families, CCFL staff work with human service agencies to help agencies: assess their current training system, identify training needs, develop curricula, deliver training to workers and supervisors, and evaluate the effectiveness of training.

CCFL works to assist several organizations with the assessment of training needs through both formal and informal needs assessments. The formal training needs assessments have typically involved the systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of relevant data through surveys or focus groups. CCFL brings extensive experience in the design, development, and delivery of a wide variety of training content to diverse audiences using varied delivery methodologies, such as lecture, discussion, role play, mock trial simulation, job shadowing, videoconference, online training, and web-based methods as appropriate. CCFL's administrative staff manage the logistics of scheduling and coordinating a team of over 15 full-time trainers. The Center contracts with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to develop curriculum and train new Child and Family Services Specialists (CFSS). This comprehensive training contract covers the entire state of Nebraska, utilizing multiple classroom training sites and overlapping training calendars. Our Field Training Specialists support the transfer of learning from the classroom to the field as well as tracking progress and completion of required training for all participants.

Our mission

Is to conduct research, analyze policy, and provide education and community service. The purpose of CCFL's activities is to enhance the well-being of children, youth, and families.

Smiling Kids

Of all nature's gifts to the human race, what is sweeter to a man than his children?
- Marcus Tullius Cicero