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Volume 11 | November 2015 

A Letter from Our Director
Happy early Thanksgiving from the Children and Family Research Center. We've had a busy fall here, sharing our research with partners and colleagues all around child welfare. In late October, we presented our findings from the 2015 B.H. report to our partners at the DCFS' Rapid Response Team meeting in Bloomington and to DCFS and the ACLU in Chicago. It's wonderful to see people engage with the findings and work together to improve conditions for Illinois children in care. 
A few weeks ago, several of us traveled to Minneapolis to attend the first annual International Conference on Innovations in Family Engagement. I presented a paper with Saijun Zhang about the impact of family engagement and service provision on CPS outcomes. We also had the opportunity to connect with other family engagement researchers and met with our state partners on the Oregon differential response evaluation.
As the end of the calendar year approaches, I'm sure many of you are thinking about making charitable donations. As you do, please consider many of the organizations providing for children in need in your community. Two here in Champaign-Urbana that are near to our hearts are Cunningham Children's Home and the UP Center. And please also keep in mind CFRC and the School of Social Work.
In this edition of our newsletter, we have updates from CFRC and our many projects. We also go in depth on our increased efforts to produce research briefs and offer a look at what we've been reading. 
We hope your fall has been as pleasant and productive as ours! And we hope you enjoy this latest issue of our newsletter. 
Tamara Fuller, Ph.D., Director, Children and Family Research Center

Project Updates and News

Comings and Goings

We have several new faces to celebrate in this newsletter! First, we welcomed a new office administrator in our Urbana office, Heidi Meyer! Heidi has her BA in English from Bradley University and has past work experience as a legal assistant and as an office administrator in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Our quiet office is a big change from her previous jobs, but she's gotten busy right away with a massive copying job for our Oregon differential response evaluation project. 
Second, we welcomed two new graduate student workers into our office. Jacob Goffnet is a PhD student in Social Work and is our research assistant. Sarah Anderson is an MSW student and has joined us as an hourly worker. It's wonderful to have both of them assisting us on projects. 

Finally, we bid farewell to Christy Levine, director of our FCURP office. Christy was with the Center for almost 16 years. In the FCURP program, she worked on state and federal reviews, training, and other QA functions in conjunction with the DCFS Division of Quality Assurance and Research. Christy played an integral part in the development and roll-out of the Reunification and Concurrent Planning Model. She was also the developer and skilled trainer of Practice-to-Outcomes, an initiative that was well-received for so many years by POS and DCFS direct service staff, as well as an enthusiastic trainer in other initiatives over the years including the Outcome Enhancement Review. She will be missed for her extensive knowledge of the field and child welfare in Illinois, her hard work and dedication, and her sense of humor. Jennifer Eblen-Manning will take over as director of our FCURP office.

Successful CQI Conference

On Friday, November 6, CFRC and the School of Social Work hosted the inaugural Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Conference, organized by our FCURP office. The conference featured a full day of workshops presented by child welfare CQI professionals from private agencies around the state, as well as a presentation of findings from the POS CQI Capacity Assessment (a joint FCURP-DCFS QA project evaluating CQI capacity within private agencies), and a keynote address by national CQI expert Peter Watson. Highlights from the conference will be shared in the next newsletter. 

B.H. Report for 2015

As mentioned above, the annual monitoring report of the B.H. consent decree is written and currently with graphic design for formatting and production. We are busy proofreading each formatted section and hope to have printed copies ready to send out by the end of the calendar year. Would you like a copy? Contact us via the email or phone at the end of the newsletter. Digital copies will also be available for download on our website. 
Other Project Updates

Our evaluation projects in Wisconsin and Oregon are proceeding as planned. For Oregon, we decided to handle the production of 8,000 family surveys in house, which means our copier is always on the verge of meltdown and a spare office is growing full of packets ready to mail out. Survey packets for Wisconsin continue to arrive every day.

The CFRC Data Center continues to impress new audiences. A couple weeks ago, our website and data master Dan Phillips gave a demonstration of the CFRC Data Center to DCFS employees at a meeting of DCFS' Rapid Response Team. Our Data Center is always growing more useful, with regular data updates and new features added. Check it out and let us know what you used it for!
Inside CFRC

In each newsletter, we feature a behind-the-scenes look at the work that went into one of our projects. This month, we talk with research specialist Michael T. Braun about our renewed effort to produce research briefs.

Q: What is a research brief?
A research brief, generally, is a short summation of some research. Beyond that, it can be a lot of things. At the most basic level, our briefs are designed to take some of our research and prepare it for a broader audience. For example, each year CFRC puts together a report on the work of Illinois' Child Death Review Teams (CDRTs). The lengthy report has a lot of information that others--practioners, legislators, researchers, the general public--might be interested in reading. But reading the entire report can be daunting. In our research briefs, we can present the report in a series of snapshots that help people get some useful information in a few pages. 
Q: So you'll be taking research and reports and prepping them for the general public?
Right now, that's our biggest source of planned research briefs. But we also want them to include original research. For example, we have a research brief in preparation right now that's on children who run from care in Illinois. This brief includes original research and results that haven't appeared in one of our other reports. 
Q: Who will write the research briefs?
In general, research briefs are written by the same people who work on the report. In the future, we'd like to see briefs developed in conjunction with report writing. But that's not all. Because we are part of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's School of Social Work, we have close connections with brilliant students and faculty. We aim to work closely with them on research briefs. For example, if one of our graduate student workers or independent study students conducted a systematic literature on a topic, that could be turned into a useful research brief. 
Q: After the brief is written, what happens next?
Our process starts even before the brief is written. We have several steps for talking through ideas and making sure we are producing briefs we think are useful to others and show off what CFRC does well. Once the brief is written, we have some stringent editing procedures. After that's done, the brief gets formatted and finally posted online. 
Q: When will the briefs in progress be posted?
We should have our initial briefs up soon. Because we haven't written any briefs in a while, we're focused on two things with posting. First, we have a big backlog of reports that we want to get out to the public as briefs; that's been really fantastic for us. Second, even with that backlog, we don't want to dump a bunch of new briefs on our website and have them get lost. So we will try to post a new brief every few weeks. 
Q: And where can people find these briefs?
We have a page dedicated just to research briefs. You can find that here. To navigate from our homepage, click on "Publications" and then to sort by "Type." You'll see a link to research briefs right below that. We will also highlight new briefs on our homepage. 

What We're Reading

Our CFRC Journal Club continues to flourish. Here are some articles we've read for our monthly discussion group.

The New Yorker published an excellent profile of a family who adopted over 20 difficult-to-place children. The article is a detailed look at the successes and challenges the family faced. Turn to this article if you want to start a conversation about the need for more families to adopt.

We also read some recent research, including an article published in Children and Youth Services Review by Jennifer Blakeslee at Portland State University. She tests a method to map the social networks of transition-age youth in care, a vital step to evaluating their readiness to age out of the system. The method showed good test-retest consistency, and we look forward to seeing it deployed with larger, more diverse samples.

Lastly, we read an article, also published in Children and Youth Services Review, by Mally Shechory Bitton and Hagin Cohen Medina of Ariel University in Ariel, Israel. The article compares problematic internet use among a group of teens in care and a group of teens who live at home. The reduced internet access available to teens in care means less problematic internet use. It also means less positive internet use. These kinds of comparisons are vital to help us understand the unique benefits and risks that kids in care may experience when using the internet.

Do you have any reading suggestions for us? Let us know via the contact information below.

Connect with Us

We want to hear from you! You can contact CFRC at or via phone at (217) 333-5837. Visit our website at Follow the School of Social Work on Twitter @UofISocialWork or like the School on Facebook.

Thanks for reading! Look for our next newsletter in February.