Youth Villages is dedicated to expanding the knowledge base in the fields of child welfare and children’s mental health. We are eager to utilize our data resources to answer important questions in these areas. Listed below are current and recent projects that are the result of collaboration with university-based researchers:

  • Detecting and correcting selection bias due to non-response in long-term follow-up surveys – working with Dr. Richard Barth (University of Maryland) and Michael Penne of the Research Triangle Institute we are examining the factors that impact response to long-term follow-ups and how those factors might influence the observed outcomes.
  • Factors affecting long-term outcomes following Youth Villages’ services – a three-part study, led by Dr. Richard Barth and a team from the University of North Carolina (Dr. Joanna Greeson, Dr. Shenyang Guo), utilized Youth Villages’ substantial data resources to look at the relationship between assessment measures and long-term outcomes, to compare outcomes from youth served in residential treatment with those served in the in-home services program (using propensity score matching), and to examine the contribution of therapist characteristics (demographics, education, stability) to long-term outcomes. This work produced articles published in Children & Youth Services Review, the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, and Research in Social Work Practice.
  •  “Effectiveness of Juvenile Sexual Offender Programs: A Meta-Analysis” by Dr. Lorraine Reitzel. Winning the 2005 Graduate Student Research Award from the Association for Treatment of Sexual Abusers, Dr. Reitzel’s dissertation examined program effectiveness and made recommendations for program improvements. Youth Villages provided data on client characteristics and long-term outcomes for Dr. Reitzel’s research.
  • “Parental Efficacy and Juvenile Delinquency: Longitudinal Analysis of At-Risk Adolescents after treatment” – Dr. George Lord (formerly of Indiana University Northwest) and Dr. Shanhe Jiang (University of Toledo) examined data generated from a randomized control trial of one implementation of our Intercept Program (see below for more details) to study issues of social support and social control as they relate to parental efficacy and its impact on juvenile delinquency. The first manuscript of this work was presented at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Annual Meeting.
  • Dr. Mark Vander Weg (formerly of University of Memphis, now at University of Iowa) and his team at the University of Memphis conducted an independent evaluation of The Prevention Project, a clinical trial involving random assignment of youth who were at the beginning of a potentially negative life trajectory (first contact with juvenile justice, first serious behavior problems in school) to receive Intercept services or usual services. Funded through the generous support of The Urban Child Institute, the study sought to determine the efficacy of using intensive in-home services to prevent the removal of children from their home into state custody.

Evaluation Redesign Project
By 2005, Youth Villages had been measuring the long-term impact of its programs with children and families by tracking the outcomes for children up to two years after they discharge from services. This on-going outcome evaluation process yielded important information that translated into real program improvements and improved outcomes for the children we served. Through a generous grant from the Hyde Family Foundations, Youth Villages had the opportunity to update and further develop this research process. Dr. Richard Barth (formerly of the Jordan Institute for Families at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and currently Dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland) was engaged to conduct an extensive review of the process and to recommend improvements in the system. The Evaluation Redesign Project accomplished three objectives:

  • Review data collection process, including instruments, timing, and sampling strategy.Recommendations were implemented, which brought the outcome evaluation process to the cutting edge in terms of efficient and effective data collection techniques.

  • Using sophisticated statistical techniques, employ all available client information (both data collected during program enrollment and follow-up data) for purposes of performance improvement. A ‘predictive algorithm’ was envisioned that will enable Youth Villages to better focus treatment plans and target the most effective services to individual children. Several important steps were taken along the road to creating the algorithm – three manuscripts were published in leading journals that provided foundational information on several aspects of our work. This work continued with the completion of Sarah Hurley’s dissertation and continues with an examination currently underway of the factors that impact long-term outcomes for various populations receiving in-home services.

  • Share the new model of data collection and analysis with other providers in the field in order to advance the national agenda of improving mental health services to children.Presentations on this work were made at several conferences including the Annual Children’s Mental Health Research & Policy Conference in Tampa. Youth Villages has conducted studies in two states, Alabama and Tennessee, providing in-depth assessments of random samples of children in state custody. The purpose of these studies was to determine the number of children who could be safely reunified with their families or relatives, and the services necessary to make such a transition possible. Both studies resulted in pilot projects to demonstrate the effectiveness of intensive in-home services in creating positive, long-term change for children who have been in state custody and their families. If you are interested in hearing more about these studies, please contact us.

Dr. Barth’s proposal, chosen from more than 20 submitted by researchers and evaluators from across the country, combined critical assessment of the existing outcome evaluation process with recently-developed statistical techniques to create the most effective use of high-quality client-level data to improve Youth Villages’ programs. In undertaking the project, Dr. Barth stated, “My UNC colleagues and I look forward to this joint effort. I hope that this first stage will demonstrate that we can add substantial value to the information that you have so long and so tirelessly gathered at Youth Villages. We will make every effort to assist you in your efforts toward continued improvement of your evaluation processes and services.”

“We appreciate the opportunity provided by the Hyde Family Foundations to make dramatic improvements in our outcome evaluation process. We are truly fortunate to have the expertise and experience of Dr. Barth on this project, as he is a leading researcher in the field of children’s mental health and a respected authority on child welfare. The potential of this project to yield substantial program improvements, not only for Youth Villages, but for providers across the country makes this an exciting time for the Research Department”, said Sarah Hurley, Director of Research at Youth Villages.