Study Shows New Child Welfare Professional Development Model Making Positive Impacts in First Year

April 27, 2017child welfare

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AUSTIN, Texas — Maintaining a high-quality, professional, and stable workforce is integral to any child welfare agency’s capacity to fulfill its mission. To build a strong workforce, child welfare agencies must recruit and hire qualified applicants, provide training that adequately prepares new caseworkers to perform their job responsibilities, and retain high performing staff. However, the recruitment and retention of high-quality staff is a persistent challenge for child welfare agencies across the country. The Child and Family Research Partnership (CFRP) at The University of Texas at Austin, LBJ School of Public Affairs, provides insights in a new report on an initiative that is contributing to building a stronger Child Protective Services (CPS) workforce in Texas.

In 2014, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) launched Transformation, a comprehensive set of initiatives that aims to improve the way CPS supports the safety, permanency, and wellbeing of children. One of the goals of Transformation is to strengthen the CPS workforce through training and support that better prepares frontline staff to perform their jobs.

CynthiaOsborne_cropweb “Texas has made it a top priority to continuously improve in all areas of the child welfare system, including how caseworkers are trained, retained, and supported,” said Dr. Cynthia Osborne, policy professor and CFRP director. “We’ve been asked to help the state understand whether the new approaches for training and supporting staff are working and why.”

A key component of Transformation is the introduction of an innovative model for training new caseworkers, known as CPS Professional Development (CPD), which CPS rolled-out gradually across the state from January to November 2015. CPS restructured the caseworker training and learning process from a more standardized and predominantly classroom-based approach to a model that emphasizes field-based training adapted to the local context, mentoring, structured supervision, and individualized, ongoing learning. CPD was designed to provide new caseworkers with a realistic job preview early in their tenure, help the agency better assess goodness-of-fit during training, and provide caseworkers with hands-on work experience prior to assuming their caseload, with the goal of better preparing caseworkers for the job and improving staff retention.

Osborne and her team at CFRP found that during the first year of statewide implementation of CPD, the training model is achieving the intended goals and contributing to building a higher-quality, more stable CPS workforce that will support the program’s mission to protect children from abuse or neglect.

“We surveyed thousands of new and veteran caseworkers and their supervisors and conducted numerous focus groups in every region of the state,” Osborne said. “After a year of implementation, we were able to measure the direct and positive impact of the CPS Professional Development model on the CPS workforce.”

Highlights of the findings from the full report include:

  • CPS staff overwhelmingly report that the hands-on and experiential approach under the CPD model is the right approach for training new caseworkers.
  • CPD-trained caseworkers are 18 percent less likely to leave within their first year than caseworkers trained under the old Basic Skills Development (BSD) training model, resulting in approximately 340 fewer caseworkers leaving the agency, which equates to approximately $18 million in cost avoidance annually.
  • CPD-trained investigators are more likely than their BSD-trained counterparts to meet critical casework deadlines, resulting in approximately 6,000 more children being contacted in a timely manner and having their investigation stages resolved more quickly.

The CPD model provides a new framework for training based on experiential and competency-based development that is associated with better prepared caseworkers, lower caseworker attrition, and more timely completion of key investigations deadlines. One of the greatest strengths of the CPD model is that it provides a set of core elements – exposure to fieldwork, mentoring, and structured supervision during training – but also allows for flexibility, which is of great value for an agency like Texas CPS that works in a dynamic environment.

Over the next year, Osborne and CFRP will continue the evaluation of the CPD training model and assess the casework quality associated with the new model.


The Child and Family Research Partnership (CFRP) is an independent, nonpartisan research center at The University of Texas at Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs dedicated to strengthening families and enhancing public policy through rigorous research. CFRP is the largest research center at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and directed by Cynthia Osborne, Ph.D., one of the nation’s top child and family policy scholars. CFRP is the go-to resource for rigor and expertise for national and state policymakers and leaders who work with the most vulnerable children and families.


Executive Summary and Full ReportChild Protective Services Transformation: Evaluation of CPS Professional Development (R.011.0417)

For more on CFRP’s research on child welfare, click here.

For more information or to arrange an interview with Dr. Cynthia Osborne, contact: Wendy Gonzales, Child and Family Research Partnership, or 512-471-8921.

Director Cynthia Osborne Provides Expert Testimony on Capitol Hill on Fathers in Home Visiting

April 13, 2017early childhood, fathers, home visiting, osborne

CynthiaOsborne_cropwebDr. Cynthia Osborne, Director of the Child and Family Research Partnership (CFRP) at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin, provides expert testimony at a Congressional Briefing today in Washington, D.C. on the growing evidence of the importance of fathers in early childhood intervention home visiting programs. The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program is being considered for re-authorization by the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee.

Home visiting programs have rapidly expanded across the country as an evidence-based policy choice for supporting families with young children. They provide structured visits by trained professionals and paraprofessionals to high-risk parents who are pregnant or have young children.

Fathers play a crucial role in child development, but historically, social programs aimed at poverty alleviation, health, and parenting have been geared almost exclusively toward mothers and children. For the last five years, Dr. Osborne has led the team at CFRP in conducting multiple evaluations of the MIECHV-funded Texas Home Visiting (THV) program, the largest program in the country, including two evaluations focused specifically on father involvement. Highlights of the findings:

  • Multiple barriers (e.g., work schedules) often prevent fathers from participating in home visits, but fathers engage with home visiting programs in other ways including attending other program activities, completing homework or practicing lessons with the mother and child, or asking mothers about the visit.
  • Fathers value home visiting programs and cite their child’s improved school readiness and health outcomes as being particularly important.
  • Program staff can be trained to increase father participation including specifically inviting fathers to visits and program events, and being flexible with the timing and location of home visits to accommodate fathers’ work schedules.
  • Father participation in home visiting programs is positively linked to family retention, which provides both parents increased opportunity to benefit from the program. Families in which fathers have participated in at least one home visit stay in the program over six months longer than families in which fathers never participate, controlling for family, program, and community factors.

The Child and Family Research Partnership is an independent, nonpartisan research center at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin which is dedicated to strengthening families and enhancing public policy through rigorous research. Click for more on CFRP’s Home Visiting and Fatherhood research.

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To arrange an interview with Dr. Osborne, please contact Wendy Gonzales at or 512-471-8921.

2017 Texas Fatherhood Summit

April 12, 2017cfrp, events, fathers


The second annual Texas Fatherhood Summit: Strengthening Services to Support Fathers hosted by the Child and Family Research Partnership at The University of Texas at Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs and the Texas DFPS Prevention and Early Intervention Division was held on March 24, 2017.

Fathers play an important, but often unrecognized role in their child’s healthy development. Most social programs aimed at strengthening families target mothers and often neglect or ignore fathers. The Texas Fatherhood Summit brings together experts in the field of fatherhood programs and research to push forward a better understanding of how to effectively support fathers to enhance their children’s wellbeing.

CynthiaOsborne_cropwebThe Child and Family Research Partnership (CFRP) is a leader in its work on program evaluation and building the evidence base on fatherhood programs. It is the go-to resource for national and state policymakers and organizations who work with the most vulnerable children and families because of its rigor, expertise, and partnerships.

“Decades ago we learned that in order to have healthy child outcomes, we needed to have a healthy mom,” said CFRP director and policy professor, Dr. Cynthia Osborne. “Today, we are building a consensus that a healthy father is imperative to this equation as well.”

The 2017 Texas Fatherhood Summit brought together researchers, policymakers, and practitioners in the field of fatherhood. The theme of the 2017 Texas Fatherhood Summit was “Strengthening Services to Support Fathers”. Speakers discussed the challenges and opportunities in recruiting, providing services, and retaining fathers in programs. Experts discussed what the research shows on how to know if programs are really working, and providers also shared lessons learned.


Click here for additional photos, videos, presentations, and other resources from the 2017 Texas Fatherhood Summit. Click here to learn more about CFRP’s extensive fatherhood research. To be the first to find out when next year’s event is scheduled, sign up for our Fatherhood Summit email list.

Building the knowledge base about evidence-based reproductive health education programs

March 29, 2017News, pregnancy, teens

Group of young people sitting at table reading books

Evidence-based reproductive health education programs for younger teens have received considerable attention and investment over the last few years but knowledge about the needs of 18 and 19-year-olds, particularly community college students, and the programs that benefit them, is comparatively sparse. In fact, the highest rate of teen pregnancy occurs among the 18 and 19 year-old age group, yet teen pregnancy prevention programs typically target a younger demographic.

To fill this gap, Healthy Futures of Texas (HFTX) is providing evidence-based sexual education to community college students in San Antonio using the Seventeen Days and SHARP curricula.

CFRP is conducting an implementation and outcomes evaluation to determine whether the programs are being implemented according to the HFTX work plan and to analyze the factors that enhance and limit program implementation in a community college setting. This evaluation will build knowledge about the pregnancy prevention interventions that are most effective with community college populations.


On March 30, 2017, CFRP Research Associate Sydney J. Briggs presented preliminary findings from the evaluation of lessons from BAE-B-SAFE, an innovative partnership between HFTX and the Alamo College District, at the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy 2017 Annual Symposium.

Ms. Briggs discussed what the early data says about community college students’ unique needs as well as their experiences with, attitudes towards, and access to reproductive health services.

For more about our adolescent health and wellbeing work, visit

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CFRP Research Associate Sydney J. Briggs and Healthy Futures of Texas BaeBSafe team with Dr Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Osborne Paper “Home Visiting Program: Four Evidence-Based Lessons for Policymakers”

February 8, 2017early childhood, home visiting, osborne

Federal and state policymakers and philanthropies are increasingly emphasizing the use of evidence to drive policy decisions. One of the areas in the forefront of evidence-based policymaking is early childhood intervention strategy, home visiting.

As lead evaluator of the Texas Home Visiting (THV) program, the largest home visiting program in the country, serving over 6,500 families in 13 diverse communities across the state, Dr. Osborne writes of the lessons learned and limits of “evidence-based” policymaking in Home Visiting Program: Four Evidence-Based Lessons for Policymakers.

Dr. Osborne and her paper are being recognized at the LBJ School of Public Affairs’ 2017 Innovation Bound annual celebration of the works of its distinguished faculty.

Dr. Cynthia Osborne is a policy professor at the The University of Texas at Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs and the director of both the Center for Health and Social Policy and the Child and Family Research Partnership. She has extensive experience conducting long-term evaluations of state and national programs, with the aim of helping organizations understand what works and why, and how to ensure sustainable implementation of effective policies.

For more about our work on home visiting, go to


The full paper is available from the Behavioral Science & Policy Association


Home visiting programs (HVPs) aim to help low-income parents enhance their parenting skills and improve a host of early health and developmental outcomes for young children. Over the past five decades, numerous HVP models have been developed and implemented, albeit with modest or even null results, according to meta-analyses and comprehensive reviews. In 2010, in an effort to advance HVPs’ effectiveness, federal lawmakers vastly expanded funding for HVPs with certain caveats, one being the requirement that the majority of programs be evidence based. Although the new requirement is a policy win, this review presents four main areas that must be addressed and improved upon if this new funding effort is to maximize positive outcomes. Pointedly, HVPs should have built-in flexibility for states to match the specific or unique needs of a family to a program model that has demonstrated effectiveness in meeting those specific needs. Further, program developers should clearly demonstrate what it is specifically about their model that works, in what context, and for whom. Ultimately, not unlike personalized medicine, state policymakers should target delivery of the right HVP model to the right family at the right time.

Osborne Paper on the Impact of Shifting Family Dynamics on Child Wellbeing

January 5, 2017early childhood, family instability, News

CynthiaOsborne_cropwebThe increasing rates of divorce, remarriage, and single parenting over the past half-century have dramatically impacted the nature of family structure and child wellbeing.

CFRP director and LBJ professor Dr. Cynthia Osborne and her colleague Dr. Paula Fomby recent published Family Instability, Multipartner Fertility, and Behavior in Middle Childhood in the Journal of Marriage and Family addressing the complexities of family structure, specifically related to family instability, multipartner fertility, and child wellbeing.

Dr. Osborne is expert in social policy, poverty and inequality, family and child wellbeing, and family demography issues. For more on her work on family instability, click here.


The full paper is available at


Two concepts capture the dynamic and complex nature of contemporary family structure: family instability and multipartner fertility. Although these circumstances are likely to co-occur, their respective literatures have proceeded largely independently. The authors used data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a longitudinal birth cohort study including nearly 5,000 children born between 1998 and 2000 in hospitals in 20 U.S. cities, to consider these dimensions of dynamic family structure together, asking whether they independently predict children’s behavior problems at age 9. Frequent family instability was consistently predictive of higher predicted levels of behavior problems for children born to mothers who were unmarried, an association largely attenuated by factors related to family stress. Multipartner fertility was robustly related to self-reported delinquency and teacher-reported behavior problems among children born to mothers who were married.


  • Family structure transitions and multipartner fertility often co-occur: one in eight children born to parents who were married and almost one in two children born to parents who were unmarried in large U.S. cities experience both types of family change by age 9.
  • Family instability and multipartner fertility are associated with higher levels of behavioral problems in 9-year-old children, but the relationships vary across parents’ union status at birth.
  • Indicators of family context reflecting family stress theory diminished the observed association between family change and child behavior to a greater extent than did those related to family boundary ambiguity.
  • The magnitude of the association of family instability and multipartner fertility coefficients are similar for children born to mothers who were married or mothers who were unmarried, with the exception of the relationship between multipartner fertility and child-reported delinquency.

Partnerships for Children breaks record fulfilling Holiday Wishes

December 19, 2016cfrp

Partnerships for Children’s Holiday Wishes program helps to create holiday memories for children served by CPS. Each child is able to submit three wishes that are then fulfilled through donations and sponsorships. In 2015, the program provided gifts to over 4700 children throughout Central Texas, and this year Partnerships for Children will surpass that number.


“This year we are breaking our records and we’re actually going to end up at about 4800 kids,” said Marcus Cantu, Business Manager for Partnerships for Children, in an interview with Spectrum News Austin last week.

With over 12,000 gifts in the warehouse, Partnerships for Children could not run this program without the help of community volunteers. From sorting and tagging gifts, to wrapping and shopping for them, the Holiday Wishes program offers many different opportunities and ways for volunteers to get involved.

This December, CFRP organized a department-wide toy and gift donation drive at the LBJ School of Public Affairs to benefit the children served by the Holiday Wishes program. LBJ students, staff, and faculty participated in the drive and last Tuesday a group from CFRP dropped off the donations and spent the afternoon volunteering to help sort and wrap gifts in the warehouse where we were truly humbled by our experience.


Partnerships for Children shared yesterday that it is “truly humbled by the vast amount of community support we received this year. We have provided three gifts to 4,800 children in Central Texas, and that number is growing with children coming into care over the next couple of weeks.”

For more information, visit Partnerships for Children’s website.

UPDATE: January 24, 2017: Partnerships for Children announced that they were able to provide three gifts to a total of 5,015 children in Central Texas.

Media coverage:

Spectrum News Austin: Volunteers Making Kids’ Holiday Wishes Come True

Veteran’s Day 2016: Supporting Military and Veteran Families in Texas

November 11, 2016military




Veteran’s Day is a special day to honor and thank our nation’s veterans for their service. The children and families of veterans and military are near and dear to our hearts here at CFRP. CFRP is working with the Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) Division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to determine how best to serve military and veteran families.

Although the overall rate of child maltreatment is lower among military families compared to civilian families, rates of child maltreatment have risen faster among military families, particularly in the last decade. PEI in response launched the Military Families and Veterans Prevention Program (MVP) to provide a range of support services to the three largest military communities in Texas. CFRP is evaluating the program’s effectiveness as well as determine how communities can best meet the unique needs of military and veteran families.

In our new policy brief, “Improving Family Services for Military and Veteran Families” (B.023.0916), we answer:

  • What do military and veteran families need?
  • What are challenges to serving military and veteran families?
  • What strategies do providers use to serve military and veteran families?
  • What are on-going program challenges that providers face?

Click for the full brief.


Related research - Community Impact | Economic Security

CFRP Celebrates 5th Anniversary – 5 Questions for 5 Years from Director Dr. Osborne

October 28, 2016cfrp, osborne





The Child and Family Research Partnership turned 5! We’re so thankful that our partners and supporters were able to celebrate with our team at our 5th Anniversary reception hosted by the LBJ School of Public Affairs.


Our director and founder, Dr. Cynthia Osborne, answers 5 questions about CFRP for its 5 years:

How did the Child and Family Research Partnership begin?

The Child and Family Research Partnership (CFRP) was launched in 2011 as a collaboration between me, as a professor at The University of Texas at Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs, and the Child Support Division at the Texas Office of the Attorney General. At the same, I was working with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to evaluate the new statewide early childhood and parenting intervention program they were launching. I began building a team of staff and students to help me manage the work; over time, CFRP expanded and the group grew even bigger. We now have five umbrella areas of research – family supports, fatherhood, early childhood investments, child welfare, and adolescent health and wellbeing.

What does CFRP “do”?

Our expertise is in using large administrative data, combined with survey data that we field ourselves, and qualitative data that we garner through talking with those who are providing services, the recipients of the services, and the leadership responsible for implementing the program. In all our work, however, we keep focus on the larger questions our partners are trying to answer, like – How do you bring evidence-based home visiting programs to scale? How do you build a more stable and productive child welfare workforce? Does two years of pre-K better prepare little ones for Kindergarten than one year? How can the state more effectively serve fathers? What are the unique needs and service strategies for military and veteran families? How do we help teens make healthier life choices?

What makes CFRP different?

What I believe makes our evaluation work different than a consulting firm or a typical academic is that we strive to both advance the field of knowledge as well as work with key decision makers to answer the pressing social policy questions of our day. We feel responsible for answering not only whether a given program or decision is effective, but also why or why not. The word “Partnership” in the Child and Family Research Partnership name was also a very deliberate choice. We believe in working closely with the folks who are attempting to implement a program or make decisions, as well as with the folks they are trying to serve.

What has CFRP been doing in its first 5 years?

We have been busy! To date, we have worked with 22 clients, plus dozens of additional partners, on 37 projects. We’ve analyzed millions of people in administrative data, surveyed more than 20,000 Texans, and talked personally to thousands of people in focus groups and site visits. We have written 80 reports totaling over 3,600 pages and have given over 100 presentations to academics, stakeholders, and decision makers. CFRP is now the biggest research center, with the most full-time staff, at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and is the largest graduate student employer within the School.

What’s in the future for CFRP?

I have loved what we have been able to do and engage in for the past five years, and I look forward to our ongoing partnerships – and to making new partnerships in the years ahead. We’re fortunate that CFRP has become a key resource for policy and decision makers, and all signs point to more growth. No matter what, we will continue to serve the needs of children and families while doing the research and policy work we love.


See the photos from the CFRP 5th Anniversary Celebration.

Newest Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage Data from the U.S. Census (2015)

September 14, 2016demographics, osborne

Social policy and health scholars wait nervously at the end of each summer for the Census Bureau to release its annual report on Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States. This report is one of the most important national scorecards on our collective health and wellbeing.

Most of us breathed a sigh of relief when we saw the impressive gains in median income and declines in the proportion of us living in poverty and lacking health insurance in this newest release (2015). After years of stagnation, especially for those at the bottom end of the income distribution, incomes grew considerably. This growth occurred for all income levels and race and ethnic groups; in fact, the most vulnerable and disadvantaged among us saw the greatest gains – a fact to truly celebrate.

Despite these important gains, scholars here in the South continue to lament that our region trails the rest of the country. Whereas median household income grew 5.2% for the average household in the U.S., it grew only 2.9% for those of us living in the South. Our poverty rate is 15.3% compared to the national average of 13.5%, and in Texas, we have nearly double the rate of uninsured households (17.1%) than the rest of the country (9.1%).

State-level data will be released tomorrow, so we will have more detailed information on how Texas is doing compared to other Southern states and compared to the U.S. as a whole. But if history is a guide, the numbers will show we have a lot of work to do to live up to the goals we all have for our great state. More than 1 out of every 10 children in the U.S. is born in Texas; therefore, the wellbeing of our Texas children and families fuels the wellbeing of the whole nation. Our growth is not only important for a robust economy and society here in Texas, but it is vital for the health and wellbeing of the country as a whole.

Cynthia Osborne, Ph.D.

Director, Child and Family Research Partnership
Director, Center for Health and Social Policy
Associate Professor, The University of Texas at Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs