Children’s Research Center

Children’s Research Center

NCCD’s Children’s Research Center (CRC) has been working to improve child safety, permanency, and well-being since its establishment in 1993. CRC works in partnership with child-serving agencies to improve direct practice and organizational operations through models that integrate evidence-based assessments, family-centered engagement strategies, and implementation science.

CRC has collaborated with child welfare agencies in 40 US states, three Australian states and a territory, four Canadian provinces, Taiwan, and Bermuda, to construct actuarial risk assessment instruments, design and implement decision-support and data analysis systems, conduct workload studies, and evaluate agency service-delivery programs. CRC also monitors educational outcomes for schools to help administrators and teachers use data to improve student and school performance.

CRC is best known for creating the Structured Decision Making® (SDM) system, a set of research-based assessment instruments. In 2011, CRC launched a new initiative to incorporate research-based assessments into a unified practice for child welfare agencies. Agencies often seek to improve outcomes for children and families by adopting new programs or reforms. Life for the caseworker may become a disjointed experience of new skills and expectations that in turn affects the experiences of the families he or she serves. CRC believes that by harmonizing these varied efforts and making explicit connections among them, agencies, workers, and families will be more successful. The elements of unified practice are simple: research-based assessments, an evidence-based model of practice with families, and an organization that works to weave these elements together so that the family experiences seamless and coordinated services that help them provide for the safety and well-being of their children.

Underlying everything CRC does is the importance of research and evaluation. CRC supports practices with an existing evidence base and evaluates new practices to determine if they are effective. It is sometimes complicated to balance the need for systems that can be implemented immediately with the search for evidence in fields such as child protection where much is not yet researched. CRC can assist organizations by identifying options that have existing evidence, developing evaluation strategies when implementation requires going beyond existing evidence-based practices, and helping to integrate practices for more cohesive practice models.

For more information on CRC's work, contact Jennifer Cotter, Associate Director, or Phil Decter, Associate Director.