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Child Welfare in the News

Since late 2017, the Urban Institute’s Housing Opportunities and Services Together team has partnered with public housing authority BangorHousing and the Boys & Girls Club of Bangor, Maine, in a formative evaluation of Families Forward, a locally designed and funded two-generation program that builds on

BangorHousing’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program.

Our initial findings show that families enrolled in Families Forward experience economic gains, such as an increase in annual income, and social-emotional growth, like greater investment in their community and development of parenting skills. The program provides crucial social supports for families to connect with one another and access services and trainings that can help them achieve greater economic mobility. However, even with additional financial coaching and skill development classes, families encountered systemic barriers when trying to reach their goals, such as buying a home, pursuing secondary education or training, or developing stronger support networks.

Moving forward, it will be important that the Families Forward program strengthen collaboration among partners, seek out more opportunities to support families, and continue to build on the strong culture of trust that it has created.

The uncertainties and changes associated with military life can adversely impact families with young children. Home visitors can help military families manage stressors and engage in positive and responsive interactions with children, thus supporting development and reducing child maltreatment.

This Data in Action Brief uses data from the US Census Bureau, supplemented by a literature review of military families, to address the following questions:

Why focus on military families?
How many military families might benefit from home visiting services?
How do military families differ from other families with young children?

Read the full brief to learn considerations for home visiting programs looking to recruit military families and tailor services to better meet their needs.

This brief was developed for the National Home Visiting Resource Center and is available on its website. The NHVRC is led by James Bell Associates in partnership with the Urban Institute. Support is provided by the Heising-Simons Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


As states and territories make decisions about child care policies, they may find it useful to collect data from child care providers. Survey data can be helpful for answering questions about providers’ characteristics and experiences. Yet surveys can be difficult to design. This brief discusses best practices for developing and testing surveys.

A one-page tip sheet lists suggestions for writing strong survey questions. 

Primary Research Questions

What are the pros and cons of different survey modes?
What are some tips for writing good survey questions?
Why should you test a survey? What are some ways to test that it works well?


This brief describes best practices for developing and testing surveys of child care providers.

Key Findings and Highlights

Before developing a survey, identify your study goals and research questions so you can decide whether a survey is the best method for collecting data.
Review existing data to help you decide whether you need to collect new data on all topics you are interested in.
Identify your target population—the group you want to collect data on—and their characteristics. Child care providers are diverse in many ways, so you might need more than one questionnaire or different versions. Determine the best way to collect the data (i.e., telephone, web, mail, in-person) based on the providers you want to reach, project resources, and your desired response rate.
Consider testing your survey in different ways before collecting data to make sure the questions are clear and not biased and the survey is an appropriate length.
Follow best practices in writing questions; consider the order of questions, word choice, and response options.


This brief is based on a review of resources on best practices in survey development, expert input, and the authors’ research experience.


Questionnaire: a series of questions for people to answer so you can gather information from them. A questionnaire is sometimes referred to as a survey instrument.

Response rate: The number of people who answered the survey divided by the number of people in the sample. A response rate is usually expressed as a percentage.

Survey: a study that involves collecting data by asking a sample of people to respond to a set of questions.

Survey mode: the method used to carry out the survey, such as paper, telephone, or web. The mode can also refer to whether the survey is self-administered or administered by an interviewer.

ACYF programs can most effectively serve the holistic needs of young people when we partner with public and private schools, local community and faith-based educators, and their parents by putting kids first on their safe return to school.

Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Deque Systems, Inc. developed a webinar to help improve accessibility of emergency PDF communications.

Early education programs have emerged as a leading policy for reducing inequalities among young children. In the District of Columbia, 3- and 4-year-old children apply through a common lottery for spots in the District’s public schools. To assess application and outcome patterns, we analyzed preschool applications submitted to the District of Columbia’s centralized admissions lottery, My School DC, and approximated several community characteristics using Public Use Microdata Samples from the American Community Survey.

Our findings show that matched applicants mirror their respective populations of 3- and 4-year-old children in DC, yet wait-listed applicants disproportionately come from socioeconomically advantaged communities and from families in immigrant communities. Though it is encouraging that matched applicants closely resemble the overall population of prekindergarten-age children in DC, this brief suggests that increasing the match and enrollment rates will not ensure all children entering the K–12 school system are prepared. Rather, high-quality, effective, and accessible programs for children from communities marginalized from traditional education systems can help define equity in the prekindergarten lottery.

Since 2014, the District of Columbia has used an annual common application to place new students from prekindergarten for 3-year-olds (PK3) through 12th grade in DC Public Schools (DCPS) and DC public charter schools. Though K–12 students have the right to attend their in-boundary school, this policy does not extend to students in PK3 or PK4 (prekindergarten for 4-year-olds). Instead, prekindergarten students apply through a common lottery for a spot at one of the District’s public school options.

In the first comprehensive description of DC public prekindergarten applicants and application patterns, we demonstrate that PK3 and PK4 lotteries differ substantially, both in families’ application choices and in outcomes. We find that applicants and matched applicants closely resemble their respective populations of 3- and 4-year-old children in DC, but wait-listed applicants disproportionately represent socioeconomically advantaged 3- and 4-year-old children in DC, as well as families in immigrant communities.

Measuring Applicants and Application Patterns:

To assess applicants and application patterns to DC public prekindergarten programs, we analyzed nearly 40,000 preschool applications submitted to the District of Columbia’s centralized admissions lottery, My School DC, between 2014 and 2018. Using Public Use Microdata Samples from the American Community Survey, we approximated several community characteristics of prekindergarten applicants and their families, including racial and ethnic composition, family structure, immigration status, language spoken at home, disability status, employment status, poverty status, and educational attainment.

Key Findings:

PK3 and PK4 applicants, as well as those matched to a public prekindergarten option, closely resemble the populations of 3- and 4-year-old children in DC. Relative to the PK4 lottery, the PK3 lottery attracts more applicants and has a substantially higher and more stable match rate over time. Across all grades and years, in-boundary preference (awarded only by DCPS schools) is the most common preference status held by matched applicants.
PK3 match rates are lowest in Ward 3, which does not include any schools offering PK3. PK4 match rates are lowest in Wards 1 and 2. Across both prekindergarten grades, Wards 7 and 8, home to many households with low incomes and communities of color, have the highest match rates.
Findings suggest that wait-listed applicants differ from matched applicants and all 3- and 4-year-old children in important ways. Wait-listed applicants come from communities with higher shares of Hispanic and white families and lower shares of Black families; higher shares of families with two or no parents and lower shares of families with one parent; higher shares of immigrant families and families speaking languages other than English at home; and higher shares of two-parent full-time working families, families with higher incomes, families with four-year college degrees and at least one vehicle, and families not receiving food stamps.


Though DC public prekindergarten is a leading example to other state and local education programs, our findings identify gaps that suggest additional research, outreach, and application support can help ensure more equitable access and outcomes for all young children in the preschool lottery.
Our analysis will form the basis for a broader DC prekindergarten study and be a reference for other preschool programs seeking to use a centralized lottery for equitable prekindergarten access.

This fact sheet highlights selected findings from Kids’ Share 2020. It shows that tax provisions and health programs account for most federal spending on children. The child tax credit was the largest single program and Medicaid was the second-largest program in terms of spending on children in 2019.

The success sequence is a proven formula to help young people thrive and become self-sufficient. 


Every Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Lead Agency can use research and evaluation services. Even if your agency has an internal research department, sometimes you may need to procure (i.e., contract out) specialized research or evaluation services. You can be more successful in getting the research and evaluation services you need if you have some understanding of the procurement process in your state.


This guide aims to help CCDF Lead Agencies understand some basics about procurement. It defines key procurement terms and suggests where to look for your state’s procurement requirements. The guide walks you through key steps for procuring research and evaluation services. It also provides a checklist and glossary for easy reference. Resources are linked throughout the document where you can access more information on each topic.

Key Findings and Highlights

Navigating state procurement requirements may be challenging at first. States vary in their specific procurement procedures, and procurement has its own vocabulary.

To procure research and evaluation services, here are some steps you need to take:

determine what you need,
learn the procurement requirements in your state,
write up and advertise what you need, and
review proposals and select who will do the work.

Many steps in the process will require your team to seek help from other state agencies. Give yourself some lead time to figure out all the required steps and approvals.


Derrick-Mills, Teresa, Travis Reginal, and Julia Isaacs (2020). Procuring Research and Evaluation Services: A Guide for CCDF Lead Agencies and Researchers, OPRE Report #2020-89, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human Services.

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