Performance Improvement 2002. Human Service Programs


Outstanding Evaluation

The Family Transition Program: Final Report on Florida’s Initial Time-limited Welfare Program

Florida’s Family Transition Program (FTP), initiated in 1994 in Escambia County, was designed to limit the number of months that welfare could be collected. This fifth and final report examines the implementation, implication, and cost benefits of FTP among 2,817 recipients randomly assigned to receive FTP or standard AFDC between 1994 and 1999. Excluded from the sample were families with disabled or chronically ill members and/or with children under seven months of age. At the time of enrollment, the FTP program included a time limit on cash assistance and an array of support services, whereas traditional AFDC had neither (although this was later changed).

The evaluation utilized information from a variety of sources, including baseline data collected prior to random assignment; administrative records (e.g., AFDC/TANF payments, food stamp benefits); and various stakeholder surveys, such as four-year client surveys in 1998 and 1999 that included questions on employment, household income, and child well-being.

Findings indicated that most families on AFDC left welfare during the study period; however, FTP substantially reduced long-term welfare receipt, with only 6 percent receiving welfare for more than 36 months versus 17 percent of those in the AFDC group. In addition, FTP families gained more in earnings than they lost in welfare, resulting in modestly higher incomes; only 17 percent of FTP families reached their time limits during the study period. While results indicated that FTP had few impacts, positive or negative, on the well being of elementary school children, adolescents in the FTP group performed somewhat worse on some of measures of school performance (e.g., expulsions). A cost-benefit analysis showed that program expenses were about $8,000 more per client over the four-year period when compared to typical welfare costs.
PIC ID: 6820; AGENCY SPONSOR: Administration for Children and Families; CONTACT: Alan Yaffe; PERFORMER: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation

Head Start FACES (Family and Child Experiences Survey): Longitudinal Findings on Program Performance (Third Progress Report)

Head Start FACES is an ongoing national longitudinal study of the cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development of Head Start children; the characteristics, well-being, and accomplishments of their families; the observed quality of Head Start classrooms; and the characteristics and opinions of Head Start teachers and other program staff.

Using a nationally stratified random sample of 3,200 children and families in 40 Head Start programs, the evaluation addressed four study questions: 1) Does Head Start enhance children’s development and school readiness; 2) Does Head Start strengthen families as the primary nurturers of their children; 3) Does Head Start provide children with high quality educational, health, and nutritional services; and, 4) How is classroom quality related to child outcomes? Data components (child assessment, parent interview, teacher and staff interviews, and classroom observations) were collected at five different points in time, and 80 percent response rates were achieved. Multiple measurement instruments and scales were used. Quantitative information was enhanced with case studies of 120 families, also selected randomly (3 per site).

Based on Fall 1997 and Spring 1998 data, positive findings indicated that Head Start participation narrowed the gap between disadvantaged children and all children in vocabulary and writing skills, and led to improvements in areas such as social skills, word knowledge, and math skills. However, there were no improvements on literacy measures (e.g., letter-word identification), and behavior problems were largely unchanged. With regard to families, the parents of Head Start children reported extremely high levels of satisfaction (over 85 percent) with the program, and a greater sense of control over their lives after one year. However, participation by fathers in their children’s lives remained low, and family social support and mental health needs did not change.
PIC ID: 6331.2; AGENCY SPONSOR: Administration for Children and Families; CONTACT: Louisa B. Tarullo; PERFORMER: Westat, Ellsworth Associates, Abt Associates, Inc., and the CDM Group

Outstanding Evaluation

Head Start Children’s Entry into Public School: A Report on the National Head Start/Public School Early Childhood Transition Demonstration Study

This longitudinal study examined the scholastic functioning of 7,515 former Head Start children from 31 diverse sites across America, with approximately half the children receiving extended comprehensive services for grades K through 3. Modeled after Project Head Start, the National Transition Demonstration Project was passed by Congress in 1991 to provide extended developmentally appropriate and comprehensive school-based services to Head Start graduates.

The 12-chapter report covers a range of topics, beginning with a review of social policy behind the Head Start Transitional Program and the research questions to be addressed in the study, and ending with analyses of the main predictors of children’s school functioning. In this regard, growth curve analyses and hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) were utilized to identify influences that promote and detract from children’s achievement.

Overall, the most impressive finding was the rapid growth demonstrated in math, reading, and social development. Head Start children from both groups made rapid gains between kindergarten and third grade, often starting out a standard deviation below the mean in kindergarten and reaching the national mean (or above) by grade three. Results also highlighted the contribution that services and other aspects of the transition program make toward scholastic achievement and social development. Family gains were noted as well, including economic growth in transition families.
PIC ID: 4393; AGENCY SPONSOR: Administration for Children and Families; CONTACT: Mary Bruce Webb; PERFORMER: Civitan International Research Center, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL

Outstanding Evaluation

Building Their Futures: How Early Head Start Programs Are Enhancing the Lives of Infants and Toddlers in Low-income Families

Early Head Start provides services to low-income pregnant women and families with infants and toddlers in order to improve children’s development (cognitive, language, social-emotional, and health); to foster close supportive relationships between parents and their infants and toddlers; and to encourage the development of community partnerships.

This report summarizes the interim results of an evaluation initiated in 1995 that includes about 3,000 children and families across 17 sites selected to represent a variety of milieu (regional, rural, and urban), ethnic and racial compositions, and types of program approaches. At each site, children and families were randomly assigned to program and control groups; follow-up was carried out over three years of program participation through a child’s third birthday. Results described in this report reflect program impacts through the second birthday of study participants, with data collected from researcher observations, parent reports, and direct child assessment.

Findings indicate that at two years of age, Early Head Start children demonstrated higher positive impacts on infant and toddler cognitive development, vocabulary and sentence complexity, and aggressive behavior than did the control group (children not in Early Head Start). However, no differences were found between the two groups in terms of variables such as regulation of emotions, task-oriented behavior, or attention span (videotaped freeplay interaction with mothers). With regard to the parents of two year-olds, results showed that parents of Early Head Start group children learned more about early childhood development and were more likely to provide experiences and environments that supported development than did control group parents.
PIC ID: 3570; AGENCY SPONSOR: Administration for Children and Families; CONTACT: Rachel Chazan Cohen; PERFORMER: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., Princeton, NJ