Latest News on Dr. Megan Finno-Velasquez

The CDN would like to congratulate researcher Dr. Megan Finno-Velasquez on receiving one of the 2019 Hispanic Research Scholars Program Awards, sponsored by the National Research Center on Hispanic Children and Families. In collaboration with the Center investigators, she will conduct research on early childhood support for Hispanic children. Dr. Finno-Velasquez has also been appointed as Director of Immigration Affairs for the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department. Over the next year, she will develop an immigration unit designed to improve the policies and practices that support immigrant and refugee children along the border and throughout New Mexico.

Latest News on Tenia Davis

CDN fellow, Tenia Davis, was selected for the Center for Innovation in Child Maltreatment Policy, Research, and Training (CICM) 2019 LEAD predoctoral program and recently attended the three day summer institute held at Washington University in St. Louis. The program is designed to provide education and training opportunities to predoctoral scholars interested in pursuing a PhD in social work, public health, or public policy areas. The CDN would like to congratulate Tenia on her acceptance into the program and look forward to leveraging her knowledge and experience to inform program and policy development in the area of child maltreatment.

Paving the Road to Safety for Our Children: Los Angeles County’s Prevention Plan Two Years In…

Two years ago, the Los Angeles County Office of Child Protection (OCP) released a report entitled Paving the Road to Safety for Our Children: A Prevention Plan for Los Angeles County. The report was OCP’s “blueprint for partnering with the Los Angeles region’s diverse communities to coordinate and expand existing prevention-focused networks to further strengthen families, prevent child maltreatment, and reduce unnecessary burdens on the child welfare system.” We were proud to collaborate with the Department and First 5 LA to help achieve goals outlined in the original report. The OCP released a report Paving the Road to Safety for Our Children: Los Angeles County’s Prevention Plan: Two Years In… that detailed activities and developments that have been accomplished. We supported efforts including: (1) the identification and mapping of over 500 prevention-related networks; (2) the creation of an initial set of countywide prevention metrics that measure the County’s efforts to support strong children, families, and communities;  (3) the development of plans to create a universal home-visiting system; and 4) conducting a comprehensive fiscal analysis of early care and education programs across the county. We look forward to supporting the OCP, County Departments and community partners in work to strengthen families and protect children.

California Strong Start Index

The CDNs’ Strong Start Index was highlighted in the newest issue of insights, a publication by the California Child Welfare Co-Investment Partnership. Focusing squarely on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), the issue identifies the Strong Start Index as a valuable resource for identifying areas in need of greater supports to bolster family resilience and well-being, an intervention key to mitigating negative outcomes.

We are thrilled to be included in the discussion about the need for policies and practices to serve the state’s most vulnerable children. Please visit to learn more about how communities are using it to facilitate equitable investment.

Friends of the Children fundraising breakfast

CDN postdoctoral scholar, Andi Eastman, presented at the annual fundraising breakfast hosted by the award-winning non-profit Friends of the Children. Dr. Eastman shared insights from her dissertation relating to two-generation child protective services involvement for young mothers in foster care and their children, work supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, who was also in attendance. Other key stakeholders included the Reissa Foundation, California State Senator Holly Mitchell, and Director of the Los Angeles County Office of Child Protection, Judge Michael Nash. Dr. Eastman’s presentation reinforced the interconnectedness of mothers and children, highlighted opportunities to address barriers to service delivery, and provided evidence that these families are doing better over time. The CDN is grateful for the opportunity to share our work with the community and influential stakeholders.

2019 Price Social Innovation Summit

Last week, the CDN had the privilege of being represented by Drs. Regan Foust and Jacquelyn McCroskey at the Price Social Innovation Summit: Pathways to Opportunity. The conference was built around the premise that the zip code in which one grows up should not be a primary determinant of life outcomes. The Price Center held the conference to explore new approaches to increasing opportunity for low-income residents through education, policies to support strong and stable families, and access to jobs for justice-involved individuals.

Jacquelyn and Regan were joined by panelists Linda Aragon, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Division of Maternal, Child, Adolescent Health; Armando Jimenez, Director of Measurement, Learning, & Evaluation for First 5 LA; and Carrie Miller, Assistant Executive Director of the Office of Child Protection. The panel discussed how data partnerships are working to strengthen families. Carrie focused on LA County’s recent plan — Paving the Road to Safety for Our Children: A Prevention Plan for Los Angeles County — that engages the community in prevention efforts to strengthen families and reduce the need for intervention from child protective services. Linda detailed the work the County Department of Public Health has done to expand home visiting programs and Jacquelyn described the efforts the Policy Roundtable for Child Care and Development has done to expand access to ECE.

Regan presented the California Strong Start Index, a new tool developed by the CDN and the First 5 Association to help communities more efficiently and equitably allocate resources. By organizing information available on the birth record, the California Strong Start Index summarizes the conditions into which children are born in California. Mapping that information facilitates the identification of communities where additional services and supports could promote equity. The Index also has potential to better steward pubic funds and standardize community needs assessments.

The CDN was grateful for the opportunity to share how we are using data to strengthen families and to learn from our colleagues as they pursue to same goal. Please refer to this Policy Brief for more information.

Photos by Tom Queally


CDN Doctoral Student, Eunhye Ahn, has been accepted as a fellow for the Data Science for Social Good Summer Fellowship at Imperial College London, in collaboration with University of Chicago. Selected from among 750 applicants, Eunhye’s acceptance underlines the great promise she has shown to use data science to make a social impact in the world throughout her career. We wish her all the best on her learning adventure, and are excited for her to leverage her knowledge and experience here at the CDN, and beyond.

New Findings on Two-Generation Child Protection System (CPS) Involvement: Children with Mothers in Foster Care

The CDN has three new publications on mothers in foster care and their children-all published this month!

The first, Pregnant and Parenting Youth in Care and Their Children: A Literature Review published in the Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, examined pregnant and parenting mothers in foster care and their children by identifying and summarizing all relevant studies published between 2011 and 2017. Combined, these studies demonstrate the need for tailored pregnancy prevention services, supports for parents, and future research that focuses on identifying strategies to improve two-generation outcomes.

The second study was a linked, quantitative analysis that identified children born to mothers in foster care and documented CPS involvement among their children for the first 3 years of life. The study, An Examination Of Child Protective Service Involvement Among Children Born To Mothers In Foster Care published in Child Abuse and Neglect, found that about half of children born to mothers in care were reported for alleged maltreatment by age 3, but that proportion has declined over time (i.e., from 63% of children born to mothers in foster care in 2009, to 46% in 2012). Variation in risk of report also emerged when dyads were grouped using a Latent Class Analysis (LCA). The data identified a number of risk factors available in the mother’s CPS and the child’s birth records that are known at the time of the child’s birth; these factors could be used to develop programs that better fit the needs of mothers in care, assess the effectiveness of these programs, and replicate policies that are improving outcomes for mothers and children.

The third study, A Content Analysis of Case Records: Two-Generations Of Child Protective Services Involvement, was the first to leveraged unstructured, case narrative fields in CPS records to enhance knowledge about children born to mothers in care. A content analysis was conducted to assess reasons described for CPS involvement among children who were born to mothers who were in foster care on or after the estimated date of conception and reported to CPS during the first 3 years of life. Thirteen mother-child dyads from each of the three distinct classes identified in study 2 were selected for a detailed examination of mother and child case records (N=39). Study findings illustrate the importance of linking parents to services that meet their unique needs and those of their children.

These three studies add depth to the understanding of factors associated with the maltreatment of children born to mothers in foster care and demonstrate the importance of two-generation strategies.

For links to the papers and more information, please visit our project page: Child Protective Services (CPS) Involvement among Children of Mothers in Foster Care.

California Strong Start Index

Could information from birth records, thoughtfully assembled and simply scored, be used to help communities more efficiently and equitably allocate resources?

This question emerged during a conversation among colleagues from the Children’s Data Network, First 5 Association, and Heising-Simons Foundation. We had gathered to discuss the challenges County Commissions, service providers, funders, legislators, and advocates face when assessing the service needs of families with young children.

Due, in large part, to a dearth of recent, publically available data on young children and families, we lamented that they have to conduct costly community needs assessments, use survey-based county estimates for neighborhood-level program planning, extrapolate historical data about adults into actionable information about current families with newborns, and base many decisions on a community’s poverty level – there had to be a better way!

The idea for the California Strong Start Index was born.

Successful proof-of-concept analyses funded by First 5 LA and the Orange County Commission on Children and Families confirmed that administrative birth records could be used to not only better characterize the changing demographics and birth outcomes of babies born in LA County, but also help Los Angeles County chart a course toward universal and targeted Home Visiting. And First 5 colleagues immediately recognized the potential for an index comprised of information from administrative birth records to provide recent, specific, holistic, and asset-focused information about the children they were charged with supporting. Geocoded records could be aggregated and viewed at a state level, but also provide granular, local information to support equitable resource allocation. These child / family-level indicators could be flexibly overlaid with other community-level indicators or indices. These data could develop a much more complete picture of our state’s children. And they could be easily updated for each new cohort of children born.

In partnership with the First 5 Association, Heising-Simons Foundation, and First 5 County Commissions, we are proud to announce the launch of the California Strong Start Index. This powerful, but simple tool uses data that already exist for children and families to summarize, in a standardized way, the conditions into which children are born. It comprises a total of 12 variables that fall into four domains. A birth asset score is calculated by simply counting the number of assets present (0-12). The Strong Start Index allows us to characterize the number of assets children have at birth, including how California communities vary in the distribution of children at different asset levels.

Please visit to view the animation, explore the data, and to learn more about how communities are using it to facilitate equitable investment in the children and families of California. And please see our project page for detailed methodological documentation.

Do Good With Data: We’re Hiring!

Do you love tasks related to data management? Statistical analyses? Leveraging those skills to inform programs and policies for young children and their families? Then we welcome you to apply to be our new full-time Research Programmer/Database Analyst. We are looking for someone who can assume responsibility for a range of tasks related to data management and statistical analyses.

This person will:

  • Work closely with our database analyst, senior statistician, IT staff, public agency partners, doctoral students, and PhD-level researchers to manage administrative records and conduct applied analyses.
  • Support the development of the CDN’s linked administrative database by assuming responsibility for SQL tasks, including the preparation of raw data extracts received from agency partners for record linkage (e.g., coding, cleaning, standardizing).
  • Support the preparation of analytic files for researchers at the CDN, including harmonizing variables across years, developing coding protocols for derived fields, supporting meta-data documentation, and running descriptive statistics and multivariable models.
  • Contribute to the development of data and research products (e.g., metadata, technical reports, empirical papers).

They will be expected to have the following technical skills:

  • Master’s degree in biostatistics, computer science, or related field.
  • Advanced skills in programming and experience in database management.
  • Sufficiently detailed understanding of statistical software (Stata/SAS/R) to effectively collaborate with the CDN research team.

Candidates should enjoy working both independently and collaboratively in an academic environment, possess excellent organizational skills and the ability to balance multiple tasks, and have an interest in applied and policy-focused research.

Click here to access application.

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Los Angeles, CA 90015
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