Research Mission

The mission of the Children and Family Research Center is to maintain a program of research that contributes to scientific knowledge and informs both policy and practice related to child safety, permanency, and the well-being of children and families.

Since its establishment in 1996, the Children and Family Research Center has emerged as an important leader in promoting university-agency partnerships to improve public child welfare systems. The Center's research agenda and service innovations are widely credited with helping to turn around the Illinois child welfare system from one of the poorest performing systems in the nation into what has more recently been called the "gold standard" for child welfare reform.

CFRC engages its public and private partners in a variety of research activities designed specifically to meet their project needs. Our approach to research and our staff focus is interdisciplinary, influenced by the fields of social work, psychology, sociology, and law. Our researchers have expertise in sophisticated quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods data collection and analysis. We disseminate the results of our research as widely as possible, through national and local presentations and publications aimed at a wide variety of audiences -- child welfare caseworkers, supervisors, and administrators; allied professionals; policy-makers and legislators; and fellow researchers.

Children and Family Research Center projects span the entire continuum of research activities, including:

  • Secondary data analysis using large, administrative databases

  • Primary data collection through surveys, focus groups, and interviews

  • Large-scale testing of program innovations using randomized control trials (RCT)

  • Small-scale case studies, program audits and record reviews

  • Focused literature reviews and policy analyses

  • Implementation evaluations

  • Grant-writing and other technical assistance


Research publications and presentations are listed on our main Publications page, and details about our major research areas can be found at the pages listed below.

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