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Research support team serves key role in $8.2M grant to support Georgia families

Kristen B. Morales

October 14, 2015

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A research support team within the University of Georgia College of Education is playing a key role in an $8.2 million grant recently awarded to the University.

The Program Evaluation Group, which is part of the College's Research Office, has partnered with the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and the School of Social Work to secure the five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The study focuses on the delivery and evaluation of educational programs for nearly 1,500 families in a 13-county, mostly rural, region in Northeast Georgia

Karen DeMeester, director of the Program Evaluation Group, said she and her team worked with Ted Futris, the project's director and an associate professor in Family and Consumer Sciences, to design the research plan and the study as part of the grant submittal process. The College of Education team will oversee all data collection and management, including the extensive data required for a federal study that is a component of the project. They also will be responsible for hiring, training and managing 18 field assessors who will record data from families and FACS educators and conduct evaluations assessing educational program delivery, case management, child care and youth engagement and tax-preparation services.

As part of the evaluation, the Program Evaluation Group will also be measuring the collaboration between the research team and community partners such as the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, Georgia Family Connection, Great Start Georgia, Strengthening Families Georgia and Project Safe.

"We will conduct an impact evaluation, including a randomized control trial, of the project's two parent education programs, the 'Elevate' healthy marriage and relationship education program and a financial literacy program," said DeMeester. "The project is very evaluation intensive."

DeMeester collaborated with Hye-Jeong Choi, assistant research scientist in the Georgia Center for Assessment and adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, to design the randomized control trial. Choi will also help with data analysis for the study.

The Program Evaluation Group works with faculty throughout the University of Georgia and the Office of the Vice President of Research to help design and evaluate research projects. The team specializes in evaluating education-based programs in a variety of settings, including school systems, communities and higher education.

This most recent project seeks to address the needs of the region's highest-risk children and will include services for new parents, foster parents and reunified families, or parents of children who were removed from their home and later reunited.

Georgia ranked 42nd in the United States last year across various child well-being indicators, according to Kids Count, a nonprofit funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Futris said income inequality and social stratification in rural counties puts children in particular at risk.

"The end goal of the project is to improve the lives of children," said DeMeester.