Using Data, Research, and Evaluation

Foundations often play a critical role in supporting research and evaluation as a means to assess the effectiveness of programs and policies and identify those that could be adapted to other contexts and potentially brought to scale. Whole family research and evaluation is often challenging because it usually requires bringing parent and child metrics and data together to understand the whole family picture. 

Resources in this section include approaches to data and some guidance on research and evaluation focused on whole family work.

Using Data to Support Whole Family Outcomes

Ascend holds The 2Gen Outcomes Bank, which is designed to help capture and organize the outcomes, research, tools, and evidence base for two-generation approaches, strategies, and programs. Within the database, you will find outcomes, indicators, and research organized by child, parent, and family across the core 2Gen components of education, economic assets, health and well-being, and social capital.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation took an in-depth look at why integrated data systems are critical to two-generation, whole family efforts.

State efforts

State governments across the country are working to integrate data to be able to better understand who is accessing services and related outcomes, as well as to support residents with easier access to services. 

Currently Utah is the only state in the nation that requires the gathering of data through the establishment and maintenance of a system to track intergenerational poverty

From the brief: To track progress efforts, Utah releases a report on intergenerational poverty each year, published through the Department of Workforce Services, with input and outcomes provided by multiple state agencies: Department of Health, Human Services, State Board of Education, and Juvenile Courts. The report tracks parent and child outcomes attributed to multigenerational programs such as Women Infant and Children, home visitation, and child homelessness. 

Maryland, through MD Think, is using a cloud-based platform, which allows multiple state agencies to share and manage data in one convenient place.

Connecticut, through recent legislation mandating the development of integrated data to support two-generation approaches, is in the process of developing its system through work in the governor’s office.

Additionally the state’s Office of Early Childhood has undertaken a new way to measure when positive outcomes are achieved for families enrolled in voluntary home visitation services and how to provide additional financial incentives for the service provider. This groundbreaking pilot initiative – the first in the nation of its kind – will reward positive outcomes for evidence-based home visitation services, from reduced child welfare involvement to increased parental employment. Following recommendations from Ascend at the Aspen Institute for measuring outcomes for children and parents, the Office of Early Childhood designed a set of whole-family outcomes measures representing key family goals that also generate value for Connecticut. 

Organizational data system integration efforts

At the organizational level, Garrett County Community Action, using an innovative data system it developed called EmpowOR, brings together whole family data for use at the program level. 

And in New York City, the Educational Alliance has implemented a framework for whole family work. This slide deck is from the “Using a 2Gen Outcomes Framework” session at Ascend’s 2017 2Gen Practice Institute. This session focused on how organizations can improve their capacity to measure 2Gen outcomes and learn how to activate the Making Tomorrow Better Together report 

Research and evaluation efforts 

In support of expanding whole family approaches, foundations are increasingly integrating research and evaluation into programmatic investments to both understand the impact of whole family efforts and to identify areas for further research. 

Following are two helpful publications reflecting on research and evaluation:

Using Research and Evaluation to Support Programs that Promote Parents’ Economic Security and Children’s Well-Being by OPRE

Annie E. Casey Foundation brief on research agendas for whole family work