A force for good

Author: Staff

Two moms with babies sitting and talking

Maternity homes study

When pregnant women face homelessness, both mother and child are at increased risk for health complications and other adverse outcomes. More than 400 maternity homes across the country are hard at work providing services and support to this vulnerable population yet little rigorous research has been undertaken on the impact of their efforts – until now.

In partnership with the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture here at Notre Dame, LEO is partnering with the National Maternity Housing Coalition (NMHC) to launch impact evaluations at five NMHC member agencies across the country. The hope is to generate evidence of the difference this intervention may make on the well-being of moms and their babies.

The study will look for evidence of improved housing stability and birth outcomes for women and children who received maternity housing services compared with those who did not. Researchers also plan to follow employment and education related outcomes and measures of mental wellness, substance use, and family stability.

A young man sitting at a table talking to a mentor

$816K grant to study 2Gen mentoring impact

Friends of the Children, a youth mentorship-focused nonprofit, is no stranger to randomized control trials (RCT). In 2007, it received a National Institutes of Health grant to begin a multi-site longitudinal RCT of its mentoring model. Since then, it has used research findings from this and other studies to refine, improve and expand its services.

Thanks to a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Friends of the Children will partner with LEO to expand the evidence base for its Two-Generation (2Gen) approach to improving outcomes for children and their caregivers. The Hilton Foundation grant provides $816,000 for the six-year impact evaluation.

City-based cohorts

Five innovative social service agencies in Atlanta are part of LEO’s first-ever city-based cohort, which came about through the support of Notre Dame graduate Ed Fisher and his wife, Lori.

The Atlanta cohort includes:Kidz2Leaders, which focuses on addressing generational incarceration; Gateway Center, which is evaluating the impact of its workforce development program on its homeless clients; Next Generation Men & Women, which partners with under-resourced high schools to provide youth with mentoring and regular exposure to career pathways, professionals and work environments;  Goodwill of North Georgia, which is evaluating the impact of its career services program, particularly for women and people of color who are interested in non-traditional occupations; and First Step Staffing, which will study the impact of its wraparound service on job retention rates, wage growth, and housing stability.

LEO’s next city-based cohort will be in Seattle, focusing on homelessness, later in the summer.

LEO collaborations

LEO continues to collaborate with other like-minded groups to advance research and policy priorities.

  • The Community of Practice formed around comprehensive approaches to student success (CASS) remains a fruitful and exciting endeavor alongside researchers and evidence-based service providers across the country. In January, our research partner, The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) released a research agenda aimed at understanding what it would take to scale and replicate CASS interventions.
  • LEO managing director Heather Reynolds was invited to participate in  2Gen Research: Proof Points to Building Evidence Learning and Action Community (2Gen BELAC) which met for the first time in January. The group was convened by Ascend at the Aspen Institute. In the coming year, 2Gen BELAC will work to build a learning community around 2Gen learning, research and evaluation as well as developing a research agenda for the 2Gen field. 
  • For the past three years, LEO co-founder Jim Sullivan served on the American Enterprise Institute- Brookings Institution Working Group on Childhood in the United States. In February, the group released a consensus report: "Rebalancing: Children First." Working group members were in agreement regarding the need to rebalance national investments toward children. Their report lays out evidence on policy effectiveness and priorities for progress.

Evidence Matters webinar series

The Evidence Matters webinar series hosted by LEO and its provider partner King County (Washington) sheds light on how partnerships among researchers, social services providers, and policymakers can work together for greater impact in the poverty intervention space. Recent webinars unpacked how impact evaluations are a different kind of performance measurement and the benefits of strong research-practitioner partnerships. For recordings of past webinars and for updates on future events, contact leo@nd.edu.

A man playfully tossing a young boy into the air

Foster care research agenda

Children in foster care are at higher risk of living in poverty, struggling with mental and physical health problems, engaging in substance abuse, having lower educational achievement, and being arrested. The need for evidence-based best practices and policies for this vulnerable group is important in the fight against poverty. LEO is laying the groundwork for research in this area and is pursuing crucial data sharing relationships with state agencies. Researchers have conducted a literature review and developed research questions that will guide our work.

Emergency financial assistance impact

Silicon Valley has some of the highest levels of rent in the country. This corner of the country also has the fourth highest level of homelessness. In 2019, LEO began a study examining the impact of emergency financial assistance (EFA) on homelessness services and homeless shelter entry in Santa Clara County. While the study is not complete, preliminary findings indicate that those who receive EFA are less likely to use homelessness services or enter a shelter in the following six months. It also found evidence that this decrease in homelessness services use persists a year out.  This tracks with findings from another key LEO study on the impact of EFA for those facing housing instability in Chicago. That study found evidence of an immediate and significant impact for individuals and families in crisis.