Children and Families

Active grants

The Children and Families research area seeks to understand the needs of and services for vulnerable youth and the people and systems that serve them. Topics include access to higher education for foster care youth, workforce training, foster parent support, and the health needs of foster care youth.


Addressing Child Welfare Workforce Retention and Child Health Outcomes through Strength-Based Supervision

Principal Investigators: Joanne Sobeck, Takisha LaShore, Kristina Nikolova 

Grant funder: Michigan Health Endowment Fund

Child welfare workforce turnover is costly, affecting the health and welfare of foster care children and their families. The goal of this project is to address one of the most critical factors in the work environment by implementing strength-based supervision training – a project that will make a significant impact on the competencies of the workforce, their retention and be structurally and financially sustainable for agency partners.


Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program and Policy Implementation in Michigan: Building State Capacity for Program Assessment to Promote Family Self-Sufficiency

Principal Investigator: Kristina Nikolova

Grant Funder: U.S. Administration for Children and Families (ACF)           

Welfare reform has resulted in reductions in welfare rolls across the country; however, complementary reductions in poverty rates or improvements in family self-sufficiency have not been consistently observed. Families can face many barriers to employment, including intimate partner violence, lack of reliable childcare or transportation, housing instability, and physical or mental health issues that prevent them from being self-sufficient. These barriers are not addressed by current benchmarks of TANF success, work participation rates, and welfare caseload reductions. These measures also do not reflect the reality of job instability, low wages, and seasonal work availability. Research Goals: Given the disconnect between current benchmarks of TANF success and the reality of economic self-sufficiency, the proposed project aims to help one state, Michigan, move beyond work participation as a measure of TANF success and instead shift the focus to outcomes related to reducing the negative impacts of families' barriers to self-sufficiency. The first phase in achieving this goal is determining why Michigan has the highest rate of rejection of welfare applications and how the process can be improved to better address the barriers faced by families. The second phase involves developing a statewide database and analytical procedure to allow for ongoing evaluation of self-sufficiency outcomes. A mixed-method approach will be used to qualitatively examine the exemption process for TANF work requirements and time limits in Michigan and quantitatively examine the unmet need for cash assistance in the state.