As a division of the National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice, the Center for Evaluation and Research has been conducting research and evaluation in child welfare since the 1980s. We have worked in many facets of child welfare including family preservation and in-home services, family reunification and permanency for children and youth, mediation and alternative dispute resolution, permanent connections for youth transitioning out of foster care, reducing the over-representation of minority children and families in the child welfare system, supportive housing, and child welfare workforce development.

Our child welfare work facilitates a range of partnerships with state, federal and local public and private child welfare agencies who want to implement evidence-based practices and contribute to knowledge development in the field of child welfare.

Sample projects:


The NRCFCP is conducting a process and outcome evaluation of Partners United for Supportive Housing in Cedar Rapids (PUSH-CR), Iowa’s first supportive housing project designed specifically for homeless/unstably housed families who are also involved with the child welfare system. PUSH-CR is one of five demonstrations across the country testing innovative approaches to supportive housing in child welfare systems. PUSH-CR’s model uses rapid housing access, service coordination, and strong community partnerships to prevent out-of-home placement, reunify families, improve child and family well-being, and to create sustained practice changes in the way that child welfare systems serve homeless families.

Intensive Family Finding

The NRCFCP conducted an evaluation of Families for Iowa’s Children (FIC), an intensive family finding project funded by the Children’s Bureau of ACF, U.S. DHHS. FIC used intensive search and engagement strategies for children in foster care and their families with the objectives of strengthening family connections and permanency. Using an experimental design with randomization to family finding or a control group, intensive family finding was more effective than standard child welfare services in engaging a larger network of family and kin, in facilitating a greater number of family team meetings, and in ensuring that every child in care has at least one supportive emotional connection with an adult. Children receiving family finding were more likely to be adopted by relatives and less likely to age out of care without permanency resolution, but other forms of permanency, number of placement disruptions, and subsequent substantiated maltreatment reports did not differ between groups.

Improving Recruitment and Retention in Public Child Welfare

In collaboration with the Iowa Department of Human Services and with funding from the Children’s Bureau of ACF, U.S. DHHS, the NRCFCP evaluated a statewide training intervention for public child welfare supervisors with the goal of improving workforce retention. Results indicated significant increases in supervisors’ knowledge across all training domains, and an overall retention rate of about 80% for child welfare workers hired during the five-year period of the study.