The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) has appointed Dr. Cynthia Osborne, associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and one of the country’s foremost health and social policy researchers, to a 12-member interdisciplinary committee tasked with reducing the number of children living in poverty in the United States by 50 percent within ten years.

Osborne, founder and director of the Child and Family Research Partnership (CFRP) and director of the Center for Health and Social Policy (CHASP) at the LBJ School, is no stranger to leading both state and national initiatives that address poverty, child welfare, and fatherhood issues.

Poverty

“I’m honored to be a part of this critical effort to aggressively reduce child poverty in our country,” Osborne said. “Children are our greatest resource, but too many are mired in poverty and do not have the opportunities they deserve to reach their full potential. This committee is charged with identifying what we know works to move today’s children out of poverty, so that policymakers can determine how best to invest in our future.”

The committee, called the Committee on Building an Agenda to Reduce the Number of Children in Poverty by Half in 10 Years, was charged with providing recommendations for federal investment aimed at reducing childhood poverty.

“I’m honored to be a part of this critical effort to aggressively reduce child poverty in our country. This committee is charged with identifying what we know works to move today’s children out of poverty, so that policymakers can determine how best to invest in our future.” —Cynthia Osborne

The committee will assess both local and international efforts and identify policies and programs with the potential to help reduce child poverty and deep poverty by 50 percent within ten years of implementation. For those programs identified, the committee will provide an analysis to federal policymakers regarding potential combinations of policy investments.

Finally, the committee will identify key research areas to advance the knowledge base for developing and assessing policies to reduce child poverty in the U.S.

NAS is a highly respected organization comprised of the country’s leading researchers that provides objective, science-based advice to federal legislators and policymakers on critical issues.

READ MORE ABOUT THE COMMITTEE’S KEY CHARGES

Child Welfare

In addition to Osborne’s research on poverty, she works with the state of Texas to transform its child welfare system, evaluating the success of key workforce initiatives that aim to support the safety, permanency, and well-being of Texas children. 

Like many child welfare agencies across the nation, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) faces significant challenges with recruiting and retaining high-quality staff in its Child Protective Services (CPS) program. To address these issues, DFPS has introduced an improved model for training new caseworkers called CPS Professional Development (CPD). This model emphasizes field-based trainings and individualized learning rather than a predominantly classroom-based approach.

Osborne’s evaluation of CPD provides DFPS a better understanding of the strategies that are effective for training and maintaining a high-quality workforce, which is central to the agency’s mission to serve vulnerable children and families.

“Texas has made it a top priority to continuously improve in all areas of the child welfare system, including how caseworkers are trained, retained and supported,” said Osborne. “We’ve been asked to help the state understand whether the new approaches for training and supporting staff are working and why.”

Early findings indicate direct and positive impact. Findings include:

  • CPS staff overwhelmingly report that the hands-on and experiential approach under the CPD model is the right approach for training new caseworkers.
  • CPD-trained caseworkers are 18 percent less likely to leave within their first year than caseworkers trained under the former training model, resulting in approximately 340 fewer caseworkers leaving the agency. This retention equates to approximately $18 million in cost avoidance annually.
  • CPD-trained caseworkers are more likely than their counterparts to meet critical casework deadlines, resulting in approximately 6,000 more children being contacted in a timely manner and having their investigation stages resolved more quickly.

Over the next year, Osborne and CFRP will continue the evaluation of the CPD training model and assess the casework quality associated with the new model.

READ MORE ON OSBORNE’S WORK IN CHILD WELFARE

Fatherhood

Research shows that children with involved fathers fare better across nearly every measure of child well-being, from cognitive development and education achievement to self-esteem and pro-social behavior. However, programs designed to support fathers in their role as parents are relatively new to the policy landscape. Recognizing this gap in knowledge, the Prevention and Early Intervention Division of Texas DFPS asked Osborne to develop a comprehensive approach to supporting fathers in Texas. Currently, she is evaluating efforts to support fathers by assessing the evidence base for fatherhood programs in Texas and the country and examining the extent to which the needs of fathers are being met by existing programs and services in Texas.

“Historically, social programs have been geared almost exclusively towards mothers and children, but now there are a growing number of new programs targeted specifically at fathers,” Osborne said. “Today, federal and state policymakers recognize that dads are more than a paycheck or child support payment, and that supporting them as active participants also supports the children.”

In addition to her work on fatherhood programs, Osborne also studies the factors and impacts of fathers participating in home visiting programs, and the prenatal and parental factors that affect in-hospital paternity establishment at the time of the child’s birth.

READ MORE ON OSBORNE’S WORK ON FATHERHOOD

About the Center for Health and Social Policy

The Center for Health and Social Policy (CHASP) is the home of social policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. It is comprised of a network of LBJ faculty, alumni and students who are passionate about reducing social and health disparities in the U.S. and abroad.

About the Child and Family Research Partnership

The Child and Family Research Partnership (CFRP) is an independent, nonpartisan research center at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. The group is also part of the LBJ School’s Center for Health and Social Policy (CHASP). Its work focuses on issues related to young children, teens and their parents.