UChicago and Chapin Hall Announce 2022 Joint Research Fund Awards

Projects to examine economic abuse in home visitation households and use of network analysis to understand families in child welfare systems

The University of Chicago and Chapin Hall announce funding for two studies: one examines the incidence and prevalence of economic abuse in families and the second explores family networks in child welfare administrative data. Now in its ninth year, the University of Chicago-Chapin Hall Joint Research Fund (JRF) awarded nearly $200,000 to the 2022 research teams. The investigators and their projects are:   

Dr. Melissa Kull (Senior Researcher, Chapin Hall) and Dr. Gina Fedock (Assistant Professor, Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice) will lead Undetected Abuse? Examining the Prevalence and Role of Economic Abuse in Home Visitation Households. Economic abuse involves excessive control of a partner or ex-partner’s money and finances. Kull and Fedock hope to improve upon existing policies and practices for home visitation programs that focus primarily on promoting child and maternal health. Research is needed that accounts for the multiple and complex needs of families, with a particular look at nature and types of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in the home visiting population.  

This study aims to address the gaps by investigating prevalence rates of economic abuse among caregivers. The team will examine the role of economic abuse in relation to caregiver experiences of economic hardship, housing stability, uptake and engagement in social services, and the role of informal supports. The team further seeks to elicit caregiver preferences for enhancing services, practices, and policies to address economic abuse and IPV. 

The study design includes two components: 1) a survey of caregivers engaged in home visitation and, 2) interviews with caregivers who will be purposively sampled based on their survey responses. The team will partner with Baby TALK programs in California, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania and engage more than 500 families. Products will include policy and practice briefs and a peer-reviewed journal article.  

Ms. Emily Wiegand (Analytics Manager, Chapin Hall)and Dr. Claire Donnat  (Assistant Professor, Department of Statistics, University of Chicago) will lead Exploring Family Networks in Child Welfare Data. Kinship ties matter when it comes to understanding family strengths and resources. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, older siblings, and even fictive kin can provide crucial social-emotional supports, economic resources, and reliable sources of child care for parents experiencing adversity.  

In partnership with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Wiegand and Donnat will explore network analysis as an approach to describe, aggregate, and analyze families involved in child welfare systems. There have been no prior attempts to apply network analysis methods at scale and these methods may be useful in accurately capturing the diversity of family structures and experiences. Examining years of child welfare data with “fresh” methods may lead to novel approaches to understanding patterns within and across family units and communities. These approaches will illuminate longitudinal patterns of family structure and kinship ties addressing for example the prevalence of multigenerational networks (an individual involved as a child reappears later as an adult) and what characterizes them within families and across cohorts/generations. Products will include peer-reviewed journal submissions and presentations to the team’s child welfare partners.  

The Joint Research Fund awards foster long-term, policy-relevant research collaborations between University faculty and Chapin Hall researchers, with an emphasis on early career scholars. The funding supports research consistent with our shared commitment to rigorous inquiry and translational impact. In the previous eight years, the Fund made awards to 22 research teams.  

The JRF Steering Committee, made up of appointees from the University and Chapin Hall, reviewed highly competitive proposals from partnerships of faculty across the University and Chapin Hall staff. Interested faculty and staff may visit the Joint Research Fund webpage and sign up for updates.