Select a project to learn more:

Reentry Systems Mapping Project

The Department of Corrections has a mission to help people on parole make positive changes and become law-abiding citizens. To this end, the agency targets high-risk/high-need people with intensive programs – such as housing and employment training – both prior to and upon release to the community.

Following implementation of reforms passed by the Colorado General Assembly in 2014, the Colorado Department of Corrections, in partnership with the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab and Mathematica Policy Research, has conducted a study to examine current implementation of state-level reentry services.

Among the key findings:

  • Colorado’s expansion of reentry services initiated new connections between prison, parole, and the community that build the foundation for  more integrated system.
  • Targeting reentry services to the people who need them most is challenging but key to having efficient and effective services.
  • Modernizing and connecting data systems that evolved from different contexts for different purposes is a strategic priority for improving service delivery.

Agencies: 

Colorado Department of Corrections

Research Partners: 

Mathematica Policy Research

Foster Care Youth and School Mobility

This study examined the relationship between school mobility for Colorado students in foster care and educational attainment outcomes, specifically earning high school diploma, a high school equivalency diploma (e.g., through examination such as a GED), or exiting the K-12 system without a credential. After examining the study’s findings, the Colorado legislature passed the Educational Stability for Foster Youth Act, which provided $2.9 million for foster care youth to remain in their school of origin after being relocated from their prior home placement.

The Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab published research on the experiences of youth in foster care. The first report summarizes the results to date of the Colorado Study of Students in Foster Care; the second examines a recent drop in the graduation rate for foster youth and opportunities to improve this graduation rate in the future.

Agencies: 

Colorado Department of Education

Colorado Department of Human Services

Research Partners: 

University of Northern Colorado

Mile High United Way

2Gen Child Support Transformation Project

The Colorado Department of Human Services’ (CDHS) Division of Child Support Services (CSS) embarked on an innovative partnership with counties to transform child support services in Colorado from a traditional enforcement approach to a family-centered multigenerational approach, commonly known as the “two generation” or “2Gen” approach to child support services. “2Gen” is the catchall term used to describe those approaches that focus on both generations (the children and their parents or adult caregivers) to help families escape the cycle of poverty. For CSS, the primary goal of the 2Gen approach is to support family income growth by providing both parents with access to employment services and the tools needed to build social capital and improve children’s long-term outcomes. The secondary goal of the 2Gen approach focuses on strengthening the willingness of parents to pay child support by offering co-parenting and parenting programs aimed at improving relationships among parents and their children.

2Gen Procedures

Packaged, replicable models of the 2Gen approach for child support services did not exist when the State of Colorado began the process of transforming the work of child support services. So, CDHS partnered with the evaluation team to develop an innovative model and initiated a pilot study known as the 2Gen Child Support Services Transformation Project (the “2Gen Project”). The long-term goal of the 2Gen Project examines the extent to which this cutting-edge model meets the goals of improving important outcomes associated with multi-generational poverty for children and the entire family.

Transforming Colorado’s Child Support Services to a Two-Generation Approach: Lessons Learned and Impact Results from Implementing an 11-County Randomized Controlled Study

An implementation and an outcome study were conducted in eleven counties. The purpose of the implementation study was to describe the degree to which counties implemented the model with fidelity and identify lessons learned that may inform subsequent efforts to transform child support. Two of the eleven counties fully implemented 2Gen Child Support Services; nine of the counties were rated as in the process of transitioning to a 2Gen model. Caseworkers use of advanced motivational interviewing skills and their engagement of non-custodial parents were among the key differences between the counties that fully implemented the 2Gen model and those that were transitioning to delivering 2Gen services.

The impact of the model on child support payment was measured through a randomized controlled trial. Child support cases were randomly assigned within each of the eleven counties to either the 2Gen approach or business as usual. There was no statistically significant difference in child support payment outcomes between the two groups. The research team recommends shoring up implementation fidelity and reassessing outcomes when more counties are fully implementing the 2Gen model. 

Agencies: 

Colorado Department of Human Services, Child Support Division

Research Partners:

Center for Policy Research

Student Re-Engagement

The Colorado Department of Education recently received state funding to implement a Student Re-Engagement Grant Program (SRGP). The goal of this project is to inform the administration of the SRGP by looking back at data from a previously administered grant program, called Colorado Graduation Pathways (CGP). The CGP program was a federally funded grant with similar objectives to the SRGP (e.g., decreasing the dropout rate; increasing the high school graduation rate).

Student-level data from one year of this program were used in combination with state administrative data to describe the relationships between targeted interventions and educational outcomes for served students, such as staying in school and graduating from high school. This was not a causal study – that might suggest that outcomes were a result of specific interventions. Instead, the descriptive exploratory nature of the analyses is best used to generate ideas and guide conversations about strategic grant-making. The findings from the study suggest considering:

  • Engaging grantees in conversations about equity and access.
  • Expanding investments to create continuity through school transitions for all grade levels.
  • Targeting interventions and supports to students who change schools during 12th grade so that they are more likely to graduate.
  • Sustaining or increasing investments in Check & Connect to help keep students in school.
  • Accelerating investments in Title I and highly mobile students.
  • Requiring grantees to report program data at the student level.

Agencies: 

Colorado Department of Education

Research Partners: 

University of Denver, Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab

Postsecondary Participation of Youth Formerly in Foster Care

Youth who experience foster care and earn a high school credential have already beaten the odds, but some of these young people may still experience unique barriers to postsecondary participation. In Colorado, only 34% of foster youth earn a high school credential with their class. When given more time, approximately half of former foster youth earn a high school credential by age 21. Only one in four of these youth enter postsecondary education immediately after graduating from high school. The purpose of this mixed methods study is to describe how experiences during middle school, high school, and the transition to adulthood influence the participation of former foster youth in postsecondary education.

Thirty former foster youth will be invited to describe their journey during high school and beyond and the experiences that shaped their postsecondary participation. Ten years of administrative records from Colorado Department of Education, Colorado Department of Human Services, and Colorado Department of Higher Education will be used to describe the relationships between academic achievement, school moves, and child welfare placement changes during middle school and high school and the likelihood of entering postsecondary education within three years of earning a high school credential, as well as the amount of time it takes these students to enter postsecondary education. Information on programs of study and institutions attended will also be generated. The goal of this research is to inform policy solutions for youth currently or formerly in foster care who aspire to pursue postsecondary education.

Agencies: 

Colorado Department of Education

Colorado Department of Higher Education

Colorado Department of Human Services, Child Welfare

Research Partners: 

University of Northern Colorado

Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative Community Partner Program Grants

The Colorado Department of Higher Education is tasked with distributing funds under the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) to high schools and postsecondary institutions– or their community partners– to increase the availability and accessibility of pre-collegiate and post-secondary student support services. The long-term goal of the COSI program is to increase postsecondary completion rates. The Colorado Lab is helping the program to better target its funds toward measurable goals.

Agencies: 

Colorado Department of Higher Education

The Outcomes and Return on Investment of Concurrent Enrollment in Colorado

This project assesses evidence of promise for concurrent enrollment as a strategy for improving college attainment for all students in Colorado, with special attention to whether this strategy improves outcomes for students from low-income and minority families.

The goals of this projects are to:

  • build the capacity of the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) for evaluating policies aiming to increase college attainment;
  • conduct a preliminary assessment of the student outcomes, costs, and economic benefits of concurrent enrollment in the state of Colorado; and
  • develop a robust, state-level research agenda for improving college outcomes.

The study follows five cohorts of 11th grade students who attended a Colorado secondary school, starting in the 2009-10 school year through the 2015-16 school year.

Agencies: 

Colorado Department of Higher Education

Research Partners: 

University of Colorado Boulder

Augenblick, Palaich, and Associates Consulting

National Center for Higher Education Management Systems

The Intersection of Housing and Mental Health in Colorado: Mapping Critical Social Determinants of Health

Using Colorado statewide data at the census tract level, this study employed various geospatial analytical techniques to investigate geographic relationships and identify priority area census tracts where the following two critical issues coincided: housing unaffordability and high prevalence of mental health issues. In addition, these priority area census tracts were examined in relationship to access to mental health treatment within 30 minutes of driving . Other social determinants of health were also examined to provide more insight into the characteristics of these locations.

Six percent of all census tracts in Colorado have a significantly higher prevalence of both rent burdened households and mental health issues than the state average. These 71 priority area census tracts are most concentrated in five metropolitan regions: Pueblo, Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and Grand Junction.

A publicly-available, interactive, web-based map was developed to highlight the locations in Colorado where critical housing affordability and mental health issues intersect: http://arcg.is/D1e4C

In identifying and providing a deeper understanding of these census tracts, this study offers policymakers guidance on where to target programs that support affordable housing and mental health. This cross-system information can help policymakers to more effectively coordinate the allocation of resources addressing these two persistent issues.

Agencies: 

Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Division of Housing

Research Partners: 

University of Northern Colorado

Learning from the State of Colorado’s Recent Performance and Efficiency Initiatives

Colorado’s state government actively instituted and expanded efforts to improve government through performance management, process improvement, and talent development during the Hickenlooper administration (2011-2019). The administration’s major performance improvement initiatives included: the SMART Government Act; the Governor’s Dashboard; Lean process improvement; and the Performance Management Academy, among others. The efforts to make government “effective, efficient, and elegant,” the so-called “3 E’s,” were guided by a focus on goals and results alongside a reinvigorated desire to better serve the state’s diverse customers.

This six-report series reflects on the performance improvement initiatives of the Hickenlooper administration to document the experiences, elevate successes, identify challenges, and inform current and future public officials in Colorado and beyond. Qualitative interviews with 13 government leaders who helped shape and guide the governor’s vision, including Governor Hickenlooper himself, and with 24 staff responsible for implementing these initiatives provide the foundation for this series.

The results demonstrate that a data-driven focus on goals, outcomes, and results provided the foundation for the Hickenlooper administration’s performance improvement work. It is also clear that the administration encountered challenges, which included trying to generate buy-in and support for the initiatives, struggling to measure and utilize relevant data, and making do with limited, and sometimes unequal, dedicated resources. In the spirit of continuous improvement, government leaders in Colorado and beyond can learn from the successes and challenges of the performance improvement initiatives championed under Governor Hickenlooper’s tenure

Agencies: 

Lieutenant Governor’s Office (initiated under Hickenlooper administration)

Research Partners: 

University of Colorado Denver

Working Together: The Impact and Caregiver Perceptions of a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) Response to Child Abuse and Neglect Investigations

This study assessed the impact of a multidisciplinary team (MDT) response used in an urban county as well as caregiver perceptions of the investigation process. Following child abuse and neglect reports, children and their families can become involved in investigations that span multiple government systems including child welfare, criminal justice, and health agencies. The multi-system response may require families to interact with police officers, child welfare workers, and health providers.

Data were analyzed in a single urban county in which families were ordered by law enforcement to meet the following day with representatives from the MDT agencies. In addition to coordinating the multi-system investigation, the MDT sought to ensure that caregivers understood the investigation process and could participate fully in efforts to meet their children’s needs. Interviews with 32 caregivers were used to assess perceptions of the investigation.

Analyses of administrative data revealed that, relative to comparison cases, MDT cases were three times more likely to result in substantiated allegations; took an average 1.72 days longer to investigate than comparison cases; had more documented contacts during the investigation; and resulted in more out-of-home placement in the first 90 days after the referral allegation. Caregiver interviews revealed that participants perceived both strengths and limitations of the MDT response. Participants’ responses emphasized that clear communication is essential to caregiver engagement, during the initial days when the investigation begins, and over time.

Agencies: 

An Urban County in Colorado

Research Partners: 

University of Denver