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RWJF Program Evaluations

An RWJF Collection

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Evaluation: Children's Futures' First Five Years

The Program Being Evaluated

Focusing on examining the critical relationships between health and where and how people live, work, learn and play, Children's Futures: Improving Health and Development Outcomes for Children in Trenton, N.J. led a collaboration of public agencies and nonprofit community organizations seeking to strengthen parenting, improve access to primary quality health care, and child care systems and increase social supports for Trenton children and families.

About the Evaluation

The evaluation of Children's Futures had two phases. The initial phase focused on: 1) the extent to which the three main aspects of Children's Futures, including prenatal and parenting education, child-care quality and father involvement, were implemented; and 2) the development of collaborations across agencies within Trenton to support the goals of Children's Futures. The purpose of the second phase of the evaluation was to measure the effect of Children's Futures in the lives of families who participated in Children's Futures programs and in the lives of families in Trenton as a whole.

The lead evaluator for this program was Karen Walker, Ph.D., from the University of Virginia.

Major Evaluative Topics and Questions

  • Did the health of children participating in Children's Futures improve?
  • Did the health of children in Trenton improve?
  • Did the parenting practices of parents participating in Children's Futures improve?
  • Did the parenting practices of parents in Trenton improve?
  • Did the quality of child care centers improve for children participating in Children's Futures?
  • Did the quality of child care centers improve in Trenton?

The evaluation also examined the credibility of Children's Futures in the Trenton community.

Summary of Methods

To measure changes in children's health, parenting practices and school readiness, a variety of data collection efforts occurred. In spring 2008 and spring 2010, a survey of care providers within child care centers in Trenton was administered. This measured providers' credentials, experience, knowledge and practices. When paired with data collected in 2004 and 2005, the evaluator measured changes over time. A survey of the community, which collected data about parenting practices, children's health and their use of health and social services, was administered in the fall of 2007 and fall of 2010. A baseline survey was administered in 2002.

Outcomes data for families participating in Children's Futures programs were collected via an interagency management information system. Vital statistics, emergency room visits and hospital discharge data were also  collected to measure changes in children's health. School readiness was assessed using child development assessments administered as part of the home visiting programs.

Products and Dissemination

Products, including annual reports and data analysis, will be made available over the course of the evaluation.