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Expanding the Knowledge Base about Child Advocacy Centers

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2019, $566,261)

This project aims to conduct a formative evaluation and evaluability assessment of Project Harmony, a large child advocacy center (CAC) in Omaha, Nebraska, currently serving children who are victims of alleged child abuse. Project Harmony is one of the largest CACs in the nation. The ultimate goal is to lay the foundation for future CAC outcome evaluation efforts.

Over the past 30 years, child advocacy centers (CAC) have proliferated, with goals to improve coordination of child abuse investigations, reduce distress to children, and increase offender prosecutions. Yet there is little empirical research examining the efficacy of the centers, specifically which components are critical to achieving these outcomes.

This project will examine five core services within Project Harmony (PH):
(1) Forensic interviewing, (2) Advocacy, (3) Medical care, (4) Mental health services, and (5) Multidisciplinary teams. Despite PH being a large urban child advocacy center that serves as a national model for other CACs, these core services have never been evaluated. The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO) will partner with PH to complete the project.

The project utilizes a mixed-method, two-phased research design. In Phase I, a formative evaluation will include secondary data analysis of agency data and key informant surveys, focus groups, and interviews to assess core service operations. Existing protocols will be compared to National Children’s Alliance (NCA) Accreditation Standards to assess gaps. Qualitative content analysis will identify themes in core service operations. Phase II is an evaluability assessment designed to assess “readiness” for evaluation. The research team will convene a work group of agency stakeholders to review findings from Phase I and conduct qualitative data collection, with the dual purposes of identifying gaps between service goals and operations, and developing a feasible evaluation design that includes evaluation priorities.

Data collection tools will build upon the NCA’s Standards for Accredited Members and survey instruments developed by the National Institute of Justice (2004). PH’s electronic case management system will be used for data collection and reporting. UNO will review evaluation instruments, develop instruments for implementation fidelity, and conduct qualitative analyses of data collected. Validity and reliability are strengthened by partnering with UNO to conduct and analyze findings, comparing results to extant literature, and confirming results with participants.

The study will result in clear logic models, updated survey instruments, an implementation guide, fidelity tools, a CAC evaluability plan, reports detailing each phase of the study, and corresponding data sets. Results will be disseminated through conferences and publications in peer-reviewed journals to promote empirical analyses of other CACs.

"Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law," and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14). CA/NCF

Date Created: September 13, 2019