December 2016 Newsletter


Applications for Cohort Seven Now Closed

The application period for the Doris Duke Fellowships is now closed. Thank you very much to those of you who expressed interest in the fellowships, and to those of you who submitted an application to be a part of Cohort Seven! We received a record number of applications this year for 15 members and are hard at work already at selecting our newest cohort of fellows. If you have any questions, please email Applicants can expect to hear from our team in February 2017.

Updates on Doris Duke Fellows

Check out what our Doris Duke Fellows have been up to recently!

Sheridan Miyamoto, Assistant Professor of Nursing at The Pennsylvania State University and a Cohort Three fellow, received a $1.1 million U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Victims of Crime grant to implement a new project, the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination and Training (SAFE-T) Center. The SAFE-T Center project’s goal is to improve access to quality forensic sexual assault care for adults and adolescents in underserved communities, many in rural areas. Telemedicine technology, or the use of live-examination video conferencing, will be used to reach communities to address the multi-faceted issue of sexual assault.

Featured Fellow Interview:
Dr. April Allen

Each month, Sarah Wagener, Fellowship Network Coordinator at Chapin Hall, connects with a different graduated fellow to showcase the many different ways in which Doris Duke fellows prevent child maltreatment and promote the health and well-being of children and youth.

This month, Sarah connected with Dr. April Allen, a Cohort Three fellow, who currently serves as the Data Driven Practice Advisor at Casey Family Programs.

Sarah Wagener (SW): What are your responsibilities as Data Driven Practice Advisor at Casey Family Programs? What do you like about the work you do? What challenges you in the work you do?

April Allen (AA): As a Data Driven Practice Advisor, I work to improve data-driven decision-making in state, county, and tribal child welfare systems by increasing the capacity of public child welfare systems to use data to advance policy and practice improvements. My day-to-day work includes analysis of administrative data (e.g., AFCARS, NCANDS, and other jurisdiction-specific quantitative and qualitative data), facilitating data literacy trainings for child welfare professionals, producing reports, and presenting customized analyses to cross-system stakeholders.

I really enjoy the ability to act as a bridge between research, policy, and practice in this role. I am also able to support child welfare systems that may not have the fiscal or human resources to devote to this type of analysis. On a more personal level, I love making data approachable and actionable for child welfare professionals who may not have a lot of exposure to this world.  This work allows me to challenge myself daily to learn new approaches to data presentation and analysis, as well as the unique characteristics, strengths, and challenges of child welfare systems across the country.  

SW: Casey Family Programs works to safely reduce the need for foster care in the United States from a number of angles: by providing directing services, offering strategic consulting, engaging in research and analysis, and collaborating with government to influence public policy. In which area of the foundation does your role exist? How does the work of your department inform the work at other levels of the foundation?

AA: As part of the Data Advocacy team, my work bridges many of the aspects of the foundation's work. On any given day, we may be identifying trends in direct services for our Child and Family Services offices, responding to state-specific questions raised by a Strategic Consultant for a particular jurisdiction, conducting analyses used to in education efforts by our Public Policy team, or collaborating on the design of evaluations with our Research Services colleagues. 

SW: What strategies have you found to be successful in helping you work with a variety of external partners whose goals are similar to Casey Family Programs’ goals?

AA: Casey Family Programs' mission is to provide and improve - and ultimately prevent the need for - foster care. A key facet of the foundation's work is the Communities of Hope initiative, which recognizes that it is not possible to improve outcomes for children and families without considering the community context. My work has been most effective when I am able to collaborate with local leaders and engage the many systems that intersect with child welfare to use data to advance better outcomes for kids. This collaborative approach has been helpful in understanding unique community contexts that may not be initially apparent in administrative data. It also allows us to bring to bear data from across health, human services, and other fields to better support child welfare agencies.

SW: How has your experience as a Doris Duke fellow influenced your current work or professional aspirations?

AA: The Doris Duke Fellowship supported my interdisciplinary research and policy interests, in particular through my dissertation research that crossed child welfare, early childhood special education, public health, and social policy. Collaborating with and learning from the other fellows exposed me to new analytic approaches and highlighted best practices in different fields that are integral to my current work.

This Fellowship was also a rare opportunity to have a dual focus on research and policy. With the support of the Doris Duke Fellowship, I built strong relationships with formal and informal policy mentors working in child welfare, which grounded my research in a deeper understanding of the day-to-day work of child welfare. These connections and experiences were helpful when I assumed the position of Director of Policy and Planning for Vermont's Department for Children and Families, the role I held prior to working for Casey Family Programs, and will continue to inform my work going forward.

SW: What advice would you give to those who may be interested in working at a foundation after completing their doctorate?

AA: It was invaluable to me to have a broad range of experience in research and policy prior to joining Casey Family Programs. However, others may find that working for a foundation is a great starting point for understanding the child welfare system. Regardless of the approach, I believe that individuals should evaluate the foundation to understand the extent to which data and research are being used to support better outcomes for children.

More broadly, my advice is to pursue an area of interest relentlessly without regard to artificial boundaries of research versus policy, child welfare versus public health, and so on. In taking on roles that cross systems and sectors, I have been able to continually enrich my own understanding and bring these lessons learned to my work. I would not have had many of these opportunities if I had taken a more linear or traditional path.

If you would like to connect with April, she can be reached at

Policy Update: The Department of Housing and Urban Development Continues Partnerships with Private Sector to End “Homework Gap”

In 2015, President Obama launched ConnectHome, an initiative that brings high-speed internet to the school-aged children of low-income families. Earlier this month, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) solidified an agreement between T-Mobile, the New York City Housing Authority, and the City of New York, to bring affordable, high-speed internet access to low-income New York families living in HUD-assisted housing. The 5,000 internet-connected tablets given to families living in public housing in the Bronx will help end a digital divide that yields inequitable educational opportunities and achievement. This recent collaboration in New York City continues the partnerships between public and private sectors at pilot sites of this initiative all around the country, which exist in 43 states and impact hundreds of thousands of residents of public housing. More information about this recent achievement may be found here.


Noteworthy Resource:
"Building Bridges: How to Share Research about Children and Youth with Policymakers"

In October, Child Trends released a publication titled “Building Bridges: How to Share Research about Children and Youth with Policymakers.” This publication outlines the ways in which policymakers use researchers, strategies for producing successful written materials for policymakers, and the power of forming a personal connection with a policymaker as one method of helping research be translated into practice. Check out this informative, easy-to-read guide, and be sure to take a look at the powerful infographics!