New Rapid Response Research Grants Address Pressing Issues Facing Young People in the U.S.

The William T. Grant Foundation has awarded six Rapid Response Research Grants that will leverage research to address major challenges facing young people in the United States. These awards, the first of their kind, support reviews of existing research, conducted by researchers in collaboration with policy partners, aimed at reducing youth inequality. Such work is especially timely as public debate grows increasingly divisive, and as young people, particularly those who are marginalized on account of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or immigration status, face increasingly exclusionary policies and unwelcome climates. As a longtime funder of high-quality, empirical research, the Foundation developed the Rapid Response awards in 2017 to foster agile uses of research to respond to the needs of young people growing up in an uncertain and turbulent social climate.

“Ordinarily research studies take months if not years to complete. But practitioners and policymakers responding to our most pressing problems cannot wait,” said Adam Gamoran, President of the Foundation. “The unique aspect of these awards is that the research-policy teams are focused in areas where the research is available and just needs to be synthesized and applied to a specific context. Further, as the policy partners are poised to act, these grants will allow them to do so on the basis of the best research we have available today.”

The cornerstone of the Rapid Response research grants is collaboration between researchers and policymakers. The funded partners have jointly constructed the goals and contours of a swift, systematic review of existing research to ensure that the questions guiding the synthesis are ones that policymakers or practitioners need answered. The researchers have committed to producing a synthesis of the relevant literature within an abbreviated timeframe of six to eight weeks, and the partners will ultimately develop an engagement plan to ensure that the research reaches targeted decision makers and leads to action.

“As a research funder, we know that valuable research exists, but it needs to be harnessed for change,” said Vivian Tseng, Senior Vice President of Program at the Foundation. “Deeper engagement between researchers and policy actors is critical for tackling the xenophobia, homophobia, racism, and class divides that foster unequal outcomes for children and youth. None of us—researchers, policymakers, practitioners, advocates, or young people themselves—can go it alone. We need to align our efforts to achieve a more just society for the next generation.”

The development of the Rapid Response grants was informed by the Foundation’s two primary focus areas: reducing inequality in youth outcomes and improving the use of research evidence in policy and practice.

The six grants are as follows:

Science-Based Policy and Practice to Protect Five Million American Youth in a Time of Crisis
PI: Hiro Yoshikawa and Ajay Chaudry, New York University
Partner organizations: Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); the National Immigration Law Center (NILC)

Immigrant children, youth, and adults have been on heightened alert due to a number of public policy and enforcement protocol challenges that have emerged since early 2017. Hiro Yoshikawa and Ajay Chaudry will work with CLASP and NILC, to provide research-based responses to policy changes that threaten the ability of unauthorized youth and citizen youth with unauthorized parents to access health and human services. This effort will synthesize multiple literatures relevant to the impacts of the current enforcement climate on child and youth development and the impacts of ending DACA on children and youth. For the latter, Yoshikawa will provide a declaration of the research evidence on the impacts of ending DACA, to be used in one of the most prominent legal cases challenging DACA’s repeal. The engagement plan includes short memos, model state policies or legislation, and a set of summary talking points for local, state, and national policy organizations.

Stories and Numbers: Creating Safe Schools for LGBT Youth in Texas
PI: Stephen Russell, University of Texas at Austin
Partner organizations: Texas Genders & Sexualities Alliance (GSA) Network, a project of Out Youth; Equality Texas

The rights of transgender and gender nonconforming youth in Texas schools are under threat, and the Texas state legislature is no longer a feasible means for making progress on protecting sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) rights. Stephen Russell will partner with Texas GSA Network and Equality Texas to examine crucial questions related to LBGTQ youth. Informed by a review of existing research on SOGI issues in education, the team will develop model policies and best practices designed for implementation in schools, and a toolkit to build the capacity of students, parents, and education professionals to combine the key findings from research with their personal stories of school experiences and needs. Texas GSA Network and Equality Texas will then train student and parent groups to conduct advocacy efforts that leverage these products to advocate for research-informed policy change and ensure safer school climates for LGBTQ students.

Evidence-based Interventions for Adolescent Opioid Use Disorder—What Might Work for High-Risk Ohio Counties?

PI: Lisa Clemans-Cope, Urban Institute
Partner organization: Addiction Policy Forum (APF)

Lisa Clemans-Cope and APF will address the opioid crisis in the adolescent population of two counties in Ohio that have been hard hit by the opioid epidemic. They will identify and assess promising interventions aimed at reducing economic inequality in opioid use disorder (OUD) among adolescents through prevention, screening/referral, and treatment. Ultimately the partners plan to use fact sheets, slide decks, and a webinar to engage with county leaders and will incorporate recommendations from the literature review into a Blueprint they are developing for the two counties. They will support policymakers, service providers, families, and Pickaway and Warren County residents in their efforts to implement the adolescent screening, treatment, and prevention practices featured in the literature review.

Immigration, Deportation, and Child Welfare: Advancing Knowledge to Improve Practice
PI: Mark Greenberg and Randy Capps, Migration Policy Institute (MPI)
Partner organization: American Public Human Services Association (APHSA)

The heightened federal immigration enforcement that has taken place since 2017 is not only taking a toll on families and young people, but on the local child welfare agencies that serve them. In this new climate, interior jurisdictions-¬those counties located inland, farther from border towns-¬now have enforcement issues and an urgent need for guidance in policy development. To respond to these challenges, MPI and APHSA will conduct an extensive review of the literature including an update of a 2013 review on the health and human service needs of children with detained and deported parents conducted for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. MPI and APHSA will jointly develop a report and policy manual, host webinars, and provide state and county child welfare officials with technical assistance and detailed guidance for the implementation of promising practices.

Connecting Puerto Rican Youth to Employment: Leveraging Disaster Recovery as a Pathyway to Economic Security
PI: John Martinez, MDRC
Partner organization: Instituto del Desarrollo del la Juventud (Youth Development Institute, YDI)

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico’s steep youth unemployment rate and poverty rate have been exacerbated. MDRC will partner with YDI to identify promising evidence-based practices to provide Puerto Rican youth with opportunities to enter the labor market. They will leverage the opportunities offered by the Puerto Rican reconstruction to create pathways for youth, including young parents, into the workforce. The partners will develop a set of evidence-based policy recommendations for use in federal advocacy efforts to secure more training and employment opportunities for youth while providing Puerto Rican leaders with education and technical assistance for implementing the proposed policies.

Thriving after Surviving: Strategies for Improving Muslim Refugee Student Outcomes
PI: Jen’nan Read, Duke University
Partner Organizations: Durham Public School District (DPS); World Relief Durham

Jen’nan Read will partner with the Durham Public School District (DPS) and World Relief Durham, a non-profit resettlement agency active in Durham, North Carolina, to devise research-informed programs and procedures to successfully transition Muslim refugee children and their families to the United States. This partnership will pilot a series of activities in a single school in the district. Activities include a workshop for teachers and administrators on the specific needs of Muslim refugee students and practices to improve their outcomes, after-school workshops for refugee students and families, and the recruitment of an Arabic-speaking liaison to help remove communication barriers and increase parental involvement and trust in the school. The partners hope to replicate and extend successful practices from this pilot to other schools.

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