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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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RMC Research Corporation is evaluating the effectiveness of Connecticut's school-based family resource model by examining 18 Family Resource Centers in cities across Connecticut. Funded by the Connecticut State Department of Education, our evaluation activities began in July 1994 and will end in September 1996.

In 1994, the Connecticut State Department of Education was awarded a three-year federal demonstration grant to support the activities of nine existing Family Resource Centers and fund the development of new Family Resource Centers. The previously existing Family Resource Centers had been in operation for varying lengths of time ranging from seven years to less than one year. Nine new sites were first funded in the spring of 1994.

In this article we briefly describe our evaluation design, activities conducted during the first year, and the challenges of evaluating Family Resource Centers.

Evaluation Design

The purpose of the evaluation is to address questions related to the effectiveness of the Family Resource Centers in meeting client needs and determining the degree to which the FRC's fully integrated service model promotes client participation based on strong agency collaborations. The evaluation design includes both process and impact assessments of the Family Resource Centers' programs and the effects on families, children, and the FRC as an institution. The evaluation is divided into three major areas:
  • Cross-Site Process and Impact Evaluation: activities to examine program processes and effectiveness across all 18 sites;
  • Site-Based Process and Impact Evaluation: assessment activities to address specific Family Resource Center site goals and objectives; and
  • Technical Assistance and Staff Development: training to develop site- based evaluation plans and assess program effectiveness.

First Year Activities

The development of a close partnership arrangement with the Family Resource Centers has been integral to the evaluation approach. To facilitate this partnership, a two-day retreat was held early in the grant period with RMC staff and the FRC Administrators.

Written surveys were used to obtain quantitative information and site visits conducted by RMC staff provided qualitative data. Together, the information gathered from these methods provide a clear picture of the variations in program configuration, service delivery, and participation. RMC developed a computerized management information system for FRC staff to facilitate local collection of quantitative data from participating families.

To facilitate the development of local site specific evaluation plans by Family Resource Center administrators, RMC provided evaluation training sessions.

As a result of our activities during the first year, we refined our evaluation model to better reflect how the Family Resource Centers operate and to meet the data collection needs of the evaluation.

The first year's evaluation activities resulted in a better understanding of the processes and strategies used by the various sites to weave the core components together with the intention of reaching the long terms goals of children's success in school and strengthening effective family management practices.


A number of features of the Family Resource Centers and the processes of evaluation create challenges for evaluators:
  • families become involved in different service components and receive different intensities of services;
  • hypothesized outcomes have not been clearly articulated for families, vary by site, and change during the course of the family's involvement in the FRCs;
  • the intended impact of the FRC projects on students and their families are longer-term and will not be evident within the relatively short time period of the current evaluation contract;
  • the long term program effects of greatest interest are affected by many other forces beyond the scope of the present FRC intervention model;
  • inconsistent resources across multiple sites make it difficult to identify common strategies for the successful implementation of the FRC model; and
  • developing successful partnerships requires ongoing communication about the expectations, uses, and benefits of evaluation for improving program quality.

Susan L. Frankel, Ph.D.
Research Associate
RMC Research Corporation
1000 Market Street
Portsmouth, NH 03801
Tel: 603-422-8888 or 800-258-0802
Fax: 603-436-9166

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© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project