CDHS Research Internship Program

As part of our effort to build stronger partnerships with outside researchers, CDHS has created the State Human Services Applied Research Practicum (SHARP) Fellowship for graduate students.

Through this nine-month practicum, students:

  • Learn about program evaluation and analysis methods in the context of human services programs

  • Gain practical experience applying research and evaluation techniques

  • Complete a research project with a formal writeup and presentation

  • Attend bi-weekly learning seminars

Seminar topics covered include the overall design and methodology for evaluations, assessing community and program needs, formulating program theory through logic modeling, practical applications of predictive analytics and geomapping, outcome and process measurement and preparing research and evaluation reports.

Below is a summary of the projects done by our previous SHARP Fellows. The information gained from these studies will be used to improve how CDHS and its partners work together to effectively serve vulnerable Coloradans. For more information on the SHARP Fellowship, see the 2018-19 curriculum.

Tom Zolot (2018-19) examined the reasons why Colorado saw a larger than anticipated increase in child support received for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) families after a related change in policy. In April 2017, Colorado implemented a full child support pass-through policy for TANF participants. Prior to the policy change, the state, county and federal governments retained all payments made by non-custodial parents to TANF receiving families as reimbursement for public assistance benefits paid. The research demonstrated that after the policy change, TANF families saw an increase in payments and on average received $167 a month as a result of the change. Zolot was later contracted by the CDHS Employment and Benefits Division to continue this research. Read more about Zolot's study here and watch a webinar about it here.

Cullen Dilldine (2018-19) sought to measure the need for certified American Sign Language (ASL) interpretative services in rural areas in Colorado. Key findings were that most individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or deafblind in rural areas of Colorado likely routinely experience less than effective communication, including writing notes, interpretation by family and friends, lip reading, and gesturing/pointing. The study further analyzed what barriers exist to achieving effective communication, what barriers exist for individuals who want to become certified interpreters, and where ASL interpreters may be most efficiently located for rural communities in the future. He was later hired by the CDHS Performance Management unit. Read more about Dilldine's study here.

Deb Felker (2018-19) sought to identify modifiable casework factors that will reduce the risk of children and youth involved in the child welfare system repeatedly being removed from their home (also known as re-entry). This study identified family engagement meetings and visits between parent and child as factors that significantly reduced the risk of re-entry for those involved for "child abuse and neglect" reasons. For those involved as "youth in conflict," trial home visits reduced their risk of re-entry. Read more about Felker’s study here.

Elly Miles (2018-19) analyzed data from a statewide investigation of suspension and expulsion and the factors associated with their use in early care and learning settings around Colorado. Key findings included that 17 children per 1,000 experienced suspension and 3.7 per 1,000 experienced expulsion. Boys, 5- to 6-year-olds and children with Individualized Family Service Plans or Individualized Education Plans were disproportionately likely to experience suspension and boys, 2- to 3-year-olds, and 5- to 6-year-olds were disproportionately likely to experience expulsion. Suspensions were more likely to occur in center-based settings and appeared to be tied to size, with higher likelihood of suspension occurring with higher-capacity licensed providers. Further, it was discovered that providers with lower Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS) ratings suspended and expelled a higher percentage of children identified with challenging behaviors. Many providers (35 percent) did not know how to access an infant and early childhood mental health consultant to assist with challenging behaviors and most providers (74 percent) had not consulted with one prior to making the decision to suspend or expel. Miles has continued her research with the Office of Early Childhood through a collaboration on her dissertation project.

William Schumann (2017-18) sought to identify risk and protective factors associated with resident falls in the Veterans Community Living Centers. Schumann produced a model that, using data known on day 3 of a newly admitted resident's stay, can predict with 73 percent accuracy whether the resident will fall within the next 90 days. The Veterans Centers are considering how to apply this new tool to enhance their current efforts to proactively prevent falls. Schumann was later hired by the CDHS Performance Management Division. Read more about Schumann's study here.

Annalise Yahne (2017-18) identified useful performance measures for the Juvenile Parole Board. This project resulted in a number of useful products including a logic model, measurement of the timeliness of victim notification, improvements to the way the JPB workload and results are tracked, and factors that may be correlated with youth re-involvement. Yahne provided additional recommendations to the JPB board, staff and department managers, and those recommendations are under consideration. She was later hired by Denver Human Services. Read more about Yahne's study here.

Aurora Melnyk (2016-17) identified risk and protective factors associated with youth crossing between the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. She produced a predictive model that articulates a number of risk and protective factors for youth crossover. She determined that not all youth crossover is bad; particularly, crossover from youth services to child welfare may be good when it is addressing clients needs better served by child welfare. She was later hired by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. Read more about Melnyk's study here.

Sharon Zanti (2016-17) explored Adult Protective Services (APS) data for trends that might point to potential opportunities to improve services. Zanti defined a new metric for APS — “repeat involvement” — and produced a detailed report by case and demographic factors for program use and to facilitate a dialog with counties on clients who repeatedly come back into the APS system. She was later hired by the CDHS Performance Management Division. Read more about Zanti's study here.

Samantha Hughes (summer 2016) investigated whether receipt of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits may prevent re-entry into the child welfare system. Hughes found that while much of the data indicated that a correlation between SNAP receipt and a reduced likelihood of re-entry was plausible, the model produced yielded inconclusive results due to methodological concerns. She was later hired by the CDHS Employment and Benefits Unit.