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Anna Lifsec is Berns Research Award recipient


portrait of Anna Lifsec
Anna Lifsec

by Sheri Hall for the BCTR

Sophomore Anna Lifsec ILR ’21 was awarded the Roberta M. Berns ’65 Memorial Research Award for her research on vulnerable children, especially those involved with the foster care system or whose parents are involved with the criminal justice system. The award - given by the BCTR - will fund Lifsec’s work during the 2019-20 school year.

As the Berns Research Award recipient, Anna will work with a faculty mentor to conduct studies on the intergenerational effects of mass incarceration and the experiences of youth transitioning out of child protective services and the criminal justice system.

Lifsec is a sophomore majoring in industrial labor relations with minors in economics and crime, prison, education and justice. She is also the co-chair of policy and public outreach for Cornell’s Prison Reform Education Project.

“Anna is an exceptional talent in terms of both her research preparation and her intelligence,” said Christopher Wildeman, Lifsec’s research advisor, a professor of policy, analysis and management and director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research. “As just a sophomore, her research skills and read of the literatures on mass incarceration and the foster care system far surpasses what I would expect in an advanced graduate student. I simply cannot imagine a student who will better use this award, and I am incredibly grateful that the generosity of the Berns family has made it possible for us to give such a significant award to a Cornell undergraduate.”

Lifsec is planning to work on three separate studies as the Berns Research Award recipient. The first will use technology to check in with youth in the six months before and after they leave state care. For the second, she will analyze data on how family incarceration history affects relationships among family members and well-being. The third will investigate how parents of young children involved in the foster care system interact with school personnel.

“I feel very fortunate to be receiving an award that will allow me to continue investigating critical issues around important topics of injustice and inequality in American society today,” Lifsec said. “The intergenerational effects of mass incarceration as well as the struggles that system-involved parents and children experience are very salient and pervasive in our culture and disproportionately affect communities based on race and socioeconomic status. I hope to remedy some of these injustices through my research and am incredibly grateful that the Roberta Berns Research Award will give me the resources to continue to work towards answering critical questions and developing productive solutions to these problems.”

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Tach is BCTR associate director for policy engagement


portrait of Laura Tach

Laura Tach

by Sheri Hall for the BCTR

Laura Tach, an associate professor of policy analysis and management, is taking on the role of associate director for policy engagement at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research.

Tach is a sociologist whose research focuses on poverty and social policy. She is the co-director of Cornell Project 2-Gen, a research and policy hub that supports vulnerable caregivers and their children.

In her new role, Tach plans to expand the BCTR’s engagement with policymakers at the local, state and federal levels.

“We will create opportunities to connect Cornell faculty and students with policymakers and vice versa,” she said. “This will enhance the impact of Cornell research on pressing social issues, while also helping Cornell faculty and students understand the needs of the policy community.”

For example, Tach and the Project 2-Gen team hosted event in Albany last spring that brought together faculty, staff and students to share their research with state legislators. Participants discussed the opioid epidemic, the state of infant care and improving Medicaid for vulnerable New York families in a non-partisan conversation. Tach is organizing a similar event in Albany this year to discuss research on criminal justice reform.

BCTR Director Christopher Wildeman said Tach is an amazing asset to the center and the university as a whole.

“Laura is already an incredibly valuable part of BCTR through her work with Project 2Gen, and we are looking forward to seeing how her engagement with policymakers in Albany and beyond increases with her new role,” he said.

Tach received her Ph.D. in sociology and social policy at Harvard University in 2010. Prior to joining the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell, she was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania.

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BCTR Talks at Twelve: Chris Wildeman and Peter Enns, Thursday, April 11, 2019

 
portrait of Chris Wildeman

Family Contact with Mass Incarceration
Chris Wildeman and Peter Enns, Cornell University

Thursday, April 11, 2019
12:00-1:00 p.m.
423 ILR Conference Center



How does mass incarceration in the United States affect families? This talk will present results from the Family History of Incarceration Survey (FamHIS), which includes the first ever estimates of the share of Americans who have ever had an immediate family member (e.g., parents, siblings, children) or other family members that they feel close to (e.g., uncles, cousins, grandparents) incarcerated. The talk will also discuss similarities and differences between attitudes toward the criminal justice system, civic participation and health outcomes among those who have and have not had an immediate family members incarcerated.

Peter K. Enns is an associate professor in the Department of Government and executive director of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Cornell University. His research and teaching focus on public opinion, representation, mass incarceration and inequality. He is the author of Incarceration Nation: How the United States Became the Most Punitive Democracy in the World.

Christopher Wildeman is provost fellow for the social sciences, director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, and director of the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect at Cornell University, where he is also a professor of policy analysis and management and sociology (by courtesy). Since 2015, he has also been a senior researcher at the Rockwool Foundation Research Unit in Copehagen, Denmark.

Prior to joining Cornell’s faculty in 2014, Christopher was an associate professor of sociology at Yale University. He received his Ph.D. in sociology and demography from Princeton University in 2008. From 2008-2010, he was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation health & society scholar and postdoctoral affiliate in the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan.

His research and teaching interests revolve around the consequences of mass imprisonment for inequality, with emphasis on families, health and children. He is also interested in child welfare, especially as relates to child maltreatment and the foster care system. He is the 2013 recipient of the Ruth Shonle Cavan Young Scholar Award from the American Society of Criminology.


Lunch will be provided.
This event is free and open to all. No registration is required, but groups of 10 or more, please inform Lori Biechele of your plans to attend so enough lunch can be ordered.

Parking is available on Garden Ave., in the Hoy Garage, or at various Parkmobile lots. Please stop at any information booth for assistance.

For further parking info, see:
Short-term parking options
Parkmobile map

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Cohen, Wildeman named provost fellows


By Tom Fleischman for the Cornell Chronicle

Portrait of Christopher Wildeman

Christopher Wildeman, BCTR director

Emmanuel Giannelis, vice provost for research and vice president for technology transfer, intellectual property and research policy, has announced the appointment of professors Paula Cohen and Christopher Wildeman as provost fellows for life sciences and social sciences, respectively.

They will be charged with helping further the Office of the Vice Provost for Research’s mission of advancing and supporting Cornell research. Their three-year appointments begin July 1.

Cohen is professor of genetics and director of the Center for Reproductive Genomics in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Biomedical Sciences. Wildeman is professor of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology. He is also director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research.

They will be responsible for catalyzing, coordinating, initiating and promoting research and programs in their respective fields. Giannelis said Cohen and Wildeman are exceedingly qualified for their new roles.

“It is their expertise, he said. “They’re both very accomplished researchers and they’ve both led [research] centers. So, they have what it takes to be successful.”

Having a leadership triumvirate representing a cross-section of the university – Giannelis is the Walter R. Read Professor of Engineering – is by design, Giannelis said.

“We are a comprehensive university, we have a large number of faculty who specialize in many, many different fields,” he said. “Having a team where people bring to the table more than one type of knowledge and expertise always helps.”

Cohen said she hopes to be a liaison between the vice provost’s office and life sciences faculty, as well a catalyst for cross-disciplinary research collaboration.

“Cornell is already one of the most collaborative institutions in which I have ever worked,” she said, “and I hope to further foster this spirit of multidisciplinary research.”

Wildeman said three of his top priorities are: learning from his life sciences colleagues about how to expand the grant portfolio in the social sciences; streamlining the process of doing research in the social sciences to make it easier for faculty; and helping social sciences faculty engage in even more translational, impactful research.

“I hope to help us think about how we can do ‘something big’ in the social sciences here at Cornell,” he said, “through leveraging the unique combination of endowed and public missions in a way that makes the social sciences at Cornell truly unique and greater than the sum of our parts.”

Giannelis referenced an initiative introduced by Provost Michael Kotlikoff in 2016: the idea of “radical collaboration” – research that capitalizes on the collaborative environment that has fostered interdisciplinary faculty interactions across the university’s campuses in Ithaca and New York City.

Bringing on provost fellows from diverse fields of study is an “excellent example” of that collaborative spirit, Giannelis said.

“The excitement and the opportunities are not necessarily in our disciplines by themselves but at the intersection of different disciplines,” he said. “There’s the opportunity to learn what works for one discipline and perhaps apply it to another, but more importantly, to bring faculty and students from different fields to tackle research problems together when historically there hasn’t been much interaction. I think it’s something we need to be doing more and more.”

“This is very much at the heart of the provost’s radical collaboration initiative, and I am really excited by the possibilities offered by these team science endeavors,” Cohen said. “This type of collaboration has always been something I’ve sought actively in my own research, and I look forward very much to encouraging and supporting others to participate in these ventures, especially young faculty.”

Other goals Giannelis is hoping to achieve through his office, with Cohen’s and Wildeman’s help, include increasing research activity and diversifying Cornell’s research grant portfolio to heighten visibility for the university, and enhancing “a sense of belonging” for Cornell’s approximately 600 postdoctoral researchers.

The university announced its Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowships program in 2017; the first cohort of postdoctoral fellows is arriving at Cornell this year. Giannelis said Cohen and Wildeman will be leading that initiative as part of their duties as provost fellows.

A member of the faculty since 2004, Cohen received her bachelor’s in physiology from King’s College, University of London, in 1989, and her Ph.D. from the University of London in 1992. Wildeman, who joined Cornell in 2014, received his bachelor’s in philosophy, sociology and Spanish from Dickinson College in 2002, and his master’s (2006) and Ph.D. (2008) in sociology and demography from Princeton University.

Cohen, Wildeman named provost fellows - Cornell Chronicle

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Welcome Christopher Wildeman, incoming BCTR director!


By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

Portrait of Christopher Wildeman

Christopher Wildeman

Christopher Wildeman, professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management, will become director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR) on July 1.

Wildeman follows gerontologist Karl Pillemer, the Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development, who is taking on a new role as the College of Human Ecology’s senior associate dean for research and outreach.

The BCTR brings together social science researchers with health and human service organizations to expand and strengthen the connections between research, policy and practice. The goal is linking research with real-world concerns to improve the health and well-being of families and communities. The center was named for the late Urie Bronfenbrenner, whose research helped to inspire the federal Head Start program. Today, more than 40 Cornell faculty affiliates work with practitioners to design, implement and evaluate projects and programs focused on nutrition, youth development, parenting, health care, aging and related issues.

“For well over 50 years, Cornell University—and especially the College of Human Ecology—have been a hub for translational social science in the United States,” Wildeman said. “I am extremely excited to follow in the footsteps of founding director John Eckenrode and outgoing director Karl Pillemer, both of whom have been excellent leaders of both the center and the translational social science research community.”

Wildeman’s research focuses on the prevalence, causes and consequences of imprisonment with an emphasis on how prison terms affect families, children and health. He also studies child maltreatment and the foster care system and is co-director with founding director John Eckenrode of the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN), a data archive that collects and distributes child abuse data sets and promotes collaboration among child maltreatment researchers. Wildeman has served as associate director of the BCTR since 2016.

“As a leading scholar on mass incarceration and child maltreatment, Chris understands the importance of integrating research, policy and practice when addressing the needs of vulnerable families”,” said Rachel Dunifon, who will become interim dean of the College of Human Ecology on July 1. “I am proud of all that the BCTR has accomplished and know that it will be in excellent hands under Chris’ leadership.”

Portrait of Karl Pillemer

Karl Pillemer

Under Pillemer’s direction, the BCTR expanded its programs in a number of areas, including social media outreach, training for investigators in translational research methods, and the development of new program areas. During Pillemer’s tenure, the BCTR received several major gifts, including $1.2 million donation Rebecca Q. Morgan '60 to provide three years of startup funding for the Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement (PRYDE), an initiative launched this spring by Cornell social scientists to foster groundbreaking research in partnership with New York State 4-H; and a $1.6 million gift from Evalyn Edwards Milman '60 and Stephen Milman '58, MBA '59 to fund a BCTR faculty fellowship, part of a new program to embed professors in the BCTR and link their research directly to community needs.

“Serving as director of the BCTR has been among the most rewarding experiences of my career,” Pillemer said. “Cornell University and the College of Human Ecology provide an ideal environment for a center that aspires to create a better marriage between science and service. I have had the chance to meet with many alumni who have been highly enthusiastic about the BCTR’s mission, some of whom have made generous gifts to support programs like PRYDE and the BCTR Fellows program. Chris Wildeman’s energy, ideas, and focus on data-driven policy will ensure that the center grows and remains at the cutting edge of translational research.”

Wildeman intends to build on the BCTR’s success by making the center more integral to training and teaching both graduate and undergraduate students. He plans to expand the already-impressive grant portfolio currently under the BCTR umbrella, strengthen connections between the BCTR—and Cornell more broadly—and policymakers in Albany, and make the BCTR even more central to the social sciences by investigating avenues through which Cornell might develop a flagship social science dataset.

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New book examines incarceration’s impact on children and families


news-2017-incarcerationbook-inpostBy Sheri Hall for the BCTR

More than 2 million U.S. children have a parent in prison – a circumstance that impacts individual children as well as our society on the whole.

The newest book in the Bronfenbrenner Series on the Ecology of Human Development, When Parents Are Incarcerated: Interdisciplinary Research and Interventions to Support Children (American Psychological Association), analyzes how parental incarceration affects children and what can be done to help them.

The book is edited by Christopher Wildeman, professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell, Anna R. Haskins, assistant professor of sociology at Cornell and Julie Poehlmann-Tynan, a professor in the human development and family studies department at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

The book explores the issues from multi-disciplinary perspectives. Sociologists and demographers used complex techniques to develop causal analyses with a strong focus on social inequality. Developmental psychologists and family scientists explore how micro-level family interactions can moderate the consequences of parental incarceration. Criminologists offer important insights into the consequences of parental criminality and incarceration. And practitioners who design and evaluate interventions review a variety of programs targeting parents, children, and the criminal justice system.

Editors Chris Wildeman, Julie Poehlmann-Tynan, and Anna Haskins

Editors Chris Wildeman, Julie Poehlmann-Tynan, and Anna Haskins

“The interdisciplinary nature of this book is particularly unique and important, as successful solutions to such complicated issues are beyond the scope of a single approach,” Haskins said. “The perspectives of several disciplines are necessary in broadening understandings around the impact of parental incarceration for inequality among children.”

The work in the book was drawn from the 5th Biennial Urie Bronfenbrenner ConferenceMinimizing the Collateral Damage: Interventions to Diminish the Consequences of Mass Incarceration for Children. Held during September 2016, the conference included scholars from variety of disciplines and more than 12 institutions and programs.

The book is the fifth in a series of volumes based on research presented at a Biennial Urie Bronfenbrenner Conference. The first four books in the series are:

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National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect refunded


ndacan-logoBy Sheri Hall for the BCTR

The National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect, or NDACAN, secured a $5.2 million federal contract that will maintain the project over the next five years. 2018 will be the Archive’s thirtieth consecutive year receiving federal funding since the Archive was founded at Cornell in 1988.

NDACAN promotes analysis of data on child maltreatment, child well-being, and adoption and foster care. The Children’s Bureau, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, renewed the project’s contract. The Children’s Bureau plans, manages, coordinates, and supports child abuse and neglect prevention and child welfare service programs.

“We know that data archives and technical support for the secondary analysis of research data represent an important part of the research infrastructures of many fields of research, including child welfare,” said John Eckenrode, professor of human development and NDACAN co-director.

“Maximizing the use of child welfare data is key to making important policy decisions, raising public awareness, and identifying targets for prevention efforts,” he said. “In this way, we hope that our modest efforts at NDACAN can help lead to greater safety, permanency, and well-being for America’s children. We are very pleased to partner with the Children’s Bureau in this effort.”

NDACAN’s holdings include data from national surveys, administrative data from state and federal agencies, and individual studies by child welfare researchers. In addition to acquiring and processing data, NDACAN staff provide technical assistance to child welfare researchers and encourage networking among them in order to exchange information. These efforts have resulted in several hundred published studies.  NDACAN also conducts analyses of archived data to support the work of government agencies, foundations, advocacy groups, and the press.

“In the next five years, we plan to make the Archive even more integral to the child welfare research community by making aggregate data available in readily accessible formats and by opening up our micro-data holdings in ways that facilitate completely new and innovative types of analyses that can better inform child welfare policy—and social policy more broadly,” said Christopher Wildeman, associate professor of Policy, Analysis and Management and NDACAN co-director.

Researchers can find more information and review and order data sets at for no charge on the NDACAN web site.

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Conference spotlights consequences of parental incarceration


By H. Roger Segelken for the Cornell Chronicle:

haskins

Anna Haskins speaking

With millions of American parents, mostly fathers, locked in jails and prisons, a national conference at Cornell Sept. 15-16 shined the spotlight on their kids back home.

“Minimizing the Collateral Damage: Interventions to Diminish the Consequences of Mass Incarceration for Children” was the topic of the Fifth Biennial Urie Bronfenbrenner Conference, featuring a multidisciplinary mix of scholars from more than a dozen institutions and programs.

“One of the most shocking phenomena this country has witnessed in the last century has been the unprecedented rise in mass incarceration,” said conference co-organizer Anna Haskins, Cornell assistant professor of sociology and member of the Center for the Study of Inequality. An estimated 1 in 14 American children (about 7 percent) has a parent incarcerated at some point in their young lives, observed Haskins. Of special concern, she emphasized, “is the overwhelming disparity in which this issue touches African-American and Hispanic but not white populations.”

Haskins hopes the conference opens new areas of inquiry for social scientists. “We know more about the deleterious consequences for imprisoned individuals and former inmates,” she said, “but less attention has been paid to the broader fallout for families.”

The conference series and the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR) are named for Urie Bronfenbrenner (1917-2005), the renowned developmental psychologist who taught at Cornell for more than 50 years and developed the so-called ecological systems theory. Several conference-goers said the ecological approach could help to untangle incarceration’s effect on family and society.

wildeman

Christopher Wildeman speaking

Christopher Wildeman, associate director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research and associate professor of policy analysis and management, speaks at the conference.
Said conference co-organizer Christopher Wildeman, BCTR associate director and associate professor of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology: “The conference’s multidisciplinary focus, in addition to being highly consistent with Urie’s own academic orientation, is also unique within this research field – where psychologists, sociologists, economists and criminologists who study the consequences of parental incarceration rarely publish in the same journals, attend the same conferences or grapple with each others’ perspectives.”

One productive outcome of the conference, Wildeman said, will be a proceedings volume with authors from all those fields, published by the American Psychological Association.

A third conference co-organizer, Julie Poehlmann-Tynan, professor of human ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said that “developmental perspectives are lacking” so far in most studies of incarceration’s consequences. Scholars need to know “how parental incarceration can get under the skin of children and influence through an entire life course.” When considering a child’s resilience in the face of parental incarceration, Poehlmann-Tynan said, researchers should remember “resilience is a process, not a characteristic or trait.” Some children appear to do surprisingly well during parental incarceration, she said. “We can’t paint the picture that parental incarceration (inevitably) is doom.”

Sara Wakefield, an associate professor in the Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice (and co-author, with Wildeman, of “Children of the Prison Boom: Mass Incarceration and the Future of American Inequality”) sought to correct some popular misconceptions. Many parents hide their criminal activity from their children – until, that is, they’re arrested, prosecuted and punished, she said. Furthermore, long sentences in state or federal prisons aren’t the only source of stigma and trauma among convicts’ children. Hundreds of thousands of Americans cycle through local jails every month, Wakefield said, “and even short spells in jail are highly consequential for children.”

Sociologist Kristin Turney, from the University of California, Irvine, highlighted possible effects of parental incarceration, including strains on parental relationships, economic well-being and health, and suggested children might develop behavior problems or experience diminished cognitive skills. Among the youngest children of incarcerated parents, boys seem to be most affected, Turney said. But as children mature, girls are more likely to be troubled by a father’s incarceration.

Joyce Arditti, professor of human development and family studies at Virginia Tech, reported some children growing up with an incarcerated biological parent they never knew – outside or inside prison walls – can still be affected by that stigmatizing association.

As for the Bronfenbrenner conference venue as an apt place to discuss family-ecological perspectives of child development, Arditti said: “It’s kind of cool to be here in his ‘backyard.’”

Conference spotlights consequences of parental incarceration - Cornell Chronicle

Video of the full conference is available on our YouTube channel and in the media library on this web site.

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Fifth Biennial Urie Bronfenbrenner Conference, Wednesday, January 23, 2019

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Fifth Biennial Urie Bronfenbrenner Conference

Minimizing the Collateral Damage: Interventions to Diminish the Consequences of Mass Incarceration for Children

September 15-16, 2016

Conference program

The fifth biennial conference in honor of the legacy of Urie Bronfenbrenner convened a panel of leading researchers in an effort to cultivate interdisciplinary perspectives and consider the micro-, meso-, and macro-level interventions that best minimize the consequences of parental incarceration for children, families, and communities. Presentations emphasized the strongest interdisciplinary research on the consequences of paternal and maternal incarceration for children (with special attention to mediators and moderators) as well as discussing policies and individual-level interventions that could help lessen the likelihood of parental incarceration or help children whose parents have experienced incarceration. The conference’s overarching goal is to strengthen the connections between research, policy, and practice in the area of collateral consequences of mass incarceration for children.


Minimizing the Collateral Damage: Interventions to Diminish the Consequences of Mass Incarceration for Children

September 15-16, 2016

Conference program

The fifth biennial conference in honor of the legacy of Urie Bronfenbrenner convened a panel of leading researchers in an effort to cultivate interdisciplinary perspectives and consider the micro-, meso-, and macro-level interventions that best minimize the consequences of parental incarceration for children, families, and communities. Presentations emphasized the strongest interdisciplinary research on the consequences of paternal and maternal incarceration for children (with special attention to mediators and moderators) as well as discussing policies and individual-level interventions that could help lessen the likelihood of parental incarceration or help children whose parents have experienced incarceration. The conference’s overarching goal is to strengthen the connections between research, policy, and practice in the area of collateral consequences of mass incarceration for children.

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Doing Translational Research podcast: Christopher Wildeman, Wednesday, January 23, 2019

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Doing Translational Research podcast: Christopher Wildeman

Incarceration and Inequality
Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Christopher Wildeman
Department of Policy Analysis & Management, Cornell University


Incarceration and Inequality
Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Christopher Wildeman
Department of Policy Analysis & Management, Cornell University

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