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Grant unites Project 2Gen, partners in fight against opioids


By Stephen D'Angelo for the Cornell Chronicle

Portraits of Rachel Dunifon, Laura Tach, and Anna Steinkraus.

Project leaders Rachel Dunifon, Laura Tach, and Anna Steinkraus. Dunifon and Tach are also co-directors of Cornell Project 2Gen in the BCTR.

The College of Human Ecology, in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension-Tompkins County (CCE-Tompkins), has been awarded the William T. Grant Foundation’s first Institutional Challenge Grant to respond to increasing rates of opioid abuse and child maltreatment in low income, rural communities in upstate New York.

The foundation supports research to improve the lives of young people. The award seeks to shift how research institutions value research and to encourage them to build sustained research-practice partnerships with public agencies or nonprofit organizations to reduce inequality in youth outcomes.

“Typically, universities reward faculty members for publishing articles in academic journals,” said Adam Gamoran, foundation president. “This grant challenges universities to reward faculty members whose research is directed to public service. The winning application will support research on one of our most vexing social problems, the opioid crisis, in a partnership that is poised to take action on the basis of the findings.”

The winning team, led by College of Human Ecology researchers Rachel Dunifon and Laura Tach and CCE-Tompkins program coordinator Anna Steinkraus, will attempt to understand the association between opioid use and child maltreatment rates; examine the role of family drug treatment courts in mitigating child maltreatment; and evaluate evidence-based interventions that may reduce the risk of opioid abuse for low-income youth and families. Findings from each study will be used to improve local practices and programs.

“We are honored to have been chosen, as the vision of the grant reflects the mission of our college and the land-grant mission of Cornell University,” Dunifon said. “The College of Human Ecology’s public engagement mission from the start has been about breaking down boundaries between academic research and its application to policy and practice.”

She continued, “This grant supports a true collaborative research-practice partnership that brings together faculty and community educators to address a pressing local issue: the opioid epidemic. We will not only generate cutting-edge research on this important topic, we will also provide faculty and our community partners with the time, funds and skills necessary to engage in this type of research collaboration. By doing this, we will pave the way for future research-practice partnerships to succeed.”

A committee of faculty and CCE-Tompkins staff will select faculty members to serve as fellows and receive mentoring from the partnership leads. Tach, an associate professor of policy analysis and management, is the first faculty fellow selected under the grant, and will bring her expertise in poverty and social policy to the project.

To support this work, housed in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, Cornell has committed a postdoctoral fellow for the first half of the award, a faculty fellowship, and an undergraduate internship at CCE-Tompkins. The College of Human Ecology will also review current support for research-practice partnerships, initiate conversations about how such work is measured and valued, and build capacity at CCE-Tompkins to facilitate high-quality evaluation work.

“We are excited to partner with the College of Human Ecology on this project, focusing on the opioid epidemic that has affected communities all across New York state and the country,” said Steinkraus, a principal investigator on the grant.

The College of Human Ecology will receive $650,000 over three years, with the opportunity to apply for a two-year continuation grant.

Grant to unite Cornell, partners in fight against opioids - Cornell Chronicle

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Celebrating the launch of Cornell Project 2Gen


By Stephen D'Angelo for the Cornell Chronicle

Lori Severens, Lindsay Chase-Landsdale, and Lisa Gennetian in panel discussion

Lori Severens, Lindsay Chase-Landsdale, and Lisa Gennetian in panel discussion

At an Oct. 23 symposium, Cornell researchers launched a new Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research initiative: Cornell Project 2Gen, a project that leverages cutting-edge approaches to support vulnerable families and disrupt the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

Project 2Gen, led by co-directors Laura Tach and Rachel Dunifon of the College of Human Ecology’s Department of Policy Analysis and Management, focuses on addressing the needs of at-risk children and their parents to capitalize on the strong connection between parents’ well-being and children’s healthy development.

“Project 2Gen takes a two-generational approach to addressing the needs of vulnerable families by supporting research and programs that consider both parents and children,” Dunifon said. “And so the two-gen approach acknowledges that parents’ well-being and children’s well-being are intertwined, and that we really can’t address one without the other.”

According to Dunifon, the project reflects the mission of the College of Human Ecology, which combines that of a land-grant institution and an Ivy League university. Through this focus, the project aims to build a vibrant research community and outreach network.

“Project 2Gen is going to be a hub of innovative work that brings together research, practitioners and policymakers, developing and carrying out work in this area, testing new approaches, evaluating their effectiveness, and implementing them locally and throughout the state,” Dunifon said.

The approach is gaining momentum because research documents a strong connection between parents’ economic, psychological and social well-being and children’s healthy development.

The project, which will leverage collaboration between the work of students and faculty members across Cornell, is developing partnerships with community, state and national organizations and government agencies to support parents and children simultaneously.

Within this approach, there are several methods researchers and practitioners can use. Some two-generational programs begin by focusing on children and then add a component to support parents, such as parent education or skills classes. Others may focus on parents, then add a component for children, such as child care or nutrition support. Still other approaches target systems that influence families, such as schools or workplaces.

Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick

Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick

The Oct. 23 symposium included a panel of experts focused on the topic Disrupting the Cycle of Poverty: Two-Generation Approaches from Research, Practice and Policy. Panelists were Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, the Frances Willard Professor of Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern University; Lisa Gennetian, research professor at the Institute for Human Development and Social Change, New York University; Svante Myrick ’09, mayor of Ithaca; and Lori Severens, assistant director at Ascend at the Aspen Institute.

“I want to say thank you for the work you do,” said Myrick, who as a youth took part in the Head Start program, which promotes the school readiness of young children from low-income families through agencies in their local community. “My siblings and I all had an opportunity to start working at age 16, and we were all able to be successful because of the work that you’ve done, the research that you’ve done, to prove that this isn’t only the big-hearted thing to do, but the hard-headed thing to do.”

New initiative launched to support vulnerable families - Cornell Chronicle

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