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John Ecknerode retires

Tags: John Eckenrode,   NDACAN,   retirement,  

portrait of John Eckenrode

John Eckenrode

By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

Professor John Eckenrode, a social psychologist and founding director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR), is retiring this spring after more than 35 years at Cornell.

Eckenrode made substantial contributions to the university throughout his entire tenure at Cornell.

In 1988, he was responsible for securing federal funding to establish the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect at Cornell and acted as its director for 30 years before stepping down as director recently. This resource makes data from many sources across the country available to researchers in order to better understand and address the problem of child abuse and maltreatment.

In 2011, Eckenrode helped to merge two separate centers – the Family Life Development Center and the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center – to create the BCTR. This combined center advanced the practice of translational research in the social sciences and helped the College of Human Ecology become a leader in using data and evidence to inform policy and practice in the real world.

“It’s virtually impossible to quantify just how much John has meant to the university, the college and the BCTR,” said Christopher Wildeman, the current director of the BCTR. “He has made fundamental contributions to the child welfare field and been the organizational glue for translational research at Cornell. More than that, however, he has also been the calm guiding force who has touched the lives of so many of us here and beyond.”

Eckenrode’s research focused on the prevention of child abuse and neglect by investigating the broad range of factors that affect vulnerable families. One of his most-known research efforts relates to his collaboration with Dr. David Olds on the evaluation of Nurse Family Partnership, a program that provides specially-trained nurses to visit disadvantaged mothers during their pregnancy and first two years of their child’s life.

In 2018, Eckenrode and his colleagues won the Outstanding Article Award from the journal Child Maltreatment for a publication that found the program prevents child maltreatment by helping mothers plan future pregnancies and become financially self-sufficient.

One of Eckenrode’s earlier studies on the program, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, followed mothers and children for 15 years after they participated in the Nurse Family Partnership. The study found mothers who participated in the program were less likely to abuse or neglect their children, rely on public assistance, abuse drugs and alcohol and get arrested.

The BCTR recognized Eckenrode this year at the annual John Doris Memorial Lecture in April.

“I am delighted that we were able to recognize John Eckenrode on the occasion of his retirement from Cornell and express our appreciation for his many contributions to scholarship, as well as the impact he has had on our lives,” said Jane Powers, a senior extension associate at the BCTR. “As the founder and first director of the BCTR, John has left a significant mark – one that will impact future generations of scholars, students, practitioners and policy makers who will continue to improve the lives of vulnerable children, youth and families in New York State and beyond.”

Eckenrode received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Notre Dame, a master’s degree in experimental psychology from Tufts University and doctorate degree in social psychology, also from Tufts.

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4 Postdocs add fresh perspectives to center work

Tags: 4-H,   Cornell Project 2Gen,   NDACAN,   postdoc,  

By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

“One of our main goals in the BCTR is to help train the next generation of translational researchers in the field of human development,” said Karl Pillemer, director of the BCTR. “These emerging scholars greatly benefit our work, bringing in fresh perspectives and new models and methods of connecting research to real-life settings.”

elizabeth day

Elizabeth Day

Elizabeth Day is working on Project 2Gen, a new project that will serve as a hub for research, policy, and practice focused on supporting parents and children together. The mission of 2Gen is to build a vibrant research community of scholars who are focused on building programs and researching how families can fair better when support services focus on both parents and children.

“I was drawn to this post-doc because it offered the opportunity to work on a wide range of issues to find the best ways to support vulnerable families, including work on bridging research and policy,” Day said. “My background involves working at the state and federal levels of government and I have seen first-hand the need for this type of resource.

“I also knew of the high-quality work and high-caliber programs that are housed in the BCTR and was excited for opportunity to work here!”


Kristen Elmore

Kristen Elmore is working on the Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement, or PRYDE, an effort to partner with 4-H around the state of New York to research programs and factors that encourage healthy youth development.

“My particular research interest is in understanding how youth think about their identities and what goals are possible for them and people like them,” Elmore said. “My work with 4-H examines how experiences in 4-H may shape how youth respond to challenges when pursuing their goals—when do they persist versus move on to something else?”

Elmore’s goal is to create programs that encourage youth from all backgrounds to pursue positive academic and health behaviors. “4-H is the largest youth-serving organization in the U.S., so it’s an ideal setting for designing and implementing programs to support healthy youth development,” she said.

Elmore was attracted to working at the BCTR because of the center’s commitment to using social science to serve the public good. “The wealth of experience and practical knowledge in conducting translational work that can be found among our colleagues at the BCTR is an incredibly rich and unique resource for postdocs,” she said.


Rachel Sumner

Rachel Sumner is also working on PRYDE, and hopes to focus her research on identity and inclusion in youth programming.

“I hope to conduct research that helps inform decisions made by youth development programs and practitioners, especially decisions related to diversity and inclusion and promoting the development of purpose and identity,” she said.

Sumner was drawn to the BCTR because she wanted to collaborate with people who are working directly with youth. “Involving practitioners throughout the research process yields questions that are more relevant to real-world contexts than questions generated by researchers alone,” she said. “Collaborating with both practitioners and researchers helps me think about the topics I study – purpose in life, identity, diversity in new and interesting ways.”


Frank Edwards

And Frank Edwards is working with the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN) to develop new ways to evaluate how surveillance systems work, how casework assignments affect families, and whether immigration detention and deportation requires Latino families to use the foster care system more often.

“My work focuses on how social policy institutions affect child and family inequality,” he said. “BCTR provides an exciting combination of applied researchers engaged in improving policy for kids and families, and unparalleled access to administrative data through the NDACAN. Given my research interests, BCTR is a near perfect place to work.”

Edwards’ goal is to better understand how government institutions affect children and to “move the needle on the causes and consequences of family inequality.”

“I hope to shed light on how policy institutions like the criminal justice and means-tested welfare programs contribute to racial inequality that we see in the more disruptive interventions available to child welfare agencies,” he said. “In so doing, I hope to spur conversations about reducing inequalities that take an ecological approach to the relationship between policy environments and child and family well-being.”


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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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NDACAN’s federal funding renewed

Tags: NDACAN,  

NDACAN staff - front row, l. to r.: Michael Dineen, Diane Wach, Elliott Smith; back row: Andres Arroyo, John Eckenrode, Christopher Wildeman, Holly Larrabee

NDACAN staff - front row, l. to r.: Michael Dineen, Diane Wach, Elliott Smith; back row: Andres Arroyo, John Eckenrode, Christopher Wildeman, Holly Larrabee

Congrats to the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN)! NDACAN has been awarded a new federal contract to continue operating in the BCTR. The sponsor is the Children’s Bureau within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF). While NDACAN (founded in 1988) has been funded by the Children's Bureau since 2001, the previous cooperative agreement was replaced this year with a competitive contract.

NDACAN is a centralized facility for the acquisition, preservation, and dissemination of machine-readable data sets relevant to the study of child maltreatment, child welfare, and adoption/foster care and promotes secondary analysis of these data sets. There is no charge for receiving NDACAN data sets, and NDACAN provides free technical support to facilitate their use.

Under the new contract NDACAN will continue to provide the same services and maintain all the components of the successful archive they have developed over their 27 years in operation. The BCTR and NDACAN are pleased to announce that under the new contract, Associate Professor of Policy Analysis and Management and BCTR Fellow Christopher Wildeman will serve as co-director alongside NDACAN director John Eckenrode. One change under the terms of the new contract will redesign NDACAN’s Summer Research Institute as a distance learning event. For over 20 years this annual, week-long event has brought about 15 researchers to campus for an intensive secondary data analysis experience, providing support to participants working on their own research projects using NDACAN data.

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2013 NDACAN Summer Research Institute

On June 10, an intrepid group of 17 child maltreatment researchers navigated around tropical storm Andrea to begin their week-long experience at the NDACAN Summer Research Institute. The Institute, now in its 21st year, is an annual event hosted by the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect. The Institute is an opportunity for participants to spend a week of uninterrupted time working on their statistical analyses for research projects based on data from the Archive. Surrounded by colleagues, Archive staff, expert statistical consultants, and good food and coffee, participants are able to make tremendous progress on their research projects, which will be submitted for publication in academic journals.

Institute attendee Yahayra Michel Smith from the University of New Hampshire

This year's group consisted of eight advanced doctoral students, six professors, and three other academic professionals who came from all around the United States. One participant traveled from Ireland. A range of important topics were addressed with Archive data including the experience of youth living in foster care and the services they receive, the outcomes of children who have suffered multiple forms of maltreatment or have been exposed to violence, predictors of resiliency for children in child welfare, and recent trends in the financing of state child welfare services.

Expert data management and statistical advice was provided by the Archive staff and three special guests: Chris Wiesen from the Howard W. Odum Institute for Social Science at UNC Chapel Hill; Keith Smith from RTI International; and Francoise Vermeylen, the Director of the Cornell Statistical Consulting Unit. Assistant Professor Felix Thoemmes from the Department of Human Development gave an excellent overview of a statistical technique known as propensity score analysis and gave a demonstration of a user-friendly program he has developed to carry out propensity score matching.

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20th Annual NDACAN Summer Research Institute supports secondary analysis projects

The National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect hosted its 20th annual Summer Research Institute from June 11-15 on the Cornell Ithaca campus. The Summer Research Institute provides a week-long opportunity for child maltreatment researchers to spend extended time working on their own research projects in a supportive and collaborative atmosphere. All the projects are based on research proposals to use child maltreatment datasets that are distributed by the Archive. Throughout the Institute, Archive staff, statistical consultants, and fellow participants are all available to provide help as questions or other needs arise. The ultimate goals of the Summer Research Institute are to facilitate original research that will result in valuable contributions to the scientific literature and to promote inter-university and cross-disciplinary collaborations within the child maltreatment research community.

An impressive group of 16 researchers representing the fields of social work, medicine, developmental psychology, and sociology were invited to attend this year. Participants were selected through a competitive process based on the clarity and quality of their research proposals and the likelihood of publication. This year’s Institute took place in a state-of-the-art computing facility within the new Human Ecology Building with IT support provided by the Human Ecology Computing Services Group. Special assistance was provided by Chris Wiesen, Statistical Analyst from the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science at UNC Chapel Hill and Francoise Vermeylen, Director of the Cornell Statistical Consulting Unit.

The next Summer Research Institute will be held June 10-14, 2013.

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Elliott Smith presents to the Child Welfare Information Gateway

Tags: Elliott Smith,   NDACAN,   webinar,  

On March 30, Elliott Smith, Associate Director of the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect gave a webinar to the staff of the Child Welfare Information Gateway. Like the Data Archive, the Gateway is a service of the Children's Bureau in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to "connect professionals and the general public to timely, essential information and resources targeted to the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and families." The Gateway frequently refers researchers, graduate students, and child welfare professionals to the Archive. During the webinar, Dr. Smith gave an overview of the Data Archive, including a description of its services, an explanation of what secondary analysis is, and the datasets that the Archive distributes most frequently to the research community.

Overview of the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect

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2011 NDACAN Summer Institute

2011 NDACAN Summer Institute

2011 NDACAN Summer Institute

The National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN) sponsored its annual Summer Research Institute (SRI) on the Cornell University campus June 13-17. The 2011 Institute was another outstanding experience for the participants and the NDACAN staff. The SRI provides an intensive experience in the secondary analysis of child abuse and neglect data preserved at the Archive. In addition, the Institute provides child abuse and neglect researchers an invaluable opportunity for networking and collaborating with each other. The seventeen participants were selected on a competitive basis and represented a wide variety of disciplines (e.g., psychology, medicine, epidemiology, law, social work). A featured speaker was Shenyang Guo, Ph.D. from UNC Chapel Hill, who gave a detailed presentation entitled “Propensity Score Analysis in Child Welfare Research” which participants rated very highly. Interested researchers can check the NDACAN website for more information about the SRI and the Archive.

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