In October of 2022 the Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF) started a first-of-its-kind team, the Colorado Implementation Science Unit (CISU), with the hiring of Tiffany Madrid as the first Director of Strategic Research. Over the past year Tiffany and the CISU team have worked behind the scenes as empathetic strategic partners supporting the work of teams within OCYF.
CISU has been focusing on integrating research and evidence into practices and policies, and the team is doing this by helping programs demonstrate their impact and implement well. Additionally, CISU has been working to answer key questions to improve the work of OCYF. CISU is developing the office’s first strategic research agenda, which integrates input of families with lived experience in child welfare. The strategic research agenda will seek to find answers to complex questions the office has not been able to answer in the past.
To build the team’s expertise, CISU has been partnering with the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab, Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development, the Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect, and the Prevention Research Center at Colorado State University to train staff to understand the levels of evidence that exist for programs, research methodologies, and ways to approach adapting programs to meet communities’ needs.
CISU recently created a Menu of Services. This document reflects the types of thought partnership, technical assistance, and work products the team produces to support programs.
Some key examples of how CISU has partnered with different programs throughout OCYF are below:
Tony Grampus Youth Services Program (TGYS)
CISU supported the development of a request for proposal to find vendors to support TGYS awardees. The team helped ensure the proposal captured all the different skills a vendor would need to provide support to grant awardees.
Domestic Violence Program (DVP)
CISU helped OCYF’s Domestic Violence Program (DVP) assess the level of existing research around programs that aim to reduce homelessness among survivors of sexual and domestic violence. And using this information, CISU developed evaluation considerations for a program DVP is developing.
CISU helped the Youth Services team assess which of the counties that were interested in implementing the Fostering Opportunities program, which was first piloted in Jefferson county, were ready to implement the program in their county. The team also identified additional supports counties needed in order to get prepared to implement a Fostering Opportunities program in their county.
Colorado Fostering Success Vouchering Program
CISU supported the state’s Chafee Administor in thinking through how to be successful in implementing a new housing voucher program and how to articulate the program’s components in a clear way and measure success.
Colorado Kinnected Kinship Navigator Program
CISU worked closely with the state’s Kinship Care Program Administrator to develop an implementation process map, implementation readiness checklists, and an implementation timeline worksheet for counties. The team also assisted in the planning and implementation of a program kickoff event on September 15, 2023.