Putting Science Into Action

The Office of Children, Youth and Families’ (OCYF) Colorado Implementation Science Unit (CISU) is a first-of-its-kind team working to advance “what works” for children, youth, and families. As part of this effort, the team conducts strategic research to influence policymaking and promote positive outcomes for Coloradans. 

Recently, the team brought on a new member, Claire McNellan. In her role as Research Coordinator, Claire is leading the implementation of OCYF’s strategic research agenda and is fostering connections between state agency staff, people who have been impacted by Colorado’s child welfare and juvenile justice systems, communities, and researchers.

Prior to her role at OCYF, Claire helped communities use data to better understand the reach and impact of their services. She also focused on building relationships to ensure research questions were well-formed and meaningful to communities. 

“It’s crucial that we engage a variety of partners. The only way to ensure we are asking the right questions and answering them using the strongest approach possible is to hear from families about their needs and experiences, listen to the challenges of staff working within our systems, and understand what our research community is working on. Without cross-system collaboration and community-based approaches to understanding complex issues, we risk producing research findings that sit on a shelf and are never put into action to improve lives,” said Claire.

In this role, Claire is building upon her prior experiences by facilitating spaces for shared learning and highlighting opportunities for research to fill critical knowledge gaps impacting children, youth, and families.

“As I step into this role, I am being mindful of how I can blend my experience as an academic researcher and a community advocate. I’m interested in asking questions that are meaningful to communities and might improve the complicated systems impacting the lives of children, youth, and families. It means nothing to ask questions if what we find can’t be translated into real-world impact,” said Claire. Claire is currently asking researchers from social work, public health, sociology, medicine, and other disciplines that have worked on issues related to children, youth, and families to reach out to her. She is interested in discussing their research and findings, highlighting implications for policy and practice, and identifying strategies that promote meaningful change. She is also eager to share OCYF’s priorities. CISU intends to build a stronger research community that can tackle longstanding and emerging issues related to serving children, youth, and families.

If you are a researcher working on projects relevant to Colorado children, youth, and families, or if you are involved with a community agency that is working to translate research to practice, CISU wants to hear about it! To get involved, contact Claire at claire.mcnellan@state.co.us

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