Prof. Heather Taussig receives Fulbright Award to Wales to build evidence for interventions for maltreated youth
Timing is everything. Just as COVID-19 was shutting down most international travel, University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) Professor Heather Taussig learned that she’d received a 2020–21 Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program Award to conduct research in Wales.
Although the timing isn’t ideal, the award is an extraordinary opportunity, says Taussig, also an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado’s Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect. Taussig plans to conduct research at Cardiff University’s Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE), working collaboratively to develop more innovative and contextually sensitive prevention programs for youth with adverse life experiences.
Taussig’s career has focused on creating and using evidence to improve outcomes for children who have experienced maltreatment and placement in foster care. Twenty years ago, Taussig designed Fostering Healthy Futures® (FHF), a mentoring and skills training program for young people in foster care. The program has since been tested in three randomized controlled trials and has demonstrated multiple positive outcomes, including improved mental health and living stability.
The Fulbright award gives Taussig an opportunity to take a fresh look at some of the extensive FHF data collected over the past two decades, including data from a 10-year follow-up study with young adults who were placed in foster care during preadolescence. In collaboration with colleagues at CASCADE, she’ll mine the data with longstanding research questions in mind: What predicts long-term success among children in foster care, and how, for whom, and under what conditions do interventions work for diverse youth?
FHF was named an evidence-based program by the U.S. Administration for Children, Youth and Families and is listed on several well-known registries of promising or evidence-based practices. Still, Taussig says, “There remain key questions about the intervention’s efficacy on a host of outcomes and questions about its impact in different contexts.” Increasing this knowledge is particularly important now as FHF shifts its focus to dissemination, and as the policy and practice emphasis in the United States and United Kingdom expands to include outcomes beyond safety and permanency for children in care, Taussig says.
Taussig met the CASCADE team in 2015 when their center was selected to conduct a Fostering Healthy Futures implementation feasibility study. CASCADE is among the world’s largest research centers focused on children’s social care — known as child welfare in the United States.
“Dr. Taussig’s work in developing and evaluating the Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF) programme, and more widely in understanding and supporting children living in challenging situations, is of international significance,” wrote Professor and CASCADE Director Donald Forrester in a letter of invitation for the Fulbright, noting that Taussig’s connections to research centers in Colorado — including the Center for Effective Interventions and Butler Institute for Families at GSSW, as well as the Kempe Center — will “enable us to form new partnerships and continue cross-cultural research” long after Taussig returns to the U.S.
Forging lasting connections is the ultimate aim of the Fulbright Program. Since its establishment in 1946, the program has enabled more than 390,000 students, scholars, artists, teachers and professionals of all backgrounds to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and find solutions to shared international concerns. Fulbright alumni include 60 Nobel Prize laureates, 86 Pulitzer Prize recipients, and 37 who have served as a head of state or government. Taussig is the first Fulbright scholar from GSSW.
Taussig hopes to travel to Wales in early 2021. “Our collaborative research is intended to strengthen and broaden relationships between child welfare researchers and systems in the U.S. and the U.K.,” she says.