The CAP Family Life Study has demonstrated a promising start in supporting the ambitious research agenda. Thus far, the university partners have developed the design and infrastructure across multiple institutions and agencies. These include: (1) creating the organizational capacity of the research team; (2) designing the quasi-experimental design of the study; (3) developing data systems; (4) designing the parent survey; and (5) selecting and recruiting families into the study. Although CAP enrolled 3 cohorts of participants between 2009 and 2011, the Family Life Study, as funded by ACF, begins with Cohort 4. Cohort 1-3 includes 35 parents in the nursing track. The health information technology (HIT) was added for Cohort 4, and so Cohort 4 includes 14 parents in the nursing track, and 15 parents in HIT. (A detailed description of Cohorts 1-3 can be found in the Implementation Report; see Section 1 Appendix). A key goal of Year 1 was also to develop a theory of change (presented in Section 3 of this report) and design a study that examines the influence of CareerAdvance on children and parents. In terms of testing possible change in parents and children over time, ideally we would have employed a randomized control trial to examine the causal effects of CareerAdvance on short- and long-term outcomes. However, the program is relatively new, and CAP's immediate goal is to expand CareerAdvance to all of its early childhood education centers with a seven-fold increase in participants over five years (from 29 participants in 2011 to approximately 210 participants in 2015). A randomized trial from a waitlist will be feasible only when the program is oversubscribed.
In order to account for the potentially non-random selection of participants in CareerAdvance, we employed propensity score matching to identify pairs of families who are statistically indistinguishable on observable characteristics and behaviors except for the fact that one parent is enrolled in CareerAdvance and one is not. Propensity score matching used CAP's data set that was drawn from families' enrollment forms and meetings with support staff. As of January 2012, the CAP Family Life Study included all 29 Cohort 4 CareerAdvance participants and 30 matched-comparison families. Overall, our results indicate that the comparison group is relatively well-matched to Cohort 4 CareerAdvance participants across a number of demographic and psychological characteristics. Of note is that independent data from our individual interviews with parents confirm the strong equivalence of the matched-comparison group to the CareerAdvance participants. Focus group data collected in December 2011 with 25 of the 29 CareerAdvance Cohort 4 Nursing and Health Information Track participants indicate that CareerAdvance is highly valued by parents and may have important dual-generation influences. Parents seem to gain, for example, from increased confidence in returning to school, intensive peer and staff support, and enrolling in an all-expense paid training program. Children and parents appear to benefit from the learning and role modeling that occurs when their parents return to school. We find support for the peer cohort model of the program, especially its potential influence on educational persistence. Moreover, we have initial indications of important changes in parent-child interactions in the home that may influence positively children's development and academic achievement, as well as improve parenting practices. Bi-annual focus groups and longitudinal interview data will test further these hypotheses and provide important insights into the most effective elements of the CareerAdvance training program and its potential for longer term impact on the academic, career, and financial success of parents and children. This report reflects the development of a dual-generation evaluation design and initial baseline characteristics of the first cohort under study. (author abstract)