A Hidden Research Gem 

Rose Greene directs the Center for Human Services Research in the School of Social Welfare. (Photos by Brian Busher)  

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 6, 2018) – Tucked away on the third floor of Richardson Hall on the Downtown Campus is a little center with a giant impact across local, county and state agencies.

Known as the Center for Human Services Research in the School of Social Welfare, the Center manages nearly $4 million annually in state and federal-funded grants for a portfolio of 26 current projects. Its purpose is to conduct research on social issues.

School of Social Welfare Dean Darrell Wheeler describes the Center as a “powerhouse,” an asset that can assist faculty in collecting data and conducting large-scale studies.

“Faculty at UAlbany who seek research collaborators need look no further than the Downtown Campus,” said Associate Dean for Research Lynn Warner. “The research scientists and staff at CHSR have it all covered. Their collective extensive experience with qualitative and quantitative methods make CHSR the quintessential ‘one stop shop’.”

Center Director Rose Greene noted, “The whole research process – from conceptualization and design to data collection, analysis and reporting – can be done here.”

“We can help faculty develop strong proposals to obtain funding,” Greene continued. With a staff of 35 employees and its own small information technology unit, the Center can help faculty create strong research designs and collect data through a variety of innovative and well-established methods.

Center Research Scientist Erin Berical said the organization works with many other UAlbany schools and colleges outside of the School of Social Welfare.

The Center has partnered with faculty from a variety of areas including education, criminal justice, psychology, sociology, Asian studies and public health, in addition to social welfare.

Instead of conducting research in an ivory tower, the Center has cultivated many partnerships with government, social service agencies and others who provide direct services in diverse communities across the state.

“What’s interesting about the Center is that the researchers here could have gone for faculty positions, but have a real passion for conducting applied research, which informs policy and programs,” said Greene. “They are jazzed up by the work they are doing.” The Center recently hired a cognitive neuroscientist, for example, who conducts analyses of a number of social programs relating to child abuse prevention and domestic violence.

While the Center is a major partner with state government, it also works with county governments, the Albany City School District and many community-based organizations.

About one-third of the Center’s funding is in the area of child welfare including a study of Healthy Families New York, a program that is implemented across 43 different sites for the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. The Center is currently conducting a 15-year follow-up study of a randomized controlled trial of 1,200 families to measure the long-term program effects.

Center Director Rose Greene collaborates with partners from state agencies.

Greene meeting with agency partners. 

For this study, the Center hired research interviewers, who interviewed expectant mothers considered to be at risk of abusing their children. Some of the expectant mothers were assigned to a treatment group where they were provided with a home visitor who offered parenting information and support. The control group mothers did not receive home visiting services. The mothers were interviewed at enrollment, when their babies were born, and when their children were 1, 2, 3, 7 and 15 years old.

“We gave the data collectors tablets loaded with questionnaires and sent them into the communities where these families live,” said Greene, adding that when old enough, the children completed the questions themselves.

“This was our largest study to date,” Greene said.

Based on the positive findings and research rigor, the intervention by home visitors has been designated an evidence-based program and qualifies for federal funding.

“This study demonstrates how the work conducted by the Center has had an impact on influencing social policy to support an important home visiting intervention,” Greene said.

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