University of the Virgin Islands Caribbean Exploratory Research Center (CERC) has been awarded a $900,000 U.S. Department of Human Services grant aimed at improving the lives of residents in the territory. CERC will receive $300,000 a year, for a three-year period, to conduct two human services research studies and to establish an accessible and comprehensive ongoing research infrastructure.
Developing the territory’s research infrastructure will enable the Department of Human Services to effectively determine the needs of their clients in the Head Start and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) programs. The title of the project is, “Human Services Research Partnerships: U.S. Virgin Islands.” CERC was awarded the grant, on Sept. 30. The grant period ends Sept. 29, 2017.
With this grant, CERC seeks to build partnerships among researchers, community-based organizations, and local government agencies, including semi-autonomous agencies, to define and address research questions about the social and economic well-being of low-income children and families in the territory.
According to the 2008 Virgin Islands Community Survey, a significant percentage – 28 percent for the territory – of families in the U.S. Virgin Islands, live in conditions that are deeply impacted by poverty. Currently, there is limited research on the effects of Head Start programs and no research data on the quality and the impact of the TANF programs in the USVI.
“We are very pleased to have received this grant from the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” said Dr. Noreen Michael, CERC research director. “One of the most important purposes of this grant is to build the research capacity within the territory to address issues related to improving the quality of services received by Head Start and TANF clients.”
Human Services Former Commissioner Christopher Finch said he is thrilled this research partnership with UVI was funded by the Administration for Children and Families. “This research study on our TANF and Head Start families will help us understand how best we can ensure we are providing the services they need to achieve their personal goals for high quality and successful family lives,” said Finch. “We thank UVI for engaging in now this second research grant to study the impacts of Human Service programs. This grant along with the child care research grant can only improve the work we do for the people of the Virgin Islands.”
“As part of this grant, CERC will support critical collaboration needed for this project to be successful,” said Dr. Gloria Callwood, CERC director and principal investigator. This will be done through the establishment of a research partnership with government agencies, semi-autonomous government agencies, community-based organizations, key personnel from the V.I. Department of Human Services, program participants, and researchers from UVI. “We hope to effect the types of policy changes that will result in improved programs and services for clients,” said Dr. Michael. “We also hope to educate the entire community about the importance and relevance of conducting research in these areas.”Other goals of the project include:
At the end of the three-year project, it is hoped that the territory will have a redundant, reliable, comprehensive, secure database of information on public assistance programs and participants. It is also hoped that there will be a greater collaboration among policy makers in the territory and data-driven policy recommendations to improve human services programs. CERC also expects to have an increase in the cadre of local researchers engaged in human services research.
Human Services Research Partnership: U.S. Virgin Islands convened its final meeting of Year I of a three-year grant on Friday, September 25, 2015 at Government House on St. Thomas. Dr. Gloria Callwood, PI and Director of the Caribbean Exploratory Research Center (CERC) at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) and Vivian Ebbesen-Fludd, Commissioner, Department of Human Services, co-chaired the meeting. The Partnership functions within the framework of a Cooperative Agreement established to:1) support the building of partnerships among researchers, local governments, and community-based organizations to define and address research questions regarding the social and economic well-being of low-income children and families in the Virgin Islands; and 2) to strengthen research, gather relevant data and improve understanding of human services approaches to improve the quality of life in the US Virgin Islands, with particular focus on topics related to the Head Start and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families programs to promote family self-sufficiency, stability and well-being.
The meeting brought together Partnership members from local government agencies, semi-autonomous agencies, community-based organizations, and researchers from UVI. The meeting focused on highlighting the work done during the first year of the three-year project and to begin discussions of work to be completed in Year II.
An important part of the meeting was a session on Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR). This session was facilitated by Dr. Janine Jurkowski, the CBPR consultant to the project. The Partnership finalized its mission statement and guiding principles, key features of the CBPR approach. At the end of the session, partners present reaffirmed their commitment to the Partnership and to the work that must be done to achieve the project goal over the next two years.
Human Services Research Partnerships: US Virgin Islands (HSRP:VI) will be featured at a special session on the CBPR approach at CERC's 8th Annual Health Disparities Institute on Thursday, October 15, 2015 from 1:45pm to 3:15pm at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef Hotel on St. Thomas.