Strengthening Child Safety and Wellbeing through Integrated Data Solutions

Photo of the linked Conference Poster showing a graphic of an adult reading to a child

Child maltreatment is a significant public health problem resulting in substantial adverse consequences for children and families, and for society at large. Individual costs are reflected in the psychological and physical suffering of victims. Societal costs associated with child maltreatment stemming from in increased health care, criminal justice, educational, and economic burdens are estimated at $500 billion annually for the United States. Yet, federal, state, and local governments face substantial barriers in the identification and assessment of maltreatment and in providing intervention and treatment services. The scope and complexity of child maltreatment, coupled with the limited resources available to the child welfare system, underscore the need for programmatic and policy-level solutions that are demonstrably effective and financially efficient in promoting child safety, permanency, and wellbeing.

Over the past decade, the landscape for using data to inform child welfare system efforts has seen tremendous growth. Technological innovations have allowed for the accumulation and centralization of large datasets critical to identifying risks of child maltreatment and its negative consequences and to better target community and system response to these challenges. How can these data be leveraged to promote more effectives efforts to detect, prevent, and respond to child maltreatment? The purpose of this conference is to showcase emerging and innovative approaches in the acquisition and use of administrative data to inform the societal and governmental response to child maltreatment. This conference will highlight the use of multi-system data (or Integrative Data Systems) to conduct predictive analytics, risk monitoring, or policy and program-focused research and evaluation to inform child welfare system solutions.

Three sessions will cover the use of integrative datasets to predict the occurrence of child maltreatment, predict negative outcomes in maltreated youth, and target effective and efficient delivery of services. The conference will culminate with a panel discussion of collaborative data sharing, analytic approaches to predict maltreatment and outcomes, and how these approaches can inform policy and program delivery.

Thank you to our Sponsors:

The Department of Public Health Sciences
The Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center
The Social Science Research Institute
The Child Study Center
The University Libraries
The Department of Educational Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education
Biobehavioral Health
The College of Nursing
Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness
Institute for CyberScience
College of Information Sciences and Technology

Photo of the linked Conference Poster showing a graphic of an adult reading to a child

Thursday, September 27

07:30 – 08:30 a.m.Registration

08:30 – 08:45 a.m.Welcome and Introductory Remarks
Jennie Noll, Ph.D., Network Director, Pennsylvania State University
Christian Connell, Ph.D., Network Associate Director, Pennsylvania
State University

Session I:  Leveraging administrative data to understand the scope and
impact of maltreatment
Integrative speaker: Emily Putnam-Hornstein, Ph.D., University of
Southern California
Moderator: Christian Connell, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University

08:45 – 09:15 a.m.Lawrence Berger, MSW, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin

09:15 – 09:45 a.m.Chris Wildeman, Ph.D., Cornell University

09:45 – 10:15 a.m.Bridget Freisthler, Ohio State University

10:15 – 10:45 a.m.Joseph Ryan, University of Michigan

10:45 – 11:30 a.m.Emily Putnam-Hornstein, Ph.D., University of Southern California

11:30 a.m. – NoonOpen Discussion

Noon – 01:00 p.m.Lunch

Session II: Developing integrated data solutions to identify effective interventions for child welfare
Integrative speaker: Melissa Jonson-Reid, Ph.D., University of Washington-St. Louis
Moderator: Sarah Font, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University

01:00 – 01:30 p.m.Cynthia Osborne, Ph.D., University of Texas-Austin

01:30 – 02:00 p.m.Patrick Fowler, Ph.D., University of Washington-St. Louis

02:00 – 02:30 p.m.Elizabeth Weigensberg, Mathematica Policy Research

02:30 – 03:00 p.m.Christian Connell, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University

03:00 – 03:45 p.m.Melissa Jonson-Reid, Ph.D., University of Washington-St. Louis

03:45 – 04:15 p.m.Open Discussion


Friday, September 28

08:30 – 08:35 a.m.Call to Order

08:35 – 08:45 a.m.Introductory Remarks
Max Crowley, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University

Session III:Informing public policy and system reform with integrated data
Integrative speaker: Fred Wulczyn, Ph.D., Chapin Hall, University of Chicago
Moderator: Max Crowley, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University

08:45 – 09:15 a.m.Rhema Vaithianathan, Ph.D., Auckland University of Technology

09:15 – 09:45 a.m.Christine Fortunato, Ph.D. and Jenessa Malin, Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation (OPRE),
Administration for Children & Families

09:45 – 10:15 a.m.Sarah Font, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University

10:15 – 10:45 a.m.Ramesh Raghavan, Ph.D., Rutgers University

10:45 – 11:30 a.m.Fred Wulczyn, Ph.D., Chapin Hall, University of Chicago

11:30 a.m. – NoonOpen Discussion

Noon – 01:00 p.m.Lunch

Session IV:Priorities and Action Steps for National Coordination
Moderator: Jennie Noll, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University

01:00 – 03:00 p.m.Integrative Speakers, will convene in front of the conference audience to field questions,
facilitate conversation, and discuss national network development.

03:00 – 03:30 p.m.Closing Remarks (Jennie Noll, Ph.D.)

Emily Putnam-Hornstein, Ph.D.

Emily Putnam-Hornstein, PhD, is an Associate Professor of at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and Director of the Children’s Data Network, a university-agency collaborative focused on the linkage and analysis of administrative records. She also maintains a research appointment at UC Berkeley’s California Child Welfare Indicators Project and is a researcher-in-residence at California’s Health and Human Services Agency, helping steward several statewide data initiatives. Her current research is focused on the use of data analytics to prevent abuse and neglect. Her research has been supported by grants from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, HRSA, First 5 LA, and a number of other private foundations. Emily graduated from Yale with a BA in psychology, received her MSW from Columbia University, and earned her PhD in Social Welfare from UC Berkeley. Prior to returning to graduate school, she worked as a child welfare caseworker in New York City.

Lawrence Berger, Ph.D.

Lawrence (Lonnie) Berger is Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research focuses on the ways in which economic resources, sociodemographic characteristics, and public policies affect parental behaviors and child and family wellbeing. He is engaged in studies in three primary areas: (1) examining the determinants of substandard parenting, child maltreatment, and out-of-home placement for children; (2) exploring associations among socioeconomic factors (family structure and composition, economic resources, household debt), parenting behaviors, and children's care, development, and wellbeing; and (3) assessing the influence of public policies on parental behaviors and child and family wellbeing. His work aims to inform public policy in order to improve its capacity to assist families in accessing resources, improving family functioning and wellbeing, and ensuring that children are able to grow and develop in the best possible environments.

Christopher Wildeman, Ph.D.

Christopher Wildeman is a Professor of Policy Analysis and Management (PAM) and Sociology (by courtesy) in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University, where he is also currently the Provost Fellow for the Social Sciences, the Director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, and the Co-Director of the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN). Since 2015, he has also been a Senior Researcher at the Rockwool Foundation Research Unit in Copehagen, Denmark.

His research and teaching interests revolve around: (1) the consequences of mass imprisonment for inequality, with emphasis on families, health, and children; and (2) child welfare, especially as relates to child maltreatment and the foster care system. He is the 2013 recipient of the Ruth Shonle Cavan Young Scholar Award from the American Society of Criminology.

Bridget Freisthler, Ph.D.

Dr. Freisthler is a professor and Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development at the Ohio State University in the College of Social Work. She runs a research program focusing on innovative approaches to study child abuse and neglect, including the study of drinking contexts related to the use of physical abuse and neglect, use of geographic information systems and spatial analysis to understand the spatial dimension of abuse and neglect, and the use of technology to improve the resource and referral process in the child welfare system.

She is an expert in the application of population-based geospatial research methods in understanding alcohol and drug-related problems (e.g., crime, child abuse and neglect) related to the availability of substances through drug various distribution systems. Her expertise includes the development of geographic information systems (GIS), and applications of spatial statistics and spatial econometrics (including Bayesian space-time models) to (1) understand how social problems vary across geographic areas, such as neighborhoods, (2) identify those areas in a community which are at risk for developing or already experiencing high levels of social problems related to specific social and environmental exposures, and (3) examine how locations of social service treatment facilities may ameliorate the growth of problems in neighborhood areas.

Joseph Ryan, MSW, Ph.D.

Joseph P. Ryan, Ph.D. is a Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan and Co-Director of the Child and Adolescent Data Lab (ssw.datalab-org). The Data Lab is a partnership with State government focused on using data and data science to drive policy, inform practice and improve the lives of children and families. Dr. Ryan has more than 10 years of experience in the field and teaches graduate courses and publishes widely in the areas of child maltreatment, foster care, substance abuse and juvenile delinquency. Dr. Ryan is the PI on multiple longitudinal studies including the Title IV-E waiver demonstrations in Illinois and Michigan. Dr. Ryan was appointed to the Michigan Committee on Juvenile Justice by the Governor and serves on the editorial boards of Child Maltreatment, Child Welfare, Social Work Research and Residential Treatment for Children and Youth.

Melissa Jonson-Reid, Ph.D.

Melissa Jonson-Reid, PhD, is Ralph and Muriel Pumphrey Professor of Social Work at the Brown School at Washington University. Prior to academia, she practiced as a social worker in both a domestic violence counseling organization and as a program administrator in public schools in California operating programs like Foster Youth Services and related services for vulnerable youth. As a researcher, a major focus of her work is understanding how responses to childhood abuse and neglect can be improved to support healthy behavioral, educational and health outcomes. A large part of her work has involved using integrated multi-agency longitudinal administrative data to identify targets of opportunity to leverage existing resources and/or evaluate policy and program efforts. Her work has also included linking administrative and primary data collection when evaluating approaches to maltreatment prevention, evaluation with medical homes for youth in care, and school-linked services. She has over 110 peer-review and book publications, a significant history of federally funded research, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare.

Cynthia Osborne, Ph.D.

Dr. Osborne is an Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Health and Social Policy at the LBJ School. She is also the Director of the Child and Family Research Partnership, a research group at the LBJ School that conducts rigorous research on policy issues related to young children, adolescents, and their parents. Her teaching and research interests are in the areas of social policy, poverty and inequality, family and child wellbeing, and family demography. She has extensive experience conducting long-term evaluations of state and national programs, with the aim of helping organizations understand what works and why, and how to ensure sustainable implementation of effective policies. Dr. Osborne specializes in collaborative partnerships and the real world application of academic research. She previously was Director of the Project on Education Effectiveness and Quality (PEEQ), an initiative of the LBJ School, that measured state educator preparation programs’ influence on student achievement. She joined the faculty of the LBJ School of Public Affairs in 2005 after completing a post-doctoral research fellowship at the Center for Research on Child Wellbeing at Princeton University. Dr. Osborne holds a Ph.D. in Demography and Public Affairs from Princeton University, Master in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and Master of Arts in Education from Claremont Graduate University. Previously, she taught middle school in a low-income community in California.

Patrick Fowler, Ph.D.

Patrick Fowler is an Associate Professor in the Brown School at Washington University. His research aims to prevent homelessness and its deleterious effects on healthy child development. A focus of his work concerns the intersection between family housing insecurity and child maltreatment. Dr. Fowler applies prevention and systems science to inform policies and programs serving inadequately housed and homeless families. Recent research focuses on cross-systems collaborations between child welfare, housing, and homeless services delivered through networks of community-based providers. Using rigorous and innovative methodologies, Dr. Fowler studies the efficiency and effectiveness of coordination of systems and services on the promotion of family stability and child well-being. His federally funded work has been supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Administration for Children and Families. Dr. Fowler joined Brown School in 2013 and is a scholar in Washington University’s Institute of Public Health. He teaches courses in program evaluation, applied prevention science, and developmental psychopathology.

Elizabeth Weigensberg, Ph.D.

Dr. Weigensberg has expertise in child welfare and workforce development with designing and conducting evaluations, using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Her expertise includes linking and analyzing complex administrative data from state and local public agencies and providing technical assistance to facilitate the development and use of data to inform policy and practice.

Dr. Weigensberg leads Mathematica’s work with developing data quality, advanced analytics, and program improvement solutions for state and local child welfare agencies. She currently directs a project creating a dataset of states’ definitions and policies related to the incidence of child abuse and neglect for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation and the Children’s Bureau. She recently led a qualitative study for DHHS Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation on the relationship between foster care and substance use. Also she directed a project with Casey Family Programs that linked and analyzed child welfare and Medicaid data to identify types of superutilization of services and predictors of placement instability for children in foster care.

Dr. Weigensberg came to Mathematica in 2015. She previously worked as a senior researcher at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, as a research instructor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and as an analyst at the U.S. Government Accountability Office. She holds a Ph.D. in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M.S. in social work from Columbia University.

Christian Connell, Ph.D.

Dr. Connell is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Associate Director of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network, and a Faculty Fellow of the Penn State Data Accelerator. Dr. Connell received his Ph.D. in Clinical-Community Psychology from the University of South Carolina and completed pre- and postdoctoral training in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. He has over 20 years’ experience in community-based and applied research in systems that work with at-risk child and family populations. His research primarily focuses on the experiences of youth who have been maltreated, as well as those who become involved in the child welfare system and other child-serving systems (e.g., mental health, juvenile justice). He makes extensive use of administrative data systems to identify factors that impact child behavioral health and wellbeing following incidents of maltreatment or child welfare system contact, as well as community-based efforts to prevent or treat the negative effects of maltreatment and other traumatic experiences in children and adolescents. Dr. Connell’s research has been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Administration for Children and Families, the National Traumatic Stress Network, and State and local contracts.

Fred Wulczyn, Ph.D.

Dr. Fred Wulczyn is a Senior Research Fellow and founding member of the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, where he directs the Center for State Child Welfare Data. Over his career, he has led the field developing new ways to use administrative records for purposes of monitoring the performance of public and private child welfare agencies starting with the first longitudinal dataset in Illinois in 1981. He has developed an array of statistical models and reporting architectures to support state and local decision-makers, whether at the policy or casework level. His expertise extends from computer technology (software and hardware), statistics and research methods to child welfare policy and practice. His active role in improving how data is used led to his appointment as Director of the Accountability Center in Tennessee. Among other actions by the state, the Accountability Center ended 15 years of oversight by the federal courts of Tennessee’s child welfare agency. Dr. Wulczyn brings a multidisciplinary perspective to this work, drawing on disciplines such as mathematics, population biology, human development, sociology, system dynamics, and social work. His contributions emphasize the use of research evidence within complex systems. He earned his doctorate from the School of Social Service Administration. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. He was also awarded the Flynn Prize in Social Research and an Honorary Doctorate, honoris causa, from Marywood University.

Rhema Vaithianathan, Ph.D.

Rhema is co-director of the Centre for Social Data Analytics at Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand, where she is also a Professor of Economics. Rhema is recognized internationally for her ambitious research using linked administrative data. She leads the international research team that developed and continues to refine the Allegheny Family Screening Tool, a child welfare predictive risk modeling tool for Allegheny County, PA. Rhema’s current predictive analytics work in the United States is diverse, including implementation of a child welfare predictive risk model for Douglas County, CO , and two feasibility studies for Allegheny County, one of which is for a predictive risk algorithm to help the county prioritize homelessness services. In New Zealand, Rhema and her team do a lot of research using the New Zealand Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI), a large research database containing microdata from a range of government agencies. Recent IDI work includes a study about the cumulative prevalence of maltreatment amongst New Zealand children (American Journal of Public Health) and a study of rates of injury and mortality among New Zealand children identified at high risk of maltreatment (Pediatrics). Rhema has held numerous research positions in Australia, Singapore and the United States, including a Harkness Fellowship at Harvard University.

Christine Fortunato, Ph.D.

Christine Fortunato is the Team Leader for Child Welfare Research in the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE). Dr. Fortunato develops and coordinates research activities related to child welfare and other programs serving low-income children and their families. She oversees a diverse array of projects, including the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being, Feasibility of Linking Administrative Data to Better Understand Child Maltreatment Incidence, and the Study of Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships. She is particularly interested in using research and data to aid key stakeholders in making more informed decisions about implementing feasible and effective interventions. Dr. Fortunato originally began her work at OPRE as a Society for Research in Child Development Executive Branch Policy Fellow. She holds a doctorate in Human Development and Family Studies from the Pennsylvania State University.

Jenessa Malin, Ph.D.

Jenessa Malin is a Social Science Research Analyst in the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE). Her portfolio includes research and evaluation projects related to child welfare and early care and education programs. Her projects span from small-scale process evaluations to nationally representative surveys. She is particularly interested in the use of innovative methods and study designs to address policy relevant research questions. Dr. Malin began her work at OPRE as a Society for Research in Child Development Executive Branch Policy Fellow. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Duke University. She also holds an M.A. in Measurement, Statistics, and Evaluation and a Ph.D. in Human Development, both from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Sarah Font, Ph.D.

Sarah Font is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology and is a faculty member of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network. Dr. Font completed a PhD in Social Welfare from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and did her postdoctoral training at the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Font’s research focuses on various issues related to child maltreatment and the child welfare system, including the measurement of child maltreatment, the causes and effects of involvement with the child protection and foster care systems, case-level decision-making, and system effectiveness.

Ramesh Raghavan, Ph.D.

Ramesh Raghavan is Professor and Associate Dean for Research at the School of Social Work at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. He holds additional appointments as Professor of Health Systems & Policy at the School of Public Health, Professor of Psychiatry at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and as a member of the core faculty of the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research.

Dr Raghavan conducts mental health services research on the needs of vulnerable children, with a specific interest in children in the child welfare system. Dr Raghavan has conducted studies on Medicaid managed care (funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality [AHRQ]), and on the effects of health insurance instability on mental health service use (funded by the Administration for Children and Families). He has conducted several studies on quality of care, including on the use of public finance mechanisms to promote quality of mental health services (funded by the NIMH), racial/ethnic disparities in Medicaid-funded mental health expenditures for children with histories of maltreatment (funded by NIMH), and on the development of novel risk adjustment mechanisms to better insure the mental health needs of children with emotional disorders (funded by AHRQ).

Photo of the linked Conference Poster showing a graphic of an adult reading to a child

The conference will take place at the historic Nittany Lion Inn on Penn State’s University Park campus. A block of rooms has been reserved from Wednesday, September 26 through Thursday, September 27, 2018 at the rate of $139/night for a standard room.

Please use the group code: CHIL18A. (The code expires Friday, August 24, 2018.) 

Reservations can be made at the Nittany Lion Inn’s website:

If you have problems reserving a room online using the group code, reservations can be made over the phone, toll-free at 800-233-7505.

Photo of the linked Conference Poster showing a graphic of an adult reading to a child

General Registration

Early bird $175 (til September 7)
Regular $225 (beginning September 8)

Penn State Faculty/Staff $75

Penn State Student or Non-PSU student $50

Conference Fee

The fee covers all instruction, program materials, refreshment breaks, and two lunches. Registrants are responsible for all other meals and lodging.


All registrations and payments must be received by 5:00 p.m. ET on Friday, September 14, 2018. After this date, please contact Cheri at or 814-865-2193 for availability; you can register for an additional $30.


You will receive a confirmation of your registration. You will be alerted promptly of any cancellations or changes. If some unforeseen event forces Penn State to cancel or postpone the program, you will receive a full refund of your registration fee; however, the University cannot be held responsible for any related costs, including cancellation fees assessed by airlines or travel agencies.


If your request to withdraw is received by Friday, September 14, we can issue a partial refund. Send your written request by email to Cheri McConnell at A $50 administrative fee will be charged for each withdrawal.


Anyone who is registered but cannot attend may identify a substitute. A full refund will be issued after the substitution registration has been completed. A registration form and full payment by the substitute are required. Substitutes are eligible to register at the same fee.


Penn State encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing special accommodations or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact Cheri at 814-865-2193 at least two weeks prior to the conference.

Photo of the linked Conference Poster showing a graphic of an adult reading to a child

By Air

The State College/University Park Airport (airport code: SCE) is located near the conference site. Call 814-865-5511 or visit the State College/University Park Airport website for information on flights. We recommend that you make the State College/University Park Airport your final airport destination. Please inquire with your hotel if they offer courtesy airport transportation. Taxis are often located outside of the airport baggage claim area, curbside. Participants are responsible for arranging ground transportation between the airport, hotels, and conference site. Please view this University Park Airport Taxis and Shuttles page.

By Car

The University Park campus is located within driving distance of many major cities, including Harrisburg (1.5 hrs., 90 mi.), Pittsburgh (3 hrs., 137 mi.), Philadelphia (3.5 hrs., 194 mi.), Baltimore (3.5 hrs., 155 mi.), Washington, D.C. (4 hrs., 190 mi.), New York City (5 hrs., 250 mi.), and Toronto (6.5 hrs., 304 mi.). See our Visitors and Neighbors website for detailed visitor information, including maps.

By Bus

The following companies provide bus service between major cities to State College, Pennsylvania: Greyhound and Megabus.

Photo of the linked Conference Poster showing a graphic of an adult reading to a child

Conference Information

Cheri McConnell, Child Maltreatment Solutions Network
Phone: 814-865-2193

Register Here

Photo of the linked Conference Poster showing a graphic of an adult reading to a child


The Penn State Psychological Clinic is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The Psychological Clinic maintains responsibility for the program and its content. Please contact Dr. Sandy Testa Michelson (, if you would like additional information.

Social Workers

Penn State is approved by the Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors to provide continuing education courses and programs for these professions under sections 47.36 (a)(3), 48.36 (a)(3), and 49.36 (a)(3) of the Pennsylvania code. 12.25 credits can be earned.