Norton School Awarded $2M to Help At-risk Youth and Families

A USDA research grant will fund research designed to benefit at-risk families and young people.
Feb. 16, 2010
McClelland Park, home of the UA Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences
McClelland Park, home of the UA Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences

The Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Arizona has won more than $2 million in federal research funding to help children and families in Arizona and across the country. The grants were awarded in a blind competitive review process based on faculty expertise and experience, said Soyeon Shim, director of the Norton School.

Statewide and National Reach

The funds will be split among multiple and interrelated initiatives – some focused on Arizona communities and others with a national scope.

In Arizona, the Norton School will work with existing agencies and organizations that serve youth and families, providing training and consulting to develop programs that strengthen at-risk families with children 3-5 years old.

The programs serve impoverished and other at-risk families in communities facing significant challenges. Another Arizona-focused arm of the research concentrates on helping at-risk youth develop strategies, competencies and voice as they navigate critical issues at school and at home.

On a national level, researchers at the UA Norton School are developing tools and processes for improving hundreds of related programs across the United States – initiatives under the umbrella of the federal Children, Youth and Families at Risk, or CYFAR, program.

Norton researchers will be collaborating with selected university partners to develop tools and processes for evaluating and improving CYFAR programs – including online surveys and templates for observational assessments – and should begin feeding data back to CYFAR within a year.

Delivering Return on Research Investments

Norton School researchers will lead the projects. Angela Taylor, an associate professor of family and consumer sciences, will lead the development of Arizona programs, and work with Professor Melissa Barnett and collaborate with Lynne Borden, an extension specialist and professor, in partnership with county faculty within the federal Cooperative Extension program. Borden will lead research related to national programs, working with doctoral candidate Christine Bracamonte Wiggs.

"These projects represent an opportunity for the Norton School and the University of Arizona to work with the federal government to really make a difference in the lives of children and families across the country," said Borden, who heads the projects' national evaluations work.

Taylor added that all of the integrated work of the University's outreach and extensions projects ultimately drive better outcomes through quality research. "As the seat of the Cooperative Extension system in Arizona, one of our primary goals is to make sure that research findings make their way into communities, applying them in concrete ways so that families feel the return on the government's investments," Taylor said.

Funding, Partners and Communities

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (formerly the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service) within the United States Department of Agriculture awarded the grants to the Norton School.

Borden selected researchers from five other institutions as collaborators in developing evaluations and improvements for CYFAR programs nationwide: North Carolina State University, Pennsylvania State University, Texas A&M University, the University of Minnesota and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Within Arizona, researchers will work to develop programs in Coconino, Pima, Pinal and Santa Cruz counties. The UA's Cooperative Extension Service extends to all 15 Arizona counties, where Cooperative Extension county faculty work in partnership with the University to apply recent research findings to critical issues in communities statewide.