Washington University professors Dr. Melissa Jonson-Reid (left) and Mary Jo Stahlschmidt look over data from their evaluation of child abuse and neglect prevention programs. The evaluation is funded by Missouri Department of Social Services, Children's Division and managed through ARCHS.ARCHS is well-known for its hands-on partnerships that produce visible results that make a positive impact on Greater St. Louis. However, ARCHS also has a large stake in dynamic behind-the-scenes work with partners who produce results that lead to those hands-on programs.

Over the past three years, ARCHS has partnered with Washington University in St. Louis to help evaluate three leading child abuse and neglect prevention and intervention programs - including those at Family Support Network, Nurses for Newborns and the Independence School District Child Welfare Initiative (Kansas City).

ARCHS managed the three-year, $75,000 grant from the State of Missouri's Department of Social Services, Children's Division that funded the Washington University research.

The evaluations of these innovative programs will now be used to determine future "best practices" that can be replicated.

"This was a collaborative evaluation process made possible by the eagerness of each agency to participate and learn more about how they were helping families," said Dr. Melissa Jonson-Reid, the Washington University professor who led the evaluation. "Each agency contributed their own time and resources to make the evaluation process a success."

In St. Louis, the Family Support Network's Project First Step is a home visitation program that targets families identified as "at-risk" for child abuse or neglect. Project First Step's mission is to strengthen families and their children to prevent child abuse and neglect through various services, including in-home visits that teach effective parenting skills, the evaluation reads.

Nurses for Newborns' mission is to provide a safety-net for at-risk families in order to prevent infant mortality and child abuse and neglect through home-based programs that provide education, health care, and positive parenting skills. Nurses for Newborns primarily serves the highest risk families, according to the evaluation.

Dr. Jonson-Reid said especially in these tough economic times, very few agencies have the staff and resources to deeply evaluate their own numbers.

"I think it's very important for agencies to be able to talk about the wonderful anecdotes of their programs, but also present their in-depth numbers," said Dr. Jonson-Reid.