University of Wisconsin–Madison

National Poverty Fellows Program Position Description for 2022–2023

The National Poverty Fellows in residence at the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in Washington, D.C., will work in the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) and will be assigned to the Division of Economic Independence.

OPRE conducts rigorous research and evaluation projects related to ACF programs and the populations they serve. These include evaluations of existing programs, evaluations of innovative approaches to helping low-income children and families, research syntheses, and descriptive and exploratory studies. OPRE also supports rigorous research and data-driven decision making in ACF program offices by increasing the quality, usefulness, sharing, and analysis of data while protecting privacy and confidentiality.

OPRE’s Division of Economic Independence (DEI) has primary responsibility for welfare and family self-sufficiency research. DEI’s portfolio is designed to expand knowledge about effective programs to promote employment, self-sufficiency, and economic well-being among low-income families, and focuses on five major areas:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Employment and the Labor Market
  • Education and Training
  • Behavioral Science
  • Cross-cutting and Other Safety Net Topics

Current examples of ongoing projects include:

  • experimental impact and implementation evaluations of post-secondary career pathways programs;
  • experimental impact and implementation evaluations of discrete employment interventions including coaching approaches for TANF recipients and other low-income individuals and employment strategies for highly vulnerable populations with complex barriers to employment (such as physical and mental health conditions, substance use disorders, or a criminal history);
  • a systematic review of the evidence on interventions designed to help low-income job seekers succeed in the labor market;
  • qualitative inquiries into the organizational culture of TANF offices and families’ experiences with public benefits programs;
  • analyses of racial and ethnic disparities across the human services delivery system;
  • examination of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on TANF and child support programs;
  • tests of the application of behavioral science to human services programs including TANF, child welfare, and Head Start programs; and
  • consultations to advance the application of innovative research and evaluation methods including participatory methods and contextual analysis.

DEI also works closely with other OPRE research divisions and the DHHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation to collaborate on research on programs delivering two-generation services to support child development and family economic security, questions surrounding populations re-entering the community after incarceration, and child support systems and policies. For more information on DEI’s welfare and family self-sufficiency research portfolio, see the division’s most recent annual report and the ACF Research & Evaluation Agenda Welfare and Family Self-Sufficiency Snapshot.

Fellows in residence in OPRE/DEI will participate in a variety of research and program evaluation efforts and will be expected to:

  • Assist Federal staff in overseeing research and evaluation contracts and grants related to ACF programs and the populations they serve. Assist Federal staff in preparing research and evaluation project specifications; reviewing design and analysis plans, data collection instruments, and related materials; and critiquing reports and other products.
  • Assist Federal staff in planning research consortia and other topical forum activities, such as OPRE’s series on social science research methodology.
  • Provide technical assistance to ACF program office partners on topics or activities related to research and evaluation including design and methodology; performance measurement; and data sharing, documentation, management, and analysis.
  • Identify key research and evaluation questions to address policy and programmatic priorities through reviews of the current academic and applied literature. Assist Federal staff with the formulation of recommendations to Agency officials about future directions for social science data, research and evaluation, and policy analysis.
  • Prepare position papers, issue summaries, comments, briefing documents, and fact sheets related to ACF program data, administrative data sources, research and evaluation findings, and program operations.
  • Participate with Federal staff in working groups and other engagements with internal and external stakeholders and activities to facilitate the dissemination of research and evaluation findings to a range of audiences.
  • Propose topics for individual inquiry related to ACF priorities and the Fellow’s research interests.