Volume 49 Number 3
Summer 2016

Public Policy

Edited by Jean Hill

Highlights of SCRA Public Policy Grants

Written by Keri Frantell and Ryan Schooley

The SCRA Policy Committee helps to support public policy and advocacy work that specifically addresses community concerns in the policy arena each year. The projects that are supported through the public policy grants help to target advocacy issues at all levels, with an emphasis on addressing policy concerns of particular community interest and connecting community psychology to these policy concerns. Several wonderful projects have been funded through this program, and some of the work done through these grants is described below.

Post-disaster Home Buyouts and Relocation

Sherri Brokopp Binder and Charlene Baker

Losing one’s home to a natural disaster could arguably be one of the most traumatizing experiences of a lifetime. Survivors of these disasters, whose homes have been destroyed, may choose to or be forced to relocate. Often times, state sanctioned home buyout programs help facilitate family relocation, particularly when areas are deemed to be at risk for future disasters. While most literature has focused on the decision making processes behind an individual’s decision to accept a buyout or not, Binder and Baker aim to address a gap in the literature by focusing on the lived experience of those enduring the buyout and relocation process. Binder and Baker document community perspectives from the beginning of relocation  and reintegration processes for homeowners in New York City after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. By connecting community-based research and community perspectives to policy implementation surrounding home buyout programs, these authors hope to influence the national debate regarding the efficacy of such initiatives. These authors engaged in interviews that focused on experiences early in the buyout and relocation process as well as the recovery process for those that chose to rebuild, with an emphasis on residents’ perceptions surrounding barriers and facilitators of integration into a new community, the impact of buyout-related decisions over time, heterogeneity of responses seen within communities, and community level perceptions of the buyout program. The researchers aim to translate collected data into academic presentations and a published article, a report for the participating communities, and a white paper with tangible policy recommendations.

Evaluation of An Innovative School District-Wide Assessment System in San Francisco

Katrina Roundfield and Kaja LeWinn

The No Child Left Behind Act enacted by the Bush administration in 2001 has not been implemented without challenges and criticisms. Initial backlash led to the creation of a waiver system through which states could attempt to develop accountability measures better suited to address state-specific educational needs. The California Office to Reform Education (CORE) successfully applied for a waiver in 2013 and is transitioning to a measure called the School Quality Improvement Index (SQII), which examines student, faculty, and school-family outcomes more holistically by taking into account dimensions such as socio-emotional competence. The San Francisco Unified School District participated in the CORE waiver and conducted initial assessments in 2014. The grant supported the school district’s efforts to integrate quarterly outcome data and SQII academic and socio-emotional data in an attempt to facilitate data-driven decisions regarding student outcomes. Specifically, the grant supported consultation and data analytic assistance in the form of developing integrative data systems, building district-wide research capacity, and conducting analyses of interest. The project carries implications concerning the link between positive youth development, academic achievement, and holistic approaches to educational reform. By bridging the gap between research and practice in school-based settings, this study has the potential to inform public policy efforts related to educational and youth development.

Gender-Responsivity in the Juvenile Justice System

Valerie Anderson and William Davidson

Due to legislative changes in the 1980s (Chesney-Lind & Shelden, 2004), juvenile girls have had increasing numbers of contact with the juvenile justice system (Puzzanchera, Adams, & Sickmund, 2010). As these numbers have increased there has been a need to incorporate gender-responsive practice (Walker, Muno, & Sullivan-Colglazier, 2012) and it is critical that policy reflect this need. There is a glaring gap in the literature, though, in what services are available and what services may be needed to treat girls differently than boys. Instead, there is support in the literature for the need for gender-responsive approaches to criminal justice, but there is little empirical support for approaches already in practice. There has been substantial variability in use of the term “gender-responsive,” too, meaning that services that are provided under this umbrella may be substantially different from one another.

Anderson and Davidson utilized an exploratory qualitative design to examine a juvenile court system in Michigan providing services to 300-350 new youth annually. Both researchers interviewed juvenile court personnel and engaged in case discussions (about current cases) with court officers. Over a nine-month period they also observed staffing meetings of juvenile court to gain a better understanding of how decisions are made in the courts. Observations, discussions, and interviews were examined to identify ways in which gender-responsivity is integrated into services, how these services are defined and understood, and how needs assessments of the girls in the court system matched with empirical literature on these needs. It is the hope that this research will help inform policy decisions and SCRA’s influence over policy related to gender-responsivity in the juvenile courts.

Influencing Prevention Policy Through Effective Communication with Legislators and Stakeholders

Melissa Strompolis, Megan Branham, Heidi Aakjer, and Whitney Tucker

In another grant-funded study focused on the needs of youth, Strompolis, Branham, Aakjer, and Tucker used surveys to increase understanding of work being done to increase safety for child passengers. Motor vehicle accidents are a significant contributor to childhood injury and death, and in South Carolina where this study took place, the rates are much greater when compared to other states. This study highlights the importance of prevention efforts in community psychology, and the need to work towards prevention-related policy. The researchers used survey methods to investigate the capacity of Safe Kids Coalitions to engage in advocacy work and their perceptions of child motor vehicle safety issues. They also used surveys to understand legislators’ knowledge about motor vehicle safety issues, how often they become involved with these issues, and how advocacy efforts can influence their decisions. In-person meetings were also conducted to follow up with Safe Kids Coalitions members and legislators.

This project was used to inform members of the Children’s Trust as well as the public. A policy forum held in 2014 for advocates and community partners allowed the Children’s Trust to provide education on effective advocacy tactics, how to navigate the legislative agenda, and how to recognize legislators who have worked hard to support these issues. The results of these surveys were also disseminated to help encourage advocacy efforts. The research was also shared through social media, websites, and newsletters to help increase awareness of the issues and an understanding of how to effectively advocate for change.

The Affordable Care Act Policy Education, Mobilization, & Evaluation

Neil Boyd, Brandhn Green, Eric Martin, and Carl Milofsky

In the ACA Pilot Program at Bucknell University, issues of knowledge, access, and infrastructure of health exchanges were addressed through the development of a mobilizing program to provide a resource for local residents wanting or needing to enroll in health exchange programming. In the initial rollout of the ACA policy, many people who were un- or under-insured lacked information necessary to find and gain access to insurance. Students initially investigated the best ways to provide educational resources for community residents about health exchange options. Training events also prepared service providers and volunteers in how to assist community members. Several infrastructure needs were also found, and the pilot program seeks to ameliorate these barriers by providing enrollment centers within the community and streamlining resources and information. Researchers also engaged in evaluative research about the pilot program, investigating why citizens utilized in-person support, reviewing personal histories of people who utilized help from the pilot program, documenting the efforts of the pilot program, and surveying human service agencies about knowledge of ACA and ability to deliver effective programming. This project serves to address the need for policy to help make the ACA a more cohesive and effective program.

Over the last several years, many projects have been funded through the SCRA Public Policy Grant Program. Each of these projects has resulted in small-scale interventions that have then helped to inform SCRA of policy-related issues. We look forward to seeing progress from even more grant-funded programs in the years to come.


Chesney-Lind, M., & Shelden, R. G. (2004). Girls, delinquency and juvenile justice. (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Puzzanchera, C., Adams, B., & Sickmund, M. (2010). Juvenile court statistics 2006-2007. National Center for Juvenile Justice.

Walker, S. C., Muno, A., & Sullivan-Colglazier, C. (2012). Principles in practice: A multistate study of gender-responsive reforms in the juvenile justice system.Crime & Delinquency, doi:10.1177/0011128712449712.

You must be logged in to leave a reply. Login »

You must be logged in to the website in order to leave a comment.