Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago has, since its inception in 1985 as a research and policy center, focused on a mission of improving the well-being of children and youth, families, and their communities.
We do this through policy research—by developing and testing new ideas, generating and analyzing information, and examining policies, programs, and practices across a wide range of service systems and organizations.
Chapin Hall takes a broad perspective, embracing an interest in policies that promote the well-being of all children and youth while devoting special attention to those facing significant problems. Our perspective also encompasses their families and their communities, recognizing that we cannot improve circumstances for children and youth in isolation. The community context in which children and youth live influences their well-being in important ways. We are interested as much in preventing problems as in ameliorating them, and this broad perspective affords us the opportunity to do both.
Chapin Hall’s impact derives largely from a distinctive marriage of the most rigorous academic research with innovative partnerships with the public systems, institutions, organizations, and programs that are in a position to best deploy that research. Taken together, this broad perspective and commitment to working in partnership form the cornerstone of our efforts.
Chapin Hall researchers come from a variety of academic backgrounds, including social work, public policy, education, economics, sociology, psychology, and law. Many have significant direct service experience that informs and enriches their research. Others have worked in federal and state government, service agencies, or policy research organizations. We are enriched as well by our affiliation with the University of Chicago. Our research staff collaborates frequently with faculty members in a number of university departments and professional schools. Some of our researchers teach at the University of Chicago or have held faculty positions at other universities. This breadth of experience provides Chapin Hall with its distinctive blend of academic rigor and practical problem solving.
Our researchers meet regularly with policymakers, agency directors, philanthropic organizations, and community groups to assure that important findings are placed directly in the hands of those who can best use them. These partnerships often raise new questions for researchers and suggest new areas of inquiry, leading us to delve deeper and reach further.
It is seldom possible to improve our communities or the circumstances of children and families through a single policy or a single system. Policies are nested within systems, and much of our work takes place at the intersection of one or more systems. For example, education systems struggle to meet the needs of young people who have been involved with the juvenile justice system. Students who struggle in high school or who drop out may have difficulty becoming connected to opportunities to prepare for or participate in the workforce. Children in foster care often come from families living in poverty or afflicted by substance abuse or mental health problems. Home visitation for newborns and parents may help prevent later maltreatment, but it is best nested in a system of care that also includes health care and early education. By working at the nexus of multiple services and systems—formal service systems as well as community and normative systems—our leverage for improving these circumstances is multiplied.