Lawrence, Kans. – During an era of limited resources, tight budgets, and hiring freezes, a newly restructured center at the University of Kansas is primed to assist a variety of Kansas communities and government entities in their efforts to build a healthy Kansas. And perhaps this form of community engaged scholarship can efficiently and effectively help support public initiatives in other states, too.
The Center for Public Partnerships and Research (CPPR) recently formed from of the restructuring of the Institute for Educational Research and Public Service (IERPS), a center established in 1997 by the School of Education.
Newly named as the Center for Public Partnerships and Research, public service remains at the core of its purpose.
“We are a one-stop shop that provides a variety of services for our public partners to be able to do what they do best – serve at-risk children, youth, and families in Kansas,” said Jackie Counts, director of CPPR. “Our multidisciplinary team of educators, social workers, psychologists, and sociologists specializes in finding practical and replicable solutions that help our partners achieve and document results. The Center is able to bring university resources to the state agency arena in order to maximize the work that they do.”
As one of four centers under the new umbrella organization, the Achievement and Assessment Institute (AAI), the Center complements the AAI’s mission through its years of experience building capacity of organizations by providing expertise in five main service areas: research and evaluation, systems development, professional development, technical assistance, and performance management systems.
“The Center has a long history of developing solutions to meet the needs of our community and assisting partners in improving practice, informing policy, and advancing knowledge that benefits Kansas,” said Neal Kingston, Ph.D, director of the Achievement and Assessment Institute. “I fully expect the Center, under the leadership of Jackie Counts, to continue providing assistance that is vital to our state and serves the greater good.”
More than 40 Center staff currently work on more than 50 grants and contracts, partnering with state, federal, and community-based organizations in the areas of early childhood, child welfare, child abuse/prevention, K-12 education, and at-risk families. During its 16-year-existence, CPPR staff has worked in every county in Kansas.
At the state government level, CPPR’s development of the Kansas Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Plan serves as a roadmap for early childhood programming across Kansas. CPPR also assists the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund through the development of an accountability framework used by legislators to make funding decisions regarding the Children’s Initiative Fund.
In the field of K-12 education, CPPR projects have assisted school districts in training teachers to work with English language learners or to use arts education to deepen critical thinking skills. In the effort to address complex social issues related to child welfare and at-risk families, the Center’s Project Launch works with partners in Finney County, Kansas to promote healthy child development. Additionally, a partnership with the Kansas Health Foundation has enabled CPPR to assist community and state agencies with grant writing to bring federal and foundation funding into Kansas.
The Center is headed by Jackie Counts, Ph.D, who this year took over after Jerry Bailey, long-time director of IERPS, retired after 37 years of service at the University of Kansas.
Counts returned to KU in 2013 after two years with the Health Resources and Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where as regional project officer she oversaw the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting and Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Grant Programs in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.
From 2004 to 2011, Counts served as one of the associate directors of IERPS, working on the Kansas Home Visitation Capacity Assessment, the Kansas Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Plan, the Kansas Strengthening Families Plan, child abuse neglect and prevention program evaluation, and the Protective Factors Survey development.
Her research interests and professional expertise include early childhood, home visiting, child abuse and neglect prevention, systems design and evaluation, program evaluation, and cross-agency collaboration. Counts has a doctoral degree from the KU School of Social Welfare, and a master’s degree in social welfare from the University of California, Berkeley.