MEF is participating on several large ongoing projects that reflect our expertise in a wide array of issues related to income security, workforce development, and child and family policy.
MEF Associates has been awarded several agreements through which federal agencies can contract with us for our services. These are listed below.
The Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS)
Funded by the Administration for Children and Families, this project, led by MDRC, will apply behavioral insights to issues related to operations, implementation, structure, and efficacy of social service programs and policies. The ultimate goal is to learn how tools from behavioral science can be used to improve the well-being of low-income children, adults, and families. As a subcontractor to MDRC, MEF is involved in a pilot seeking to increase the number of incarcerated noncustodial parents (NCPs) who request a downward modification to their child support orders. The BIAS team is testing an enhanced effort to reduce the behavioral bottlenecks and increase awareness of the modification process among incarcerated NCPs, relative to the current process, resulting in an increased number of NCPs who pursue modifications.
Head Start Professional Development: Developing the Evidence for Best Practices in Coaching
Funded by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation in the Administration for Children and Families, the purpose of this project is to develop design options for a research study of coaching that will provide for the best, efficient, and most feasible practices within the context of the Office of Head Start’s professional development system. The project will establish a strong theoretical framework for coaching in Head Start, determine the best methodologies for evaluating coaching in Head Start, and combine theory and practice to produce concrete design options. MEF is a member of a project team being led by AIR that also includes MDRC and Child Trends.
New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity: The Evolution of an Agency and Its Mission
Funded by the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity, the project is designed to gain and disseminate a clear, balanced, in-depth understanding of CEO’s goals, policies, and operations—and how and why those have changed over time. The project will produce a final report that describes the evolution of an on-going, anti-poverty center from the idea of creating a Commission for Economic Opportunity, to the establishment of the Center, and through the many decisions and developments that led to the Center’s current anti-poverty mission and its mode of operation. MEF Associates is a subcontractor to Rockefeller Institute of Government at SUNY Albany.
Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) Impact Study
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act funded the HPOG program to provide education and training to low-income adults to prepare them for careers in healthcare. The Administration for Children and Families is funding a rigorous experimental evaluation to assess its impacts. MEF Associates is a subcontractor to Abt Associates on this evaluation, with responsibility for site development, implementation of random assignment procedures, and implementation research in two sites.
Subsidized and Transitional Employment
Demonstration and Evaluation Project
Subsidized employment programs use public funds to create or support work opportunities for economically disadvantaged people. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has funded this study to rigorously evaluate up to seven promising programs serving parents who are directly or indirectly connected to TANF, the main cash welfare program for needy families. The evaluation will use a random assignment design. MEF is a subcontractor to MDRC on this evaluation, and it is leading several tasks, including a study of how states implemented subsidized employment under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, site recruitment, and a benefit/cost analysis.
Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration
The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration is providing about $40 million in operational funding to 7 programs targeting disadvantaged noncustodial parents and/or former prisoners. All of the grantees are participating in a random assignment evaluation. MDRC is leading the evaluation, with MEF Associates and Abt Associates as subcontractors. MEF Associates is assisting with the random assignment process and the implementation study, and leading the cost effectiveness study.
Building Assets for Fathers and Families – Washington State
The Division of Child Support (DCS) in the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services has contracted with MEF to evaluate its Building Assets for Fathers and Families (BAFF) initiative. The goal of this federally funded initiative is to help noncustodial parents build assets and increase financial stability through Individual Development Accounts, financial literacy education, and credit and debt management. MEF assisted the state with program design and will write reports that document program implementation and outcomes.
Improving the Financial Well-Being of Children – Washington State
The Division of Child Support in the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services received a grant from the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement to build partnerships with universities to improve research capacity and program performance. DCS has contracted with MEF Associates to support this effort. MEF will work with faculty at the University of Washington to design and implement random assignment field experiments that test new approaches to improving child support collections. In addition, MEF will assist the state in thinking through the policy implications of research findings and developing strategies for disseminating the findings.
Benefit Offset National Demonstration
This project, funded by the Social Security Administration (SSA), will test the impact of offsetting earnings among SSDI beneficiaries above SGA after the trial work period on a 1 for 2 basis rather than stopping payments (as is currently the case). This is a large, multi-site random assignment demonstration and evaluation. MEF Associates is a subcontractor to Abt Associates and has responsibility for implementation of the demonstration in two of ten regions across the country.
Innovative Strategies For Increasing Self-Sufficiency (ISIS)
ISIS is a ten-year effort, funded by the Administration for Children and Families, seeking to refine, evaluate, and promote knowledge about career pathways. These programs are designed to foster advancement through well-articulated training and employment steps in occupations that are in demand in local communities. MEF Associates is a subcontractor to Abt Associates in this rigorous random assignment evaluation project. MEF is participating in site development, the implementation of random assignment procedures, and the implementation research.
Head Start CARES
Funded by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in DHHS, this project involves designing and implementing an evaluation of classroom-based strategies to improve children’s social-emotional competencies. The study will randomly assign 120 Head Start centers to either a social-emotional program group or a “business as usual” control group. MEF Associates is a subcontractor to MDRC. Mr. Fishman is co-leading the site recruitment team and the implementation evaluation team.
TANF/SSI Disability Transition Project
To increase employment for individuals with disabilities, provide alternatives to cash assistance through the TANF program, and improve eligibility processing for SSI benefits, ACF and SSA have jointly commissioned the TANF-SSI Disability Transition Project. MEF is a subcontractor to MDRC on this task order. Under this task order contract, MEF is providing technical assistance and working with sites to develop innovations in the process of assessing TANF applicants and recipients for disabilities, referring the appropriate applicants to SSI, and engaging individuals with disabilities in work activities. Examples of tasks being performed by MEF staff include designing and conducting pilot tests of strategies pursued by the sites and developing recommendations for future research questions and evaluation options, including the use of experimental designs.
Rate, Causes, and Costs of Churning in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The Food and Nutrition Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture has contracted with the Urban Institute and its partner, MEF Associates, to examine the causes and costs of SNAP churning—the on-off-on cycling of SNAP participants. Churning is a major policy concern, in terms of benefit loss to households who may have remained continuously eligible, the burden to them of re-entering the program, and the administrative costs to program agencies associated with case closings and re-openings. For this project MEF is conducting site visits to SNAP offices, conducting focus groups with SNAP participants, and leading the cost analysis.
Assets for Independence (AFI) Program Evaluation
The AFI program funds Individual Development Accounts and financial education, with the goal of increasing savings and asset accumulation by low-income families. This project, for the Administration for Children and Families, is a random assignment evaluation of AFI focusing on short-term outcomes such as savings, savings patterns, asset purchases, and material hardship. As a subcontractor to the Urban Institute, MEF Associates is leading tasks related to site selection and recruitment, data collection support, and random assignment implementation, and contributing to the implementation study.
Evaluation of Early Learning Mentor Coaches Initiative (ELMC)
MEF Associates is a subcontractor to the American Institutes for Research (AIR) on this project to help evaluate and identify the critical aspects of the ELMC initiative. The 18-month evaluation will use a mixed-method approach to describe the implementation of the ELMC, highlighting mentor coaching approaches, examine the quality of the implementation of these efforts, and examine factors that appear to be related to successful mentor coaching. The intent of the ELMC initiative is to improve teaching practices in Early Head Start (EHS) and Head Start (HS), with grantees retaining autonomy over the coaching/mentor model they use to best meet their unique needs. The grants were funded in September 2010 to 131 grantees for a project period of 17 months.
Current Contract Vehicles
- U.S. General Services Administration, Mission Oriented Business Integrated Services (MOBIS), Schedule 874-1: Integrated Consulting Services (Contract Number GS-10F-0310Y)
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Food & Nutrition Service, Analytical Support for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Policy Development (Contract Number AG-3198-B-11-0013)
- U.S. Department of Labor Employment & Training Agency, Research and Evaluation Initiatives for the DOL/ETA (as subcontractor to Abt Associates)