Active Projects

Arkansas Home Visiting Network Programs
Evaluation and reporting on federal benchmarks for Arkansas’ expansion of the Arkansas Home Visiting Network. At least 2,275 families in at-risk communities will receive the in-home support. Evaluation includes process measures and outcome indicators for families receiving services.

Contact: Lorraine McKelvey, Ph.D.

Better Beginnings Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)
Evidence-based review and evaluation guidance for Arkansas’ QRIS ( for early childhood education programs. Funded by the Arkansas Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education.

Arkansas Workforce Study

Arkansas Early Childhood Care & Education Financing
Contact:  Lorraine McKelvey, Ph.D.

Substance Abuse Treatment for Benton County Adult Drug Court
Evaluation of the expansion of substance abuse treatment and wraparound support services offered through a county court. The goal is to provide a full continuum of care for medical assisted drug treatment, mental health services, and peer support.
Contact:  Isis D. Martel


AR Passion Project
The AR Passion Project seeks to decrease substance abuse and HIV infection and transmission rates among low-income, high-risk heterosexual AA women with substance use disorders by:
1) active “street” and “agency” outreach that results in increased referrals and admissions of high-risk AA women with a substance use disorder to BCD; 2) enhanced evidence-based, gender-specific, culturally competent, and trauma-informed interventions that engage and retain women in treatment BCD; 3) BCD admission testing for HIV, VH, and other health issues including co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders; 4) referral, care coordination, and follow-up services for healthcare and transitional social support needs; and 5) continuous, data-driven quality improvement that incorporates the voices of clients, staff, and partners.
AR Passion Project Abstract
Contact: Latunja R. Sockwell

Gilead Drug Court Project
This project will implement HIV education within Adult Drug Court (ADC). After the education, this study’s goals will be to identify barriers to a) preventive services such as Truvada for oral Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), b) ongoing implementation of HIV education in ADCs, c) treatment of HIV in Arkansas (AR), d) ADC client acceptance of HIV screening after HIV education. We have piloted HIV education developed with ADCs titled Embracing Healthy Love (EHL). Our focus in AR is important because southern states account for the majority of new AIDS cases in the country (52% of all cases) and the majority of deaths (53%).4 Arkansans have a high rate of late-stage HIV/AIDS diagnosis suggesting that many individuals in AR are not routinely screened and enter care in extremely late stages of their illness.

Project presentation at North American Primary Care Research Group 2020 Meeting:

Predictors of Interest in PrEP in a High-Risk Adult Sample NAPCRG 2020

Contact: Latunja R. Sockwell

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) is when people at very high risk for HIV take HIV medicines daily to lower their chances of getting infected. PrEP can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout your body. It is highly effective for preventing HIV if used as prescribed, but it is much less effective when not taken consistently.

Daily PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%. Among people who inject drugs, it reduces the risk by more than 70%. Your risk of getting HIV from sex can be even lower if you combine PrEP with condoms and other prevention methods.

PrEP fact sheet:

Click link for PrEP Toolkit

Contact: Latunja R. Sockwell

Obesity and Nutrition

Team Nutrition 
We Inspire Smart Eating AR (TN WISE) project provides in-person education to child nutrition professionals and early childcare educators working in rural Arkansas early child care programs. The project is designed to increase the nutritional content of meals and snacks offered in child care centers and family day care homes participating in CACFP and assist young children meet the recommended dietary guidelines. The project tests the usefulness of high-quality web-based training and ongoing technical assistance using social media. Programs are selected because, in part, because they serve children in high poverty areas. Effective use of social media and web-based training to provide education and post-training mentoring and technical assistance has the potential to provide an ongoing cost effective tool for states with limited resources and high numbers of early childcare staff with educational needs. The evaluation includes psychometrically sound survey of parents, child nutrition professionals, and early childcare educators. Funded by the Arkansas Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education with a grant from the USDA
Contact: Leanne Whiteside-Mansell, Ed. D.

K01 Award
Taren Swindle, Ph.D., was the recipient of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant that will support her work with RED work over the next several years. Swindle will receive a four-year, $442,583 NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease K01 Award. Swindle’s research involves the study of a childcare-based nutrition intervention and development of a strategy for implementing the intervention. She will pilot test the implementation strategy and the intervention’s effect on child health outcomes.

The K01 award is designed to advance Swindle’s expertise and skills in implementation science, child and community nutrition, and community engagement. To help achieve her goals, she will take part in a comprehensive plan of mentored research, didactic education, cross-disciplinary collaborations, and structured field studies.

Completed Projects

Arkansas Better Chance for School Success (ABC)Children in a classroom
Longitudinal study of classroom quality and effect of Arkansas’ state preschool program on short-term and long-term cognitive and social development.   Funded by the Arkansas Department of Education.

Arkansas Better Chance Program

Elementary School Journal 2015 Article

Contact: Leanne Whiteside-Mansell, Ph.D.

ASQ Project
2012 Evaluation of the ASQ Project – Statewide
Screening children for needed services is a key activity of a quality program. As programs meet higher standards of the Better Beginning, they will be required to screen children with reliable and valid assessment tools. The state has adopted the ASQ as the primary tool for this assessment. Current recommendations are that Better Beginnings Level 5 will require screening. Supporting the integration of ASQ screenings will allow more programs to qualify for higher levels of BB and provide higher quality as they work toward higher levels.
The evaluation of the ASQ project has helped the State identify critical steps in addressing barriers and judging the quality of the training provided by the R&R staff. The evaluation project has documented the feasibility of programs to implement, the support provided by R&R staff to maintain implementation, and the challenges of the link with medical providers.

Final Report (PDF)

Contact: Leanne Whiteside-Mansell, Ed.D.

Arkansas’ Access To Recovery (ATR)
Evaluation of voucher program for purchase of substance abuse clinical treatment Disaffected teen sitting on top of a derelict car in a junkyardand recovery support services.  Goals are to expand capacity, support client choice, and increase the array of faith-based and community-based providers for clinical treatment and recovery support services. Delivered by the Arkansas Division of Behavioral Health Services.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and Foster Care
Evaluates outcomes of a program to screen and evaluate for FASD children entering foster care in Pulaski County. A collaboration with the Arkansas Division of Children and Family Services and Pulaski County Juvenile Courts.
Contact:  Angie Kyzer.

Foundations for Smarter Screening
Exploring Patterns of Exposure to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the Protective Influence of Early Intervention on Child Health and Development. This project will investigate different patterns of children’s exposure to ACEs over time and whether those patterns are associated with different outcomes for children. It will also investigate whether Early Head Start programs limit ACEs negative effects on children in low-income families.

Adverse Experiences in Infancy and Toddlerhood: Relations to Adaptive Behavior and Academic Status in Middle Childhood.

Foundations for Screening Adverse Childhood Experiences: Exploring Patterns of Exposure through Infancy and Toddlerhood.

Contact: Lorraine McKelvey, Ph.D.

Hot Springs Safe Schools, Healthy StudentsCafeteria worker making healthy lunches
Evaluation of a project to improve school safety and the health and emotional well-being in the Hot Springs School District. Project includes student, teacher, and parent interventions. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Health and Human Services and Justice.
Contact:   Leanne Whiteside-Mansell, Ed. D.

Obesity Prevention Targeting Young Children in At-Risk Environments
Development of an educational program to increase consumption of fresh vegetables. Intended for Head Start and public school teachers and parents.  Project involves surveying parents about food-buying habits and technology use, secondary data analysis projects, curriculum development, and measure selection.
Contact: Leanne Whiteside-Mansell, Ed. D.

THRIVE, a Home Visiting Program for Young Parents
Evaluation of the effects of home-based intervention services for pregnant/parenting teens in Arkansas.  Targets are improved parenting skills, child birth outcomes, and life skills for pregnant and parenting teens.  Services are provided by Centers for Youth and Families and funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Contact:  Lorraine McKelvey, Ph.D.