Early Starts

Childhood experiences set the foundation for future well-being. From improving maternal and infant health to ensuring a successful start in school, we’re helping our partners evaluate what is most effective for giving kids an early start on a good life.

The Maternal Infant Health Program (MIHP)

The Maternal Infant Health Program (MIHP) is a state-sponsored home visiting program for Medicaid-enrolled pregnant people and infants in Michigan, and has been shown to be effective at improving birth outcomes among program participants. Yet MIHP has substantial room to grow participation rates across the state, and many people who initially agree to enroll miss their first appointment.

Impact Evaluation of the Maternal Infant Health Program
With support from a grant awarded by Arnold Ventures, YPL has partnered with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to conduct an impact evaluation of MIHP. Using a randomized encouragement design, outreach specialist will provide enhanced recruitment to a subset of individuals who are eligible for MIHP, with a goal of increasing participation in the program. YPL will leverage that increase in participation to evaluate the program’s impact on key maternal and infant health outcomes.

Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies Pilot Project
With funding provided through Governor Whitmer’s Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies initiative, YPL will evaluate the effectiveness of a pilot program to allow MIHP provider agencies to bill for additional services and care coordination for families with high levels of need for basic services. Providers will receive reimbursement for an additional home visit, longer home visits, care coordination services, and a discharge assessment. Key outcomes include social determinants of health, such as food security, financial stability, education, employment, treatment for mental health symptoms, treatment for substance use disorders, parenting support, and access to additional social services.

Reducing No Shows in the Maternal Infant Health Program
YPL has partnered with Michigan Medicine (MM) and its MIHP program to evaluate the impact of a modest cash incentive in reducing no-shows among MIHP participants who receive prenatal care at MM.

Michigan Data & Policy Fellow: Michigan Department of Health & Human Services

Launched in 2019, the Youth Policy Lab’s Michigan Data & Policy Fellowship program provides the State of Michigan technical assistance and strategic support to achieve specific and measurable improvements in social policies and programs operated by the state. As a part of this program, YPL and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) have placed two two-year Data & Policy Fellows in support of MDHHS’ efforts to improve maternal and infant health in Michigan.

High 5s

High 5s is a small-group math enrichment program, developed at the University of Michigan with the help of MDRC and leading early childhood math experts Doug Clements and Julie Sarama. Participation in the program closed almost a fifth of the achievement gap between low-income children and their peers. Working closely with teachers and schools in Taylor, MI, and New York City, NY, we hope to adapt, expand and then evaluate a more integrated and scalable version of the High 5s program.

Strong Beginnings

The Strong Beginnings program provides home visiting, social support, referrals to resources, and other wraparound services to high-risk pregnant women, new mothers, and babies with the goal of reducing rates of infant mortality and low birth-weight. The Youth Policy Lab has partnered with MDHHS and Michigan State University (MSU) to support the evaluation of Strong Beginnings to determine its impact on rates of: 1) pre-term birth and 2) ‘rapid-repeat’ pregnancies (new pregnancies occurring within 12-24 months of a recent birth), an indicator of positive long-term outcomes for moms and babies.

3rd Grade Retention in North Carolina

Many states (including Michigan) have instituted laws requiring support or retention for students who do not meet grade-level expectations in reading at the end of third grade. The Youth Policy Lab received funding from the American Education Research Association to look at the effects of North Carolina’s Read to Achieve law, which has been in place for the last decade. The analysis will look at medium term academic outcomes, and will focus on effects for English Language Learners, a growing population in North Carolina and elsewhere in the U.S.

Early On eFax Referral Project

Funded by Michigan Health Endowment Fund and in collaboration with Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, YPL is currently working with medical institutions throughout Michigan to help pediatric physicians refer patients more seamlessly to Early On, an early intervention program in Michigan for families with young children at risk of development delays. YPL will evaluate the impact of an eFax referral template, integrated into electronic medical record systems, We will measure the effects of eFax referrals on family access to *Early On* and on physicians’ knowledge and sentiments regarding the *Early On* program.

Meta-Analysis of Early Science Interventions

With support from the National Science Foundation, the Youth Policy Lab is partnering with colleagues at the University of Connecticut and Michigan State University to conduct a meta-analysis of Early Science Interventions over the past twenty years. This research will provide information about the features of science interventions that are most effective at improving teacher and student learning for young students.

Photo by Joseph Rosales on Unsplash

Reading Partners

With funding from the US Department of Education and Arnold Ventures, the Youth Policy Lab is partnering with MDRC to conduct an evaluation of the Reading Partners program. The three-arm randomized control trial will compare both the Reading Partners traditional in-person tutoring program and their online tutoring program called Reading Partners Connects to a business-as-usual control group. The evaluation will look at both the immediate (one-year) and longer-term (two-to-three year) impacts of Reading Partners tutoring on student reading skills.


In an effort to reduce child maltreatment recidivism and foster care placement, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is piloting an in-home, parental education program called SafeCare. SafeCare teaches caregivers skills about how to interact in a positive manner with their children; to create a safe home environment; and to recognize and respond to symptoms of illness and injury. To evaluate the program and build an evidence base that will allow MDHHS to draw on federal funding, the Youth Policy Lab has received a grant from Arnold Ventures to conduct a randomized controlled trial (RCT) over the next three years.

Completed Projects

Early Childhood- WISD

Early Childhood- WISD

The Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) coordinates Early Childhood programs from birth to age three within Washtenaw County. These programs include Early On, a program for young children with developmental delays; Early Head Start, a family support program for low-income families with very young children; and Build Up, a program for preschoolers with learning disabilities. The Early Childhood Department is interested in increasing program enrollment for eligible families to ensure that children who could benefit from these programs are served. The Youth Policy Lab is working with the department to use administrative data to describe referral, assessment, enrollment, and persistence patterns across the county and identify potential interventions based on these findings.