Wulczyn to receive USC’s Flynn Prize for social research

Steve Koppes
Associate News DirectorUniversity Communications

Chapin Hall Research Fellow Fred Wulczyn is the 2011 recipient of the James E. Flynn Prize for Research, an international award that recognizes “interdisciplinary studies that have profoundly shaped modern social policy or social programs.”

The award, given by the University of Southern California School of Social Work, was established in 1999. The award is intended “to elevate the awareness and appreciation for significant achievements in social research and is presented to a scholar whose work has created a demonstrable change in the lives of vulnerable populations.”

Matthew Stagner, Chapin Hall Executive Director, noted, “For those of us devoted to this work, there is no higher goal than ‘creating demonstrable change’ for vulnerable children and families. Fred’s body of research has been—and continues to be—of tremendous benefit to scholars, policymakers, and agency directors in their efforts to improve the circumstances for vulnerable children.”

In a career spanning nearly 25 years, Wulczyn’s work has focused on defining social problems, developing social policy, and assessing the impact of public investments, all with an eye toward improving the lives of vulnerable children. Marked by an interdisciplinary perspective, his work draws inspiration from disciplines as diverse as mathematics, population biology, sociology, system dynamics, and social work.

Wulczyn is a pioneer in the analysis of electronic records for the purposes of better understanding the experiences of children and families in the nation’s child welfare system. He was the architect of Chapin Hall’s Multistate Foster Care Data Archive, which is housed at the Center for State Foster Care and Adoption Data. 

The archive, which leverages state investment in information technology, expands the ability of states to analyze key child welfare outcomes, compare outcomes across jurisdictions, project future service patterns, and test the impact of policy and service innovations. In collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory, Wulczyn’s latest work connects the center’s data resources to agent-based simulation models, further expanding the research base in the field.

In the area of public policy, Wulczyn designed two major social experiments: the Child Assistance Program and the HomeRebuilders project, both in New York. The former was honored with Harvard University’s Innovations in Government award. The latter led to the nation’s first proposal to change the federal law limiting the ability of states to design innovative child welfare programs. That proposal led to the development of the Title IV-E waiver program used by states to undertake system reform in child welfare programs. Wulczyn continues to lead the field in developing alternative approaches to financing child welfare programs.

His published work, Beyond Common Sense: Child Welfare, Child Well-Being, and the Evidence for Policy Reform (Aldine, 2005), written in collaboration with a diverse group of colleagues, has helped shape how the child welfare field integrates the concept of well-being into policy and practice. His most recent work on racial disparities and social context is helping to shift the debate around children of color and their contact with the child welfare system.

Wulczyn is the 2006 recipient of the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators’ Peter Forsythe Award for leadership in public child welfare. He also is co-editor of Child Protection: Using Research to Improve Policy and Practice (Brookings 2007).

Wulczyn received a Ph.D. from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.

The Flynn Prize is the first of its kind in the social work profession and is awarded by an international panel of judges drawn from the world’s most highly regarded institutions. The prize recognizes research and scholarship that is: rigorous and creative, focused on severe and persistent problems in society, interdisciplinary in method and substance, and of demonstrated value to advancing human welfare.

The Flynn Prize will be presented to Wulczyn at a special ceremony in April at the University of Southern California School of Social Work. In addition, Wulczyn will deliver the school’s Rhoda G. and Bernard G. Sarnat Endowed Lecture.