Institute for Families in Society

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Early Childhood Research

The Institute for Families in Society (IFS) works with various partners to develop innovative research tools and information products that allow users to investigate a wide range of topics and geographic areas. With funding from The Duke Endowment and as part of the Children’s Health and Resource Geographic Exploration for Data-Driven Decisions (CHARGED3) collaboration, the IFS has put a special emphasis on the study of young children in South Carolina (ages 0-5) and the unique risks and challenges they face. South Carolina has approximately 280,000 children within that age range, one quarter of whom live below the poverty level and two thirds live in Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas.


As part of the CHARGED3 project, IFS developed an online hub of resources that provides helpful background and spotlight topical information, a snapshot infographic, and a Geospatial Environmental Scan© (GeoEScan©). This GeoEScan© product, one of several developed by the IFS, is an interactive research tool designed to explore gaps in children’s access to health care, continuity of care, and the availability of family support and resource programs.

Most importantly, it equips stakeholders to improve the lives of SC’s youngest by identifying geographic clusters of health advantage and disadvantage within the state, helping visualize patterns, and providing context for needs assessments, program planning, and service delivery.

Click the video below to see how the CHARGED3 GeoEScan© works.

Collaborative efforts with First Steps

The Family Networks Project (2010-2013): This research and demonstration project was funded through the National Quality Improvement Center for Early Childhood Research, known as QIC-EC, which existed to examine novel approaches to preventing child maltreatment among children below age 2. Dr. Cheri Shapiro served as both Principal Investigator and Evaluator. In conjunction with SC First Steps, this project included two randomized-controlled trials of Stepping Stones Triple P, an evidence-based parenting support model for parents of young children with disabilities, along with a curriculum to enhance prevention awareness for early intervention providers.

Kilburn, J. & Shapiro, C.J. (2018). The Structure and Function of Social Networks of Mothers of Young Children with Disabilities. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education.

Kilburn, J. & Shapiro, C, & Hardin, J.W. (2017). Linking Implementation of Evidence-Based Parenting Programs to Outcomes in Early Intervention. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 70, 50-58.

Shapiro, C.J. & Harper Browne, C. (Eds.). (2016). Innovative Approaches to Supporting Families of Young Children. Switzerland: Springer.

Shapiro, C.J. (2016). Parent and Community Focused Approaches to Supporting Parents of Young Children: The Family Networks Project. In Shapiro, C.J. & Harper Browne, C. (Eds.). Innovative Approaches to Supporting Families of Young Children (pp. 25-42). Switzerland: Springer.

Harper Browne, C. & Shapiro, C.J. (2016). Building Young Children’s Social-Emotional Competence at Home and in Early Care and Education Settings. In Shapiro, C.J. & Harper Browne, C. (Eds.). Innovative Approaches to Supporting Families of Young Children (pp. 87-105). Switzerland: Springer.

Kilburn, J.E. & Shapiro, C.J. (2015). Modification of the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (PCAN) Curriculum for IDEA Part C Providers. Zero to Three, 36(1), 57-63.

Shapiro, C. (2014). Interventions to Build Protective Factors in Early Intervention: Rationale and Approach. Zero to Three, 35(1), 19-26.

Shapiro, C., Kilburn, J., & Hardin, J. (2014). Prevention of Behavior Problems in a Selected Population: Stepping Stones Triple P for Parents of Young Children with Disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 35, 2958-2975.

IFS supported the legislatively required external evaluation of SC First Steps in 2019.

Dr. Shapiro and her research team evaluated the Parents As Teachers Program implemented by First Steps Local Partnerships in 2021, and an external evaluation of Child Care Technical Assistance and Training offered by First Steps Local Partnerships is currently underway (2022).


Dr. Shapiro and her research team have provided evaluation support for the South Carolina Infant Mental Health Association (SCIMHA), and is currently providing evaluation support to examine the impacts of the South Carolina Program for Infant and Toddler Care (SCPITC).