Preventing ACEs through Collaboration and Economic Supports (PACES) Program Evaluation

Project Overview:

Foundation Communities, in partnership with United Way of Greater Austin, has contracted with the Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing (TXICFW) to conduct a 3-year program evaluation of the Preventing ACEs Through Collaboration and Economic Supports (PACES) program. The PACES project aims to support low-income families in Austin, Texas, by helping them file taxes and claim federal tax credits they may be eligible for in order to financial strain and promote protective factors against ACEs.

Foundation Communities, in partnership with United Way for Greater Austin, contracted with
the Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing (TXICFW) at The University of Texas at Austin Steve Hicks School of Social Work to evaluate the second and third year of the PACES Project. The first year of the evaluation was completed by the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin and Dr. Cynthia Osborne and the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center at Vanderbilt University.

As part of this evaluation, TXICFW examines whether the PACES project’s direct and indirect outreach efforts are associated with an increase in the number of clients who file their taxes and receive federal tax credits. The research team conducts this examination by assessing changes in tax filing behavior over three years using a convenience sample of Eastern Crescent families identified in the first year of the study (PACES sample). The evaluation also assesses the extent to which receipt of these federal tax credits is associated with a decrease in risk factors for ACEs and an increase in factors that protect against ACEs.

Over the evaluation period, TXICFW addresses the following research aims:

  1. Assess the effectiveness of staff training;
  2. Assess the effectiveness of participant outreach;
  3. Identify the components of the PACES project that enhanced or detracted from the success of the project.

The data sources designed and administered by the Policy Impact Center included three surveys: The Austin Families Year 1 Survey (previously referred to as the PACES Client Survey) and the ACEs and Mitigating Factors Training Pre- and Post-Surveys (previously referred to as the Community Partner’s Staff Surveys). The ACEs and Mitigating Factors Pre-Survey was administered to frontline staff in Fall 2021 prior to their participation in the training, and the ACEs and Mitigating Factors Post-Survey was administered to staff directly after this training.

The Austin Families Year 1 Survey was administered to eligible families from 12 zip codes in Austin’s Eastern Crescent area from July – September 2021 prior to tax filing outreach efforts. In the second year of this study, TXICFW administered the ACEs and Mitigating Factors Training Follow-Up Survey approximately six to eight months after staff attended the training to assess changes in knowledge and referral behaviors. Interviews were also conducted with staff to understand how they felt about the training and in what ways the training impacted their work. Lastly, TXICFW administered the Austin Families Year 2 Survey to the PACES sample identified in year one to collect information on tax filing behaviors, risk and protective factors of ACEs, and clients’ use of free tax preparation services.

At the end of the three-year evaluation, TXICFW will report on the overall effectiveness of outreach and referral activities by measuring changes in tax filing behavior and ACEs risk and protective factors in the PACES sample.