ARC Logo

Welcome to the

Applied Research on Children (ARC) Lab

at the University of Connecticut!

About Us

In the Applied Research on Children (ARC) Lab, we aim to better understand and promote the development and well-being of young children (ages 0-5 years) and their families. Specifically, our research team investigates children’s early environments, and the role of programs and policies in supporting children and families. These include Early Head Start, Head Start, Educare, early care and education settings, and home visiting programs. By collecting new data and utilizing existing data, we investigate influences on individual differences in children’s development and families’ well-being with the goal of informing practice and policy. We use a range of research designs and methodological techniques, including both quantitative data analysis and qualitative coding.

For more details on our current research projects, visit the Projects page.

For direct access to the lab's publications, visit the Dissemination page.

To learn about who's involved with the ARC Lab, visit Our Team page.

To learn about the undergraduate early childhood specialization program, visit the Program page on the Department website.


Contact Us

Dr. Rachel Chazan Cohen

Office: FSB 310
Address: 348 Mansfield Rd U1058 Storrs, CT, 06269


Dr. Caitlin Lombardi

Office: FSB 312
Address: 348 Mansfield Rd U1058 Storrs, CT, 06269


What We’ve Been Up To

May 2024:

On May 8, Vanessa successfully defended her dissertation proposal titled Investigating Parent-Provider Relationships in Early Head Start Among Latine Families: A Mixed Methods Study. Congratulations, Vanessa!

The ARC Lab had a final meeting of the spring semester, where we celebrated Vanessa’s successful dissertation proposal defense and discussed summer plans. 

The Connecticut Start Early project, led by Rachel and Caitlin, was featured in a UConn Today article.

April 2024:

Congratulations to Rong, who will be leaving the ARC lab this summer and to start a new position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological Science and Counseling at Austin Peay State University (APSU). Rong is excited about this new chapter of being an Assistant Professor at APSU, where she will teach undergraduate courses on Intro to Psychology and Developmental Psychology, and supervise undergraduate students doing research on early childhood development. Congratulations, Rong!

March 2024:

The final convening of the Elevating Equity project was held at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland. Caitlin, Kevin, Rachel, Vanessa, and Anne engaged in two incredible days of presentations and cross-project discussions focused on equity-oriented and community engaged research, utilizing mixed methods with secondary data, research findings, and dissemination with and for community audiences. More to come on this exciting project.

Rachel presented collaborative research conducted with Rong, Caitlin, and Marketa at the Administration for Children and Family’s (ACF) Office of Planning Research and Evaluation (OPRE) Head Start Secondary data grants grantee meeting. This project focuses on understanding how Early Head Start contributes to long-term social emotional outcomes for Black children.

Caitlin and Dr. Kyle DeMeo Cook of Boston University’s Center on the Ecology of Early Development (CEED) presented collaborative research at the Administration for Children and Family’s (ACF) Office of Planning Research and Evaluation (OPRE) Head Start Secondary data grants grantee meeting. This research focuses on understanding family experiences in different Early Head Start services types and how these relate to children’s development.

February 2024:

A large intervention developed by Rachel and Caitlin in collaboration with the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood was approved for funding by the state of Connecticut at the UConn Board of Trustees meeting. This $10 million grant will test how early childhood programs can enhance children and families’ wellness and children’s school readiness, starting in the infant/toddler period. Read more about this grant on our website here.

Caitlin chaired the selection of applicants for SRCD’s U.S. Policy Fellowship Program at SRCD in Washington DC.

In the February meeting of the ARC lab, Vanessa and Michelle presented dissertation research questions to the lab for feedback and discussion. 

January 2024:

Caitlin, Kevin, and Rachel received funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation for the dissemination phase of their project, "Addressing Inequities for Immigrant Families”. This $115,000 grant is supporting community engagement and dissemination of research findings over 1.5 years. Vanessa and Anne are supporting the data collection, data analysis, and dissemination of the project findings.

In her role as Co-Chair of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD)’s Science & Social Policy committee, Caitlin, co-Chair Sara Vecchiotti of the Couch Family Foundation, and SRCD’s Director of Policy responded to and submitted comments on behalf of SRCD members on the proposed rules to the Head Start program.

Rachel, colleague Sarah Crowne from Child Trends, and Rong presented at a symposium at the National Home Visiting Summit at the end of January in Washington DC. The topic is about home visiting supervision and well-being: A further analysis of the First 5 California Home Visiting Study.

December 2023:

In our December ARC meeting, we welcome long-time collaborator and new faculty affiliate Dr. Kevin Ferreira van Leer and discussed ARC lab member updates and spring semester goals.

Vanessa and Michelle attended the annual Educare data camp on the campus of the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, where all local evaluators of Educare schools come together to talk about and analyze data. 

Rachel and Caitlin published a paper in Frontiers of Psychology, “Parenting and family self-sufficiency within Early Head Start”. 

November 2023:

In our November ARC meeting, we welcomed new graduate student Anne Berset and discussed the process for identifying a dissertation topic. 

Caitlin and Rachel published a paper in the Journal of American College Health entitled “Mindfulness, coping, and disruptions as predictors of college student distress at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic”. 

Kevin, Eleanor, Vanessa, Caitlin and colleague Kyle DeMeo Cook from Boston University  published a research brief with the UConn Collaboratory on School and Child Health suggesting how relationships between Early Head Start providers and families are important to child and family outcomes. 

October 2023:

On October 25, Rachel and Caitlin presented the Connecticut Start Early project to the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood staff at the Connecticut Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

The second ARC meeting of the year was held in October, focusing on job talks and preparing for the job market.

ARC faculty and graduate students attended the HDFS Luckey Lecture series to hear Dr. Adriana Umaña-Taylor speak about her work on the development of ethnic-racial identity during adolescence. 

Caitlin, Vanessa, Kevin, and colleague Kyle DeMeo Cook from Boston University published a research brief examining racial and ethnic matches between children and providers in Early Head Start. 

Rachel and Caitlin met with the staff from the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood to discuss the Connecticut Start Early project.

September 2023:

The first ARC lab meeting of the year! We welcomed new graduate students, Amanda Sather and Delaina Carlson.

Rachel, Vanessa and Michelle spent the day with the Educare Springfield staff talking about research and sharing ideas about the year ahead. 

Rachel and Caitlin presented to staff from the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood on the Connecticut Start Early project plans.

August 2023: 

The Elevating Equity team, of Caitlin, Rachel, Vanessa, and Kevin Ferreira van Leer, joined a Peer Convening of other research teams to discuss project updates and joint dissemination work.

June 2023:

Rachel and Caitlin attended the 2023 Meeting of the Child Care and Early Education Policy Research Consortium (CCEEPRC) in Washington, DC. Rachel presented a paper on exciting new work that we are undertaking with the state of Connecticut, Integrating Comprehensive Services in Early Education Programs: A State Example. 

Caitlin and Rachel attended the grantee meeting for their secondary data analysis grant funded by the Administration for Children and Families. The meeting was in Washington, DC, the day before the CCEEPRC meeting. 

Caitlin spoke to the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Health about her research on the effects of publicly funded health insurance on children’s health and development. Read more about this research here in this UConn Today article.

May 2023:

Congratulations to all of our Early Childhood students who graduated this May! 

Congratulations to Jennifer, who graduated from UConn with a BA in Human Development and Family Sciences. She presented a research poster entitled Parent Involvement in Educare and Child Outcomes at the UConn Frontiers Undergraduate Research poster exhibition. She worked closely with Eleanor on the analysis for this poster.  

April 2023:

Caitlin and Rachel attended the kick off meeting for the Connecticut Blue Ribbon panel on Child Care, a group charged with providing the governor of Connecticut with recommendations to support the child care system. 

Caitlin received tenure and was promoted from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor! Read more about Caitlin here.

March 2023:

Congratulations to Eleanor Fisk, who successfully defended her dissertation, How Early is Early Enough? How Enrolling in Early Head Start and the Availability of Services during Pregnancy promotes later Parenting and Child Development Outcomes, today! In May, Eleanor will start a position as a Research Associate at James Bell Associates within their Child and Family Development practice area. Read more about Eleanor in the HDFS Grad Student Spotlight.

Caitlin, Rachel, Eleanor, Rong, Vanessa and Michelle attended the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) in Salt Lake City, Utah. Eleanor presented a paper from her dissertation, Associations between services available to pregnant women through Early Head Start and toddlers’ socioemotional development.” Caitlin was a panelist in a roundtable discussion focused on lessons from community-engaged research approaches. She also presented a paper, “Understanding comprehensive service referrals among families in Early Head Start.Rong presented…Michelle presented and Vanessa presented . Rachel led a meeting of the Network of Infant-Toddler Researchers (NitR), a national group funded by the Office of Planning Research and Evaluation in the Administration of Children and Families, that brings together applied researchers focused on bridging policy, research and practice. 

Along with colleagues from around the country, Rachel presented a workshop about the importance of Home Visitors understanding and utilizing social justice principles in their work with families. The workshop was presented at the annual National Home Visiting Summit. 

February 2023:

Rachel was invited to present to Strategies for Children, an advocacy group in Massachusetts, about how research is embedded in Educare schools.  

December 2022:

Rachel, Vanessa, Michelle and Eleanor attended the annual Educare data camp on the campus of the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, where all local evaluators of Educare schools come together to talk about and analyze data! 

November 2022:

Caitlin, Rachel, and Eleanor Fisk presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management in Washington, DC. Eleanor presented a paper, “(In)equities in the availability of services through Early Head Start during pregnancy”. Caitlin presented a paper, entitled “Understanding comprehensive services in Early Head Start for children and families with greater needs”. Rachel presented a paper entitled, How Comprehensive Services in Early Head Start Lead to Impacts for Children & Families. 

Rachel and Caitlin briefed federal staff, specifically the Coordinated Services Workgroup in the Administration for Children and Families, the government agency that oversees Head Start and Child Care ~  Unpacking Comprehensive Services in Early Head Start.

September 2022:

Rachel (pictured here) was part of a National Head Start Association briefing on Early Head Start for the bipartisan Congressional PreK and Child Care Caucus. She and Caitlin also visited the offices of several members from the Connecticut Congressional Delegation. 

Rachel and Caitlin applied for and received a secondary data analysis grant from the Office of Planning Research and Evaluation. Using data from the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project, the project will explore the mechanisms of how Early Head Start has long term positive impact for Black children