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Lina Guzman, Ph.D. is Principal Investigator (PI) of the Center, in partnership with Dr. López. She is also co-lead of the Center’s Advancing Research efforts, and its Dissemination and Communication activities. Dr. Guzman is a senior program area director and senior research scientist at Child Trends with expertise in family demography, survey research, and qualitative methods. She is also the director of the Child Trends Hispanic Institute, which seeks to provide timely and insightful research-based information and guidance to improve outcomes for Latino children and youth in the U.S. As a family demographer and qualitative researcher, Dr. Guzman’s substantive research focuses on reproductive health and union formation among minority teens and young adults and, in particular, Latinos. She has served as principal and co-principal investigator on a number of federal and foundation grants, including qualitative studies exploring reproductive health care service delivery, contraceptive decision-making, and teen pregnancy prevention among Latinas, low-income individuals, and recent immigrants. Dr. Guzman has also directed numerous national, state, and local surveys on a wide array of topics in both English and Spanish. An expert in measurement development, she has used cognitive testing to inform the design of survey items in several federal statistical surveys; a key focus of this work has been to develop measures that are culturally and socially appropriate. Since becoming a senior program area director at Child Trends she has hired, trained, and mentored bilingual researchers focused on Latinos families. Learn more about Dr. Guzman and her research. Contact Dr. Guzman.

Michael L. López, Ph.D. is co-PI of the Center and co-lead of its Advancing Research efforts, both in partnership with Dr. Guzman. He also leads the Building Research Capacity activities. Dr. López is a Vice President in the Early Childhood and Development department at NORC and a national expert with over 25 years of experience conducting applied early childhood research, with an emphasis on low-income and culturally and linguistically diverse populations. Prior to joining NORC, Dr. López was a principal associate at Abt Associates conducting early childhood research. Previously, he was executive director of the National Center for Latino Child and Family Research, where he: (1) co-authored a book reviewing  the psychometric properties of language and literacy measures used with Spanish-speaking, dual-language learner preschoolers; (2) served as a co-PI for the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Survey Design Project; (3) co-authored  a study examining psychometric characteristics of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) used to assess teacher–child interactions within preschool classrooms serving dual language learners; (4) served as co-Investigator for a measurement development study: “Extending the Cultural and Linguistic Validity of the Adjustment Scales for Preschool Intervention (ASPI) for Low-Income, Latino Children; and (5) served as a research consultant to First 5 LA on development of an evaluation strategy for a $600 million universal preschool initiative within Los Angeles County. Before that, Dr. López directed ACF’s Child Outcomes Research and Evaluation team, where he developed and headed large-scale, national early childhood research studies, including the National Head Start Impact Study. While at ACF, he oversaw two mentoring and professional development programs: the Head Start Graduate Student Research Scholars and Society for Research in Child Development Policy Research Fellowship programs. Across his various positions, he has established numerous strategic, collaborative partnerships and leveraged coalitions with key federal and non-federal entities that share a common emphasis on early childhood and child and family well-being. Learn more about Dr. López and his research. Contact Dr. López.

Elizabeth Wildsmith, Ph.D. is the Center’s deputy director, helping manage the day-to-day function and coordination of the Center as well as leading efforts in response to specific requests from the steering committee. She also co-leads the Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Area with Dr. Cabrera. Dr. Wildsmith, a family demographer, is a senior research scientist at Child Trends. Her research uses complex quantitative methods to examine issues related to union formation, romantic relationships, the context of childbearing, family turbulence, and the use of contraceptive services, in many cases examining ethnic and nativity differences within the Hispanic population. Dr. Wildsmith has authored or co-authored numerous peer-reviewed publications and research briefs and has supported mainstream media for articles related to her areas of expertise. Learn more about Dr. Wildsmith and her research. Contact Dr. Wildsmith.


Natasha Cabrera, Ph.D. co-leads the Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Area with Dr. Wildsmith. Dr. Cabrera is a Professor of human development at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research, which had been published extensively, focuses on the role of fathers in Latino families and the links between parenting behaviors and children’s social and cognitive development. Dr. Cabrera has also conducted research on Latino fathers, theoretical aspects of fatherhood research, methodology, the nature and frequency of father involvement, and the relationship between fathers’ activities and children’s outcomes. Her research on the influence of Latino mothers and fathers on children’s outcomes has made innovative contributions to the field. She is the co-editor of the Handbook of Father Involvement: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, Second Edition (Taylor & Francis, 2012) and Latina/o Child Psychology and Mental Health: Vol 1: Early to Middle Childhood: Development and Context and Vol 2: Adolescent Development (Praeger, 2011). Dr. Cabrera is the Associate Editor of Early Childhood Research Quarterly and Child Development and is the recipient of the National Council and Family Relations award for Best Research Article regarding men in families in 2009. Learn more about Dr. Cabrera and her research here and here. Contact Dr. Cabrera.

Danielle A. Crosby, Ph.D. co-leads the Early Care and Education Area with Dr. Mendez. Dr. Crosby is an Associate Professor in Human Development and Family Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her research seeks to identify the social and economic factors that promote optimal development among children in low-income, ethnic minority, and immigrant families. Dr. Crosby has investigated how welfare, income, and employment policies and parents’ work conditions shape families’ access to ECE and impact children’s early academic and behavioral skills. Dr. Crosby brings experience connecting research to practice in support of quality improvements in ECE. She teaches a diversity course for ECE professionals in a birth-K teacher education program and recently served as an investigator on an ACF-funded project that involved designing, implementing, and evaluating professional development activities for Head Start teachers to promote responsive interactions with children and families in the context of cultural and linguistic diversity. Learn more about Dr. Crosby and her research. Contact Dr. Crosby.

Lisa A. Gennetian, Ph.D. is a co-investigator of the Center and leads the Poverty Reduction and Self-Sufficiency Area. Dr. Gennetian is a Research Professor at New York University’s Institute for Human Development and Social Change. Her current work focuses on the impact of income instability on the lives of poor families and their children, and implications for the design of social assistance programs. She has served as PI on several large multi-year federal and state funded initiatives including, most recently, the National Study of Early Care and Education, the Moving to Opportunity Study, which examines the long-term effects of housing vouchers and neighborhood poverty on adult and youth well-being, and the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency project, which applies and pilots behavioral economic informed design in social programs. Dr. Gennetian’s research with the Center encompasses investigations of racial/ethnic differences in the economic behavior of parents and implications on the well-being of their children. Learn more about Dr. Gennetian and her research. Contact Dr. Gennetian.

Julia Mendez, Ph.D. is a co-investigator of the Center and co-leads the Early Care and Education Area with Dr. Danielle Crosby. Dr. Mendez is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a licensed clinical psychologist. Dr. Mendez has extensive experience conducting intervention and longitudinal studies of ethnic minority preschool children and families. She has been PI on two multi-year, multi-site ACF-funded federal grants examining home-school relationships, family processes, and Head Start children’s academic and behavioral outcomes. Her core expertise includes the conduct of culturally competent research and service delivery, including the translation and validation of measures for Latino populations, the development of university-community collaborative partnerships, family-provider relationships, and preschool children’s social competence. Dr. Mendez also served as a Core Research Advisor for ACF’s Center for Early Care and Education Research of Dual Language Learners (CECER-DLL). She was a member of the English Language Learner (ELL) Consortium and the Head Start Quality Research Consortium. Dr. Mendez has directed three Head Start Scholar’s Dissertation grant awards, and was awarded outstanding mentoring recognition by Head Start and SRCD Millennium Scholar’s program. She is also co-PI on a HRSA grant to teach cultural competence and prepare clinical psychologists in working with underserved low-income and ethnic minority populations. Learn more about Dr. Mendez and her research. Contact Dr. Mendez.