Trained in social work and educational psychology, Professor Franke seeks to achieve a better understanding of, and improve the responsiveness of service systems in the fields of social services, education and health. Using cognitive theory to better define policy issues related to the integration of these two important fields, Dr. Franke's research has focused in part on the impact of disability and chronic illness on school-age children. He is currently conducting a study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, on the use of personal assistance services for children with disabilities. In addition, Dr. Franke studies how adolescents solve social problems; urban mobility and its impact on children's education and social development; and how to successfully integrate health and social services in school settings.
Dr. Franke is active in several local and regional efforts to restructure social services in the schools, helping to conceptualize planning and implementation and the design of evaluation measures in Los Angeles Unified School District, the country's second-largest school district. He also serves as a consultant to local school districts for the preparation of funding proposals for Healthy Start, a state program to establish linkages between community social service agencies and schools. HIs primary work occurs at the intersection of youth violence (child welfare and gang involved youth) and education. In these areas he designs and undertakes evaluative research and has obtained over $9 million in research funding over the past 7 years. He is currently the Associate Director of the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities.
Dr. Franke has been involved with agencies that serve thousands of families representing unique geographic and cultural communities in California, particularly southern California counties. He recently prepared a report for the Los Angeles City Council which examines the measurement issues involved in assessing the success of gang-related and youth development prevention and intervention programs in the city. The link between involvement in the child welfare system and gang involvement is well documented. Dr. Franke is currently the Co-PI of the Best Start LA Initiative which aims to shape, strengthen and support five Los Angeles communities by building resources and providing access to activities that improve the well-being, development and care experienced by pregnant women, parents of newborns and children age 3 and under.
Dr. Franke was also the Principal Investigator for the First 5 LA-funded Partnership for Families Initiative, which is a secondary prevention initiative that is designed to prevent child maltreatment in vulnerable families. Dr. Franke has been the PI for the Small County Initiative, which was designed to systematically examine California’s efforts to build and enhance child abuse and neglect prevention efforts in 11 rural counties in northern California. Additionally, he has numerous years of experience in conducting cross-sectional and longitudinal research in the fields of education, child welfare and adolescent violence.