Nicholas Mader, PhD

Senior Researcher at Chapin Hall

Nicholas Mader is a Senior Researcher at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. His work focuses on improving outcomes for at-risk youth by guiding policy development and evaluating youth service programs in partnership with city agencies and non-profit providers. His methodological interests are in using rigorous quantitative methods applied to administrative data sets—the same data used by policy makers—that are augmented with data from other agencies, and data actively collected for applied questions. At Chapin Hall, this work focuses on merging student educational performance with out-of-school factors such as family instability, family poverty, criminal activity of friends or family, and exposure to violence, child abuse or neglect.

Dr. Mader is the co-organizer and research head of the Integrated Evaluation Project for Youth Support Service Providers in Chicago, working with a diverse coalition of non-profit providers to broker data linkages with city agencies, develop and apply quantitative methods for measuring impacts, and develop processes for enriching quantitative data to on-the-ground practices at providers sites around Chicago. In previous projects, Nick served as the quantitative lead for the City of Chicago’s Ready to Learn initiative, working with the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services and the Chicago Public Schools to improve targeting of Head Start and state Preschool For All funds to providers serving disadvantaged families. Among other projects focusing on foster care, school discipline, and school health initiatives, Nick is also the Principal Investigator of work funded by the Lumina Foundation to link experiences and resources from early childhood to later-life educational success.

Before coming to Chapin Hall, Dr. Mader collaborated with Professor James Heckman, co-recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Economics, on studies of the effectiveness of the General Educational Development (GED) certificate, and also partnered with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research on assessments of school choice and school effectiveness.

Dr. Mader earned a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Wisconsin and a B.A. in mathematics and economics from Wesleyan University. He was also a Post-doctoral Scholar at the University of Chicago Department of Economics.


Jennifer O’Brien, MS Psychology Counseling

Policy Fellow at Chapin Hall

Jennifer is a Policy Fellow at Chapin Hall providing implementation and technical expertise to child welfare systems across the country.

Prior to joining Chapin Hall, Jennifer was the Director of Clinical Assessment Services at Northwestern University, under contract for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, and working within the Division of Clinical Services and Professional Development. Jennifer co-lead the development and implementation of the Integrated Assessment Program providing a comprehensive assessment for all youth entering foster care. She also developed the statewide Learning Collaborative focused on implementation of a family-centered, trauma-informed, and strength-based model of practice. As Implementation Coordinator of the IL Permanency Innovations Initiative (PII), a ten-million dollar federal grant, Jennifer oversaw the implementation of the evidence based practice TARGET. Finally, Jennifer acted as the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) Implementation Coordinator certifying 4,000+ users across the State of Illinois.

Jennifer has a M.S. in Psychology Counseling and B.S. in Psychology from Western Illinois University where she was also a Women’s Tennis Scholarship Athlete and Assistant Coach.


Richard Epstein, MPH and PhD

Research Fellow at Chapin Hall

Clinical Child Psychologist and Epidemiologist

Richard A. Epstein, Ph.D., M.P.H., is a Research Fellow at Chapin Hall. At Chapin Hall, among other responsibilities, Dr. Epstein provides research and consultation services to state child welfare systems and is part of a team of investigators conducting public health surveillance focused on autism and developmental disabilities. Dr. Epstein is a licensed clinical child psychologist and epidemiologist. Dr. Epstein’s areas of expertise include child welfare, child mental health and maternal mental health, and he is recognized for his methodological expertise, consultation skill, and work on research synthesis and translation.

Prior to coming to Chapin Hall, Dr. Epstein was a member of the faculty at Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he was Associate Professor and Director of the Center of Excellence for Children in State Custody in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine, Associate Professor in the Department of Human and Organizational Development in the Peabody College of Education and Human Development, Member of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Education and Human Development, and an Investigator with the Evidence-based Practice Center. At Vanderbilt, Dr. Epstein taught core courses in the Master of Public Health and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs and led research methods didactics for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellows, General Psychiatry Residents, and Psychology Interns. Prior to taking a faculty position at Vanderbilt, Dr. Epstein completed a National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research-funded postdoctoral fellowship in health services research at the Institute for Healthcare Studies in the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.

Dr. Epstein holds a Ph.D and an M.A. in Psychology / Human Development from the University of Chicago, an M.P.H. degree in Epidemiology from Vanderbilt University, and a B.A. degree in Psychology from Bates College. Dr. Epstein is licensed as a clinical psychologist in Illinois and Tennessee. He lives in the Chicago suburbs with his wife, Emily, and their two children.


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