Our Team

Jessica Pearson, Ph.D.

Director
Jessica Pearson, Ph.D.
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Dr. Pearson founded CPR in 1981. Her research includes some of the first national studies of mediation in custody and visitation disputes, parent education, and supervised visitation. She has also completed leading evaluations of new initiatives in child support programs including hospital-based paternity, family-centered services, collaborations with workforce agencies, early intervention strategies, methods of avoiding and addressing child support debt, and addressing parenting time orders and access and visitation problems.

Dr. Pearson served as co-principal investigator of a seven-state demonstration project that resulted in the creation of the State Access and Visitation Grant Program that now awards $10 million annually for programs to support parenting time. Pearson provides technical assistance, research, and facilitation services to federal, state and local agencies, and service delivery programs. Her areas of expertise include improving access to public benefit programs, developing effective work programs for low-income parents and mentoring and literacy programs for disadvantaged learners.

Dr. Pearson is currently co-director of the national Fatherhood Research and Practice Network where she oversees grants distributed to projects to rigorously evaluate fatherhood programs, and provides training to improve practice and evaluation in the fatherhood field. She regularly publishes in journals and presents at practitioner conferences. In April 2015, she edited a special issue of the Family Court Review dealing with Parenting Time and Co-Parenting for Unmarried Parents (Volume 53, No.2).

Dr. Pearson received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Princeton University.

Nancy Thoennes, Ph.D.

Associate Director
Nancy Thoennes, Ph.D.
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Dr. Nancy Thoennes has worked with CPR since its inception. She has extensive experience within the areas of child abuse and neglect and intimate partner violence. She conducted some of the first empirical research on sexual abuse allegations in custody disputes and some of the first work on the use of court based mediation to resolve child abuse and neglect cases. Dr. Thoennes has evaluated dependency mediation programs in over 15 jurisdictions nationally. She was also a member of the national research team charged with the evaluation of the Court Improvement Program and she works extensively with the Court Improvement Program of Louisiana.

Dr. Thoennes served as the lead analyst for the Violence Again Woman Project, the first collaborative venture between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Justice. This study explored physical violence, sexual assault, threats and stalking over the life span. It collected data from nationally representative samples of 8,000 women and 8,000 men and gathered data on victimization by intimate partners, strangers, and family members.

Dr. Thoennes has also worked extensively in the area of fatherhood and co-parenting. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Denver.

Lanae Davis, M.P.A

Senior Research Associate
Lanae Davis, M.P.A
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Lanae Davis has spent her entire career as a researcher at CPR, joining the team in 1997. Her research focuses broadly on addressing barriers to poverty among disadvantaged populations.

Ms. Davis has worked with numerous state and local agencies to implement, execute and evaluate innovative strategies to improve low-income noncustodial parent’s employment, re-entry and parenting time, all aimed at improving child support payments. She developed a toolkit for state agencies to use in designing workforce programs for low-income child support populations. Ms. Davis uses evidence-based practices to design and implement evaluations ranging from multi-site randomized controlled trials to single site process and implementation studies. She has co-authored reports, articles and given national presentations on her research related to employment, re-entry and access and visitation programs that serve low-income populations.

Ms. Davis is currently leading a randomized controlled trial of Colorado’s Pathways to Success project aimed at testing interventions to prevent homelessness and human trafficking among youth aging out of the foster care system. Ms. Davis received her M.P.A. from the Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado, Denver.

Jane Venohr, Ph.D.

Economist/Research Associate
Jane Venohr, Ph.D.
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Dr. Jane Venohr joined Center for Policy Research as an economist/research associate in 2007. Since then, she has assisted more than 25 states with the review of their child support guidelines. This includes updating guidelines schedules for new economic data on the cost of raising children, and changes in price levels and tax rates that affect spendable income, and the development of formulaic adjustments for low incomes, high incomes, shared-parenting time, and additional dependents.

Dr. Venohr has also assisted states with fulfilling federal requirements for periodic case file reviews. In this capacity, she has crafted the research design and sampling strategy, directed data collection and analysis, prepared written summaries of findings, and presented the results. Dr. Venohr is a frequent presenter to various committees charged with reviewing a state’s guidelines and has presented invited testimony to several state legislative committees on child support guidelines issues.

In addition to her work in child support, Dr. Venohr’s experience in both research and technical assistance spans many other public assistance programs: Medicaid, CHIP, housing assistance, SNAP, TANF, childcare assistance, foster care, and school-based health programs.

Dr. Venohr earned her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Colorado, Boulder with concentrations in econometrics and economic demography. Prior to joining CPR she worked in the private sector and taught economics. She continues to teach macroeconomics at Colorado Mountain College. Dr. Venohr has published in the Family Law Quarterly and is a frequent contributor to NCSEA Communique.

Echo Rivera, Ph.D.

Research Associate
Echo Rivera, Ph.D.
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Dr. Echo Rivera is a research associate at CPR. She has been passionate about social justice, particularly ending gender-based violence, since her undergraduate volunteer experience at a domestic violence shelter in 2005.

Dr. Rivera holds a PhD in Community Psychology and values a community-based approach that targets interventions at the community and policy level. Her research and evaluation focuses on improving our community and legal systems’ response to intimate partner violence (IPV). She has also examined abusive partners’ use of children as an extension of ongoing partner abuse—a largely understudied topic in the field of IPV research. Dr. Rivera’s research and evaluation work also extends beyond gender-based violence. She has experience working on projects to improve service delivery for various populations, including SNAP and Medicaid clients, ex-offenders transitioning back into the community, people who are homeless, and students with disabilities.

In addition, Dr. Rivera specializes in the application of information and graphic design principles to data collection, visualization, and dissemination. She uses this cross-disciplinary approach to promote clients’ understanding and use of research and evaluation findings. She is currently using ArcGIS to display statewide provision of services to identify service gaps and understand service delivery change over time.

Lauren Alessi, M.A.

Research Assistant
Lauren Alessi, M.A.
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Lauren Alessi joined the CPR team as a research assistant in August 2015. She brings experience in criminal justice programming, substance use and mental health treatment, and community outreach. Her research and evaluation work focuses on policies and programs at the state and local levels within the social services and public health fields.

Ms. Alessi aims to incorporate the voices of those who are directly affected by local policies, in hopes of providing actionable recommendations or interventions for service enhancement. She has participated in the evaluation of youth and adult community corrections programs, SNAP and Medicaid benefits, and public health awareness campaigns around alcohol and other drugs. In addition, she led an investigation into drug users’ commitment to their treatment programs in the Czech Republic.

With a focus on community-engagement, Ms. Alessi facilitates creative-writing and domestic violence groups in detention centers in Colorado. Through these experiences, her research has evolved to focus on ally development in social justice work as well as the mental health benefits of writing programs. Ms. Alessi received her Masters of the Arts degree in Sociology from Colorado State University.

Lana Hearne

Office Manager
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Lana joined CPR in 2016 and is responsible for all administrative duties, including contract management, bookkeeping, payroll, purchasing, compliance reporting, audit preparation, as well as report finalization and production. Lana has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a degree in Finance. She began her career in banking before taking time off to stay home with her children and volunteer in her community. Lana recently earned her Master’s Certificate in Creative Writing from the University of Denver and enjoys writing and reading in her free time.