Kristen Harper

Director for Policy Development
Child Trends, Inc.

Kristen Harper, Ed.M., is Director for Policy Development at Child Trends. Ms. Harper is a strategic advisor responsible for connecting Child Trends’ research to national initiatives and policies addressing youth outcomes and for advancing research in the areas of special education, supportive school climates, student health and safety, education disparities, and school discipline.  Prior to Child Trends, Ms. Harper served for seven years in the U.S. Department of Education, where she was a chief architect of the agency’s efforts to improve conditions for learning. Most recently, she was Senior Policy Advisor for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, working to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the identification, placement, and discipline of children with disabilities. She also directed the Department’s efforts to promote alternatives to disciplinary exclusion under the Supportive School Discipline Initiative, a partnership launched in 2011 between the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice.


In 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued new guidance to allow providers in educational settings to seek Medicaid reimbursement for free preventive services covered by the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit provided to Medicaid-enrolled children. However, following CMS’ announcement, states retained policies restricting reimbursement for these services.