Month: September 2023

School of Social Work Extends Partnership with Office of Early Childhood

UConn School of Social Work announces the continuation of the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood (OEC)–UConn Research Partnership, through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in the amount of $1.366 million through June 30, 2024. This MOA is funded through a combination of both state and federal sources.

The OEC-UConn Research Partnership was established in 2018 as a multidisciplinary team of researchers, data analysts, social workers, and program management specialists who conduct rigorous assessments of federal and state-funded early childhood initiatives — as well as research projects related to child development, child services policies, and the early education system. Together, these projects advance OEC's vision of “all Connecticut children are healthy, learning and thriving,” by providing actionable insights for Connecticut programs, policies, and practices to better serve children and families from birth to age five.

The OEC-UConn Research Partnership Team includes SSW Assistant Research Professor Dr. Kathryn Parr and Carrie Gould-Kabler as Co-PI’s; Dr. Samantha Lawrence, Research Lead; Juliany Polar, Research Manager, and Bonnya Mukherjee and Harini Buch, Research Assistants.

Read more about OEC.

Study Finds “Enduring Relationships” Reduce Risks for Older Foster Youth

Associate Professor Nate Okpych led one of the first large-scale representative studies about the effects of long-lasting, supportive relationships on older foster youth. His research found enduring relationships reduced the risk of negative outcomes in early adulthood.

The more than 700 youth interviewed were participants in the CalYOUTH Study, which evaluated the impact of extending the foster care age limit from 18 to 21 on youth outcomes in early adulthood.

The study, published in Social Service Review, found that slightly less than half – 48 percent – of the youth studied had an enduring relationship, defined as a relationship with an individual who has a long-standing presence in their life and who is a reliable source of support. Black and Native American foster youth were less likely to have such a relationship.

Enduring relationships had real consequences for foster youth, reducing the risk of negative outcomes in early adulthood, such as food insecurity, economic hardship, and homelessness. “It’s really about the enduring quality of the relationships – that you have people that have been there with you, through thick and thin, over a period of time,” Okpych says.

Read more about this study at UConn Today.

Read more about Okpych’s research.

Ph.D. Student Awarded Training Grant through NIDA

Ph.D. student Cynthia Nichols has been awarded a NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing Behavioral Sciences Training in Drug Abuse Research (BST) T32 program grant of $26,352 through the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The BST program provides intensive training to 16 fellows from various behavioral disciplines to gain hands-on experience conducting research, building their publication records, and writing grants for outside funding.

“This grant support will aid in the continuation of my dissertation research investigating factors impacting the implementation of medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) in recovery residences (RR),” says Nichols. “With overdose deaths on the rise, long-term, supportive recovery programs are imperative. While RR have been expanding eligibility requirements to include residents using MOUD, limited research has investigated the use of MOUD within these settings.”

National Wraparound Implementation Center Expands to 16th State

The National Wraparound Implementation Center (NWIC) at the UConn School of Social Work’s Innovations Institute has expanded the implementation of Wraparound — a support strategy for meeting the needs of young people with complex mental health needs — to 16 states across the United States as part of broad health reform strategies.

NWIC’s expertise in the research-based drivers of implementation — policy, financing, evaluation, and workforce development — are critical supports for states and organizations seeking to build and advance effective systems for supporting young people and families. 

“This new partnership involves supporting youth with complex behavioral needs in their homes, schools, and communities through Wraparound installation and building families’ natural networks,” says NWIC Director and UConn SSW Assistant Extension Professor Kimberly Estep. “We are also working to reduce out-of-home placements and use of congregate care settings. Our research has shown the importance of peer support networks and we are expanding these networks in Maine so that more families can be supported by other families who have struggled with similar challenges and who have benefitted from Wraparound.”

Read more about NWIC’s work.

National SOGIE Center Research on Impact of Justice-Involved Staff

Leaders of the National Center for Youth with Diverse Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression (SOGIE), a collaborative of social justice organizations led by UConn School of Social Work’s Innovations Institute, have published “The influence of juvenile justice workforce’s knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs on behaviors toward youth with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions,” in Children and Youth Services Review.

Findings indicate that juvenile justice staff who exhibited greater knowledge about LGBT populations, and those who had an LGBT youth on their caseload, were significantly more likely to report that they would demonstrate protective and supportive behaviors toward youth with diverse SOGIE. Conversely, staff who had more negative attitudes were less likely to report that they would protect and support youth with diverse SOGIE.

“There is evidence in the literature that LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system and that they too often experience inadequate care. This study found that knowledge plays a role in staff providing protection and support to these young people which has implications for training, education, practice, and policy reform within the juvenile justice system,” says SOGIE Center Principal Investigator and UConn SSW Associate Research Professor Marlene Matarese.

Read more about this new research.

NIMH Loan Repayment Grant Supports Study on Gender Minority Youth Mental Health

Associate Professor Meg Paceley has been awarded a National Institute of Mental Health/National Institute of Health Loan Repayment grant of $29,111 to study the relationship between gender minority youth’s social environments and mental health disparities.

This study utilizes data from the 2022 LGBTQ National Teen Survey to conduct regression analyses and identify risk probability profiles to explicate the complex relationships between transgender youth's family, school, and community and their disordered eating behaviors. Using this data, Paceley will develop a longitudinal mixed-method study to explore the relationships between transgender youth's disordered eating behaviors and their social environments.

“This study is particularly timely and important given the national backlash against transgender people, particularly youth,” says Paceley. “Understanding how factors in transgender youth’s communities, schools, and families impacts their wellbeing will help us identify strategies to intervene within these systems to promote positive change.”

Read more about Paceley’s research.

Study Finds Benefits to Mindfulness Intervention for LGBTQIA+ Youth

LGBTQIA+ youth experience significant mental health disparities compared to peers. Assistant Professor Gio Iacono’s research has found that LGBTQIA+ youth who participated in a virtual mindfulness-based mental health intervention experienced improvements in anxiety and depression.

Gio Iacono was awarded a UConn Office of the Vice President for Research grant of $50,000 as well as a Mind & Life Varela Grant of $20,000 to study Tuned In!, a virtual mindfulness-based intervention collaboratively developed with LGBTQIA+ youth and community stakeholders. LGBTQIA+ youth experience mental health disparities and are subject to political attacks and violence across the United States. They are simultaneously overlooked in social work research and practice.

“There are significant mental and sexual health disparities among LGBTQIA+ youth that require urgent attention,” he says. With Tuned In! “we saw improvements in depression, anxiety, and internalized oppression. We also saw improvements in sexual self-efficacy, or the ability to refuse certain unsafe sexual practices.” Iacono also observed significant improvements in mindfulness and self-compassion among youth, which is a critical component of the program’s mechanism of change.

Read more about this study at UConn Today.

Read more about Iacono’s research.

The Impact of Hip-Hop on Behavior and Culture

This program provides at least 1 hour on content on cultural competence.

Qur-an Webb, MSW and colleagues from Welcome 2 Reality
November 14, 2023
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
2 CECsRegister Now for CE programs

Registration Fee: $50
10% discount for UConn SSW Alumni and current SSW Field Instructors

The webinar link will be emailed when your registration is complete.

In this webinar we’ll delve into the fascinating realm of hip-hop and explore its profound influence on behavior and culture. From its humble origins in the Bronx to its global domination, hip-hop has captivated hearts and minds, shaping the way we think, act, and express ourselves. Through an engaging presentation and expert insights, this webinar will dissect the multifaceted impact of hip-hop, from empowering marginalized communities to redefining societal norms. Whether you’re a hip-hop enthusiast, a cultural observer, or simply curious about the genre’s transformative power, this webinar will leave you with a deeper understanding of the dynamic relationship between hip-hop and behavior.

In this webinar, we will:

  • discuss the insights into the sociopolitical climate that gave rise to hip-hop and explore how it acted as a form of self-expression and resistance against systemic oppression
  • explore the role of hip-hop in shaping identity, attitudes, and values, and assess both the positive and negative implications of its influence on behavior, such as the promotion of resilience, activism, materialism, or misogyny
  • explore the culture, fashion, language, and art and the global reach of hip-hop and its ability to transcend boundaries, creating a shared culture and language among diverse communities
  • develop an understanding of the complex and far-reaching impact of hip-hop on behavior and culture, allowing for informed discussions and a deeper appreciation of this influential genre

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month 2023

Message from the Dean

Dear Colleagues,

National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 through October 15, gives us the opportunity to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures of Hispanic and Latina/o/x communities. At the School of Social Work, we are looking forward to highlighting this special occasion and the contributions of these communities to our School, nation, and world.

Recognizing the history and achievements of Latina/o/x communities aligns with our social work values and the School’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. This commitment, affirmed in our strategic plan, calls on us to engage in meaningful dialogue and hold ourselves accountable to action toward social justice.

To meet the needs of Latina/o/x individuals, families, and communities, we have developed programs that prepare social workers for that important work. Last year, with the support of a state grant, we launched Connecticut ¡Adelante!, a scholarship program for Master of Social Work students who want to serve the mental health needs of Spanish-speaking youth and families. This innovative program will prepare bilingual students for careers addressing both children’s mental health and the growing Spanish-speaking population in Connecticut. For our bachelor's students, we also offer the Child Welfare and Protection Track, which trains Spanish-speaking students to work with Latina/o/x families served by the state Department of Children and Families.

To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, our School’s Puerto Rican and Latin@ Studies Project is hosting an opening event: Past, Present, Possible in Puerto Rico through Prosperity, Power, and Progress on September 20 from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. in the School of Social Work Community Room. Participants in the Puerto Rico Travel Study program will share their insights from their recent trip and highlight cultural identities, the concept of acompañamiento, and implications for social work practice. I encourage you to register and join us:

In solidarity,

Laura Curran






NIDA Grant Funds Research on Family Care Plans and Prenatal Substance Use

Associate Professor Margaret Lloyd Sieger has been awarded a National Institute on Drug Abuse K01 research career development grant of $881,147. Her five-year study will examine the effect of family care plans, or safety and wellness plans for infants affected by prenatal substance use and for their mothers’ treatment and recovery.

“Connecticut is a model in implementing public health policy to support families affected by prenatal substance exposure,” says Lloyd Sieger. “The purpose of this research is to test whether the policy is having its intended effects—including improving maternal access to treatment and infant access to developmental supports—and to monitor any unintended consequences, such as adverse child experiences and race disparities. Long-term, our hope is to inform the national policy conversation with rigorous evidence on public health approaches to reducing harms associated with substance use in pregnancy.”

Read more about Lloyd Sieger's research.