Sukhmani Singh Presented Research at Sentencing Commission Meeting

Sukhmani Singh presenting at CT Sentencing Commission Meeting

On Thursday, September 28, 2023, Assistant Professor Sukhmani Singh presented her work with Beyond Bars at the Connecticut Sentencing Commission Meeting at the Connecticut State Capitol Legislative Office Building. Singh’s research, Beyond Bars: Examining the Experiences of Formerly Incarcerated People Released Under Public Act 15-84 in Connecticut, is a primarily qualitative study that examines the parole and reentry experiences of formerly incarcerated people who were beneficiaries of Public Act 15-84.

Public Act 15-84 was passed in Connecticut in 2015 following two Supreme Court rulings: Graham v. Florida, 2010, and Miller v Alabama, 2012. These historic rulings held that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for youth 17 or younger when they were convicted of violent crimes is unconstitutional. Those rulings prompted the Sentencing Commission to take action and recommend a change in Connecticut’s law.

Singh, who is collaborating with the Sentencing Commission on the research project, provided an overview of the national landscape, described recently published research on the population, and shared details of the cross-sectional, one-on-one interview study that she has designed. Specifically, she and her research team will conduct semi-structured interviews with beneficiaries of P.A. 15-84 who have been completely released from parole supervision and are fully returned citizens. Additionally, her doctoral student colleague, Joshua Adler from CUNY Graduate Center, shared some descriptive quantitative analyses of de-identified data they had received from the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

“One broad area that I’m interested in understanding is the experience of incarceration itself for these individuals, and their experience with the parole hearing process in particular,” she explained. “I’m also asking them about the social services that they have received, trying to understand their experience with housing, with employment, and lastly, really leaning in on their wisdom and lived expertise to request recommendations for how do we as a state – and CT has this history of being a state that does things – how do we do this better.”

Singh was joined by Adler and SSW graduate student Fernando Valenzuela. Her presentation was livestreamed by CT-N.

Read more about Singh’s research.

UConn School of Social Work Faculty and Ph.D. Students to Present at CSWE 2023

At CSWE's 69th Annual Program Meeting, which takes place in Atlanta, GA, October 25 to 29, several School of Social Work faculty and Ph.D. students will offer presentations of their work.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Time: 3:45 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.
Panel Presentation: Organizing for Voting Rights and Justice: A National Collaboration to Elevate the Vision and Voice of Social Work
Session: National Association of Deans and Directors (NADD) Schools of Social Work Fall Meeting Breakout Session #3
Author(s): Terry Mizrahi, PhD; Tanya Rhodes Smith, MSW; Sabrina W. Tyuse, PhD

Friday, October 27, 2023

Time: 10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Presentation & Session: Academic Mothers: Equitable Structural Policies in the Academy
Author(s): Cristina Mogro-Wilson, PhD; Nalini Negi, PhD

Time: 2:15 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.
Poster Presentation & Session: Redefining Temporary Assistance for Needy Families as Welfare to the State, Not the Family
Author(s): Madri Hall-Faul, MSSW

Time: 3:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Poster Presentation & Session: Lessons Learned: Reflections on an Interpersonal Educational Collaboration Between MSW and Nursing Students
Author(s): Kelsi Carolan, PhD., LICSW, Jon Phillips, Ph.D., Doreek Charles, MSW and Laura Moynihan, LICSW

Time: 3:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Panel Presentation: Creating Safe Spaces in Academic Environments
Session: Reckoning with Violence and Harassment of Women
Author(s): Flor Avellaneda, PhD, MSW; Cristina Mogro-Wilson, PhD; Leila Wood, MSW, PhD

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Time: 10:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Presentation: Stigma, Subversion, and Solidarity: A Qualitative Study of Online Male Sex Workers
Session: Expanding our Knowledge Base about Special LGBTQ+ Populations, Part Two
Author: Alberto Cifuentes, Jr., LMSW

Time: 11:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Presentation: Staying Connected During Isolation: An Intergenerational Approach to Social Work Field Education
Session: Social Engagement for Mental Health
Author: Breana Bietsch, MSW

Time: 12:30 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Presentation: Unpacking Neutrality in Social Work Education: Exploring Twitter Responses to Anti-Trans Legislation
Session: Developing a Knowledge Base in Social Work Education for Working with LGBTQ+ Communities
Author(s): Gio Iacono, PhD; Jamie Smith, MSW, LCSW-C; Leah Holle, MAR, LCSW, CEDS; Jemel Aguilar, PhD; Maxwell Switz, BA

Time: 12:30 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Poster Presentation & Session: Cultural Competence Training in Social Work Education: The Undocumented LGBTQ+ Immigrant Youth Perspective
Author(s): Craig Mortley, MS; Yvonne Mbewe, LCSW

Time: 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Interactive Workshop Presentation & Session: Teaching MSW Students About the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) Using Critical Pedagogical Strategies
Author(s): Kelsi Carolan, PhD, LICSW; Noelle Dimitri, PhD, LICSW

Time: 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Presentation & Session: The Ethics of Civil Commitments for Substance Use Disorders
Author: Cynthia Nichols, MSW, LCSW

Time: 4:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.
Panel Presentation & Session: Writing and Reviewing for Refereed Journals: Strategies for Successful Publishing and Ethical Peer Review
Author(s): Kenta Asakura, MSW, LICSW, PhD; Jeremiah Jaggers, MSW, PhD; Cristina Mogro-Wilson, PhD; Danielle Parrish, MSW, PhD

Time: 4:15 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.
Presentation: Manifestations of Neoliberalism in BSW Practice: Fostering Critical Reflection and Resistance in BSW Education
Session: Empowering Students to Build a Better Profession
Author: Paula Nieman, PhD, MSW, LCSW

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Time: 7:30 a.m. - 8:00 a.m.
Presentation: Meeting Diverse Needs: Sexual and Gender Minority Populations in Gerontology Social Work Education
Session: Expanding the Culturally Competent Gerontological Education
Author: Breana Bietsch, MSW

Time: 7:30 a.m. - 8:00 a.m.
Panel Presentation & Session: Implications for Practice and Education: Writing and Reviewing for Peer-Reviewed Journals
Author(s): Kenta Asakura, MSW, LICSW, PhD; Cristina Mogro-Wilson, PhD; Danielle Parrish, MSW, PhD

Time: 8:45 a.m. - 9:15 a.m.
Presentation: Sex Work is Work: The Case for Decriminalized in the U.S.
Session: Criminal Legal Systems
Author: Alberto Cifuentes, Jr., LMSW

Time: 1:45 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.
Panel Presentation & Session: Community Sponsorship of Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Why U.S. Social Work Should Care
Author(s): Kathryn Libal, PhD; S. Megan Berthold, PhD, LCSW; Yvonne Mbewe, LCSW; Craig Mortley, MS; Madri Hall-Faul, MSSW; Scott Harding, MSW, PhD

U.S. Administration for Children and Families Grant Funds Research Project

With a cooperative agreement sub-award of $300,000, co-Principal Investigators Jon Phillips and Cristina Mogro-Wilson will study “PRESERVE & CONNECT: Partnerships in Rigorous Evaluation of Services that Enhance family wellbeing in Rural VErmont, and urban Latine and Black communities in CONNECTicut.”

The primary goal of the project is to determine whether the “Breakthrough Parenting Curriculum: Navigating Trauma Across Generations (BPC)”— a trauma-informed parenting intervention — is effective at promoting child, parent, and family wellbeing among underserved families at-risk for involvement with the child welfare system. The researchers have partnered with colleagues at the University of Vermont and local community agencies, including the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and Wheeler Clinic, to conduct a three-year, multi-site randomized control trial of the intervention.

“This project allows us to focus on supporting families and preventing child maltreatment in our home state rather than waiting until things get to the point where the child welfare system opens a case,” says Phillips. “Another exciting aspect of this study is that we will be providing financial compensation to parents who have lived experiences with the child welfare system to become trained in the intervention and co-facilitate the parenting group alongside a mental health professional.”

This project is supported by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the United States (U.S.) Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award (Award#:90FA3008-01-00) totaling $1.5 million with 100 percent funded by ASCF/HHS.  The contents are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACF/HHS or the U.S. Government.

Learn more about Phillips and Mogro-Wilson's research.

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.