Research

Indicators of Progress

Create, evaluate and implement social work innovations.

Research Metrics

SSW Tenure-track and research faculty had a productive year of leading externally funded research projects and publishing in peer-reviewed journals. The metrics below depict several indicators of research productivity.  For the 35 tenure-track faculty, 91% had authored a peer-reviewed publication in the last year, 74% received external funding for their research, and 63% served as Principal Investigator (PI) on an externally funded project.

Objective A: Initiate interdisciplinary collaborations to solve complex problems with social dimensions

The Center for Public Health Social Work Education and Training

The School of Social Work’s Center for Public Health Social Work Education and Training exemplifies this objective of the Strategic Plan by leveraging involvement from all professional schools on the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus. The Center for Public Health Social Work Education and Training is one of three national social work leadership programs historically supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration. Since its inception, the Center has developed an innovative and nationally recognized interdisciplinary curriculum for both maternal and child health social work and public health social work education and leadership development. The Center for Public Health Social Work Education and Training has developed an intensive interdisciplinary training program where its leadership trainees work with all professional schools on the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus to shape the future of public health social work.

The cohort of scholars for the 2015-2016 academic terms developed a one-credit course on the effects of trauma and community violence with participation of all professional schools on campus. The 64 students (including 28 social work students) from all disciplines then coalesced to implement a community service event in West Baltimore to raise awareness of the effects of trauma and community violence. With attendance of the Deputy Police Commissioner, Darryl DeSousa, at the course and the First Lady of Maryland, Yumi Hogan, at the community service event, publicity for these events was widespread and reported in the Baltimore Sun, Facebook, and Twitter.

Interdisciplinary Research Projects addressing Complex Problems

Several other research projects at the SSW are underway that engage professionals from multiple disciplines to address complex problems, like child sex trafficking and suicide. 

The Child Sex Trafficking Victims Initiative

Dr. Nadine Finigan-Carr, Research Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work and her team in partnership with Maryland’s Department of Human Resources, has received a five-year grant from the Children’s Bureau to build internal capacity to address the issue of sex trafficking within the child welfare population. The work of the Child Sex Trafficking Victims Initiative (CSTVI) includes creation and implementation of a statewide screening tool to identify trafficked youth and those children at high risk, development of a cohesive training plan for all child welfare staff, and capacity building to address current gaps in service and response. CSTVI also provides training opportunities, technical assistance and support, as well as resource guidance on cases involving sex trafficking of youth under 21.  The 60-month project will build infrastructure capacity between state and local child welfare agencies and victim services providers to ensure that children and adolescents who have been trafficked or are at-risk for being trafficked have access to an array of comprehensive, high-quality services.

Suicide Prevention, Mental Health, and Well-Being

In September 2015, Dr. Jodi Jacobson Frey was awarded a four-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; Grant Award U01CE002661-01) to test the effectiveness of two online screening and mental health programs designed to prevent suicide and improve mental health and wellbeing. To implement the project testing the two online interventions, Screening for Mental Health (www.mentalhealthscreening.org) and Man Therapy (www.mantherapy.org), Dr. Frey assembled a multidisciplinary team of researchers and practitioners, representing social work, psychology, public health, and marketing/communications. Beginning fall 2016 and in conjunction with National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, 300 men in Michigan will be recruited using a statewide wellness campaign, HealthyMenMichigan.org. Campaign partners throughout the state represent traditional mental health community programs and diverse organizations that come into contact men at risk for suicide, including but not limited to hunting, boating and fishing clubs, professional and minor league sporting organizations, men’s social and fitness clubs, recreational organizations, churches, barber shops, workplaces. If shown to be effective, these online interventions can be easily brought to scale in an effort to contribute to national goals to prevent suicide deaths across the country.

Dr. Jodi Jacobson Frey presented “Evaluating Innovative and Promising Strategies to Prevent Suicide among Working-Aged Men” at the Michigan Suicide Prevention Community Technical Assistance Meeting in Roscommon, MI on May 11, 2016.

Other Interprofessional Efforts

2016 FellowsMSW Students are gaining interprofessional skills in a growing number of Field placements. The 24 HRSA-funded BHWISE (Behavioral Health Workforce Initiative for Support and Education) students all had field placements with an interprofessional component.

To expand interprofessional opportunities for MSW students, Katie Morris, Program Director of Social Work at the Universities at Shady Grove, served as the faculty coordinator for the Interprofessional Internship with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services.

Objective B: Become a national resource for gathering, analyzing, and interpreting administrative data

Ruth Young Center for Families and Children (RYC)

The School of Social Work (SSW) has maintained a research partnership with the Maryland Department of Human Resources (DHR) for nearly 30 years. This relationship, currently with the Ruth Young Center for Families and Children (RYC), is considered a national model for university and government partnerships. The RYC uses its expertise, transforming state administrative data into relevant information, to provide program managers and policy-makers research and data analysis in support of their policy and program decision-making process.

In particular, the RYC’s partnership with DHR’s Family Investment Administration has placed the RYC in a unique position to be one of the few organizations that can discuss the outcomes of families who received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. This is especially significant at the 20th year since welfare reform. Researchers at the RYC are able to discuss what has happened to families who received TANF in Maryland throughout that 20-year period. The main take-away from two decades of research on this population is that families use the program as intended—a short-term benefit in times of crisis—and many adult recipients work before and after receiving TANF, but they tend to be employed in low-wage, low-skill industries that do not provide family-supporting wages.

The RYC also supports the Maryland Child Support Enforcement Administration (CSEA) at the DHR. The national child support conversation has similarly focused on low-income individuals since they represent the individuals least likely to pay child support as well as the families that benefit the most from the receipt of child support. The RYC supports child support decision-makers at the state and local level through management reports targeting areas for improved performance. Researchers from the RYC have identified child support policies that have contributed to low payment compliance, such as basing child support order amounts on potential, rather than actual, income; they have also identified other characteristics associated with individuals who do not regularly pay their child support—multiple child support cases, irregular employment, and low wages.

Maryland Longitudinal Data System Center

In the third year (2015-16) of the Partnership to create the Maryland Longitudinal Data System Center (MLDSC) several important milestones were reached. That partnership includes the School of Social Work on the Baltimore Campus and the School of Education on the College Park campus, which comprise the Research Branch (RB) of the MLDSC, along with three state agencies who provide and manage the data: the Maryland State Department of Education, the Maryland Higher Education Commission, and the Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation. The first milestone was completing the construction of the computer system to manage and house this very large and complex data system. The second milestone was the completion of our first research reports covering topics such as online education in Maryland, dual enrollment of high school students in college credit bearing coursework, and the preparation and retention of early child care and education and STEM workers across Maryland. The RB had three doctoral student fellows (two in SSW and 1 in SoE) this past year engaged in advanced statistical training, contributing to analyses and research reports, and making presentations as part of our monthly Research Series and at state and national conferences. The final milestone was the submission and  subsequent successful funding of the RB’s first grant application; a 2.6 million dollar project to create synthetic data sets statistically mimicking the Center data for release and use by education and workforce researchers without the risk of violating the confidentiality of the Marylanders whose data are in the MLDS.

Objective C: Excel at implementing research informed programs, strategies, practices, and policies.

Multiple Family Groups in Child Welfare

Assistant Professor Geetha Gopalan has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to understand the implementation of Multiple Family Groups in child welfare. The evidence-based multiple family group behavioral parent training intervention (The 4Rs and 2Ss Strengthening Families Program (4R2S) http://nrepp.samhsa.gov/ProgramProfile.aspx?id=41) was originally provided by advanced mental health practitioners to reduce child disruptive behavior difficulties. Her study will assess whether it can be delivered by child welfare caseworkers in community based organizations (CBO) to support placement prevention services for child welfare involved families.

Children with disruptive behavior difficulties reared by families involved in the child welfare system have an increased risk of future maltreatment and out-of-home placement, yet have difficulty accessing and engaging with traditional child mental health providers. If successful, the current project will develop strategies to increase access to needed services for vulnerable families in settings they are more likely to access. By using the child welfare system as a non-specialty service sector platform to launch targeted mental health services, this study seeks to provide generalizable knowledge about using task-shifting to facilitate cross-setting implementation for other similar Evidence-Based Practices.

Since July 2015, the first pilot group was conducted in Anne Arundel County In Home Family Preservation services, led by two caseworkers and involving 5 families. Preliminary data from this first pilot group indicate high feasibility including families meeting eligibility criteria and high rates of attendance. The project is currently conducting a second pilot group and plans to complete a 3rd pilot group in Fall 2016.

Partners for Parenting in Early Head Start

Associate Professor Lisa Berlin’s grant from USDHHS/Administration for Children and Families has explored the effects of an attachment-based intervention of toxic stress among children in Early Head Start. The goal of this randomized trial is to evaluate federally funded Early Head Start services with a supplemental evidenced-based parenting program, Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up. Participants are 208 low-income, predominantly Latina mothers and their 6- to 18-month-old children. Key outcome assessments include observed parenting behaviors and children’s stress regulation measured both behaviorally and biologically (e.g., through salivary cortisol levels). During the past year we have completed participant enrollment and data collection. Initial findings indicate that significant proportions of the mothers in the study have experienced trauma and/or mental health problems (see figure below). Additional indings are being disseminated through peer-reviewed publications and presentations.

Mothers’ Early Trauma and Mental Health

 

 

 

 

Understanding Advocacy for Domestic Violence

      Dr. Marcela Mellinger was awarded START UMBC funding to study the evolution of anti-domestic violence advocacy efforts. She will gather qualitative data through focus groups and interviews, and identify themes that illuminate how advocacy work has shifted over time.

Objective D: Partner with community stakeholders to inform research.

Voices of Child Care Provider­s: An Exploratory Study on the Impact of Policy Changes 

Associate Professor Corey Shdaimah along with Professor Elizabeth Palley of Adelphi University have led a university-community collaboration to explore the impact of converging policies that regulate safety, health, quality, and subsidies for low-income children on child care providers and the families they serve. A primarily female, low-wage workforce providing a crucial support to parents and employers, child care providers’ voices are rarely heard.  They worked with child care advocates, child care resource and referral agencies, and unions that represent child care workers to formulate the study and recruit participants for focus groups and interviews (N=55) across New York, a highly regulated and diverse state that is an early implementer of several key policies.

Preliminary data analysis shows that providers face many challenges including a disconnect between multiple policies established to regulate care; discretionary implementation of policies and sanctions; and serious personal challenges such as long hours, low pay, and difficulty balancing their roles as care providers and family members. In all of the focus groups and interviews, respondents express both surprise and satisfaction that there was interest in hearing their perspective.

Through the looking glass: Exploring coping, well-being, and agency among urban youth through Photovoice

A team of SSW faculty (Assistant Professor Theda Rose, Associate Professor Tanya Sharpe and Associate Professor Corey Shdaimah) along with PhD Student Dante DeTablan designed a project to engage urban adolescents in photovoice, a qualitative method that involves taking photographs and discussing their meaning. The project focused the constructs of coping, well-being, and agency. Twelve participants were recruited from Ben Franklin High School in Brooklyn, MD. Students were provided with cameras, took pictures, and participated in two focus groups where they discussed how their pictures reflected the constructs and how the constructs were related to decision-making, development, and academic success.

Data analysis revealed themes in each category such as the identification of good and bad coping strategies (e.g., talking it out and drug use), places where well-being is fostered (e.g., school), and the power to change (change is possible). To date, four exhibitions of the work have been held: two at the student’s high school for the school community and for a high-ranking member of the U.S. Congress; the third at the Baltimore City Public School Board, whom they targeted as key stakeholders with power to effectuate change; and the fourth at the University of Maryland School of Social Work to students, staff, faculty, and other community members. Key accomplishments include strengthening existing collaborative relationships with the Baltimore school community; the development of a forum that allowed adolescents to express their perspectives and experiences on coping, well-being, and agency; and the generation of research findings co-created with youth, which led to the development of two manuscripts (one accepted for publication and one under review).