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College of Social Work

Children, Youth and Families

Families set the foundation for relationships in life. Our researchers study challenges faced by children, youth and families and the organizations that serve them.

Our broad-based faculty team explores issues around children, youth and families by looking at the big picture — and big data — examining systems-level organizational policies and evaluating interventions at the client level.

Our researchers are informing quality assurance for child welfare assessments conducted by the Department of Social Services. In addition, faculty are partnering with the state Department of Health and Human Services to build capacity for Medicaid services through person-centered innovations designed to improve entry, flow and traction in the Medicaid system and foster staff empathy and ability to drive future person-centered change projects.

A faculty-driven pilot program is also improving outcomes for children with autism and their families. The study tested the impact of assigning parent navigators to families with a new autism diagnosis and found that families served by navigators accessed more resources, engaged in more self-care, referred their children to services earlier and were more effective advocating for their children in schools.

In Richland County, our faculty are making strides to enhance the educational climate by teaching motivational interviewing strategies to school resource officers to engage youth in a supportive rather than punitive way. Faculty also work with partners from the City of Columbia, the United Way, the Richland County public defender’s office and local law enforcement and recently launched a coalition for youth resiliency.

Our researchers are leading to innovation in school mental health services as well as identifying factors that amplify the effects of child hunger and advocating for vulnerable immigrant populations.


Topics of Interest

  • Family formation of rural and urban poverty
  • Prevention of adolescent pregnancy, services to adolescent parents, high-risk sexual behavior and HIV/STI prevention among adolescents
  • Relationship between family adjustment (i.e. parental stress, depression) and child outcomes (i.e. adaptive behaviors, mental health)
  • Enhancing child and family well-being
  • Consultation with children, youth and interested parties in the child welfare system to develop resources and curriculum serving youth in foster care
  • Trauma-focused child, marital and family interventions
  • Caregiver training and intervention
  • Treatment of substance abuse in families in families, focusing on child abuse and neglect
  • Positive youth development in school and in out-of-school settings
  • Program evaluation in youth and family-serving organizations
  • Influence of classroom instructional practices on early adolescents’ engagement in school
  • School-based interventions with children and adolescents
  • Racial/ethnic disparities in education
  • Dropout prevention
  • Autism spectrum disorder and families
  • Evidence-based parenting interventions


Current Grants/Projects

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration: Health Occupations Providing Excellence in SBIRT
  • The Duke Endowment: Developing a Health and Education Information Exchange for Children and Youth in Foster Care in South Carolina
  • USC, Provost Social Sciences Grant: South Carolina Immigrant Youth Opportunity Project
  • Human Centered Design for Child and Family Services Training Program
  • Evaluating the Effectiveness of Peer Support Programs for Parents of Children with Special Needs


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Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.