Broadening our Understanding of Grief

Gitterman head shot
Dr. Alex Gitterman, EdD

Professor Alex Gitterman recently co-authored two articles that expand understanding of grief and how social work can help people deal with it. “Grieving for the Loss of Place, its Familiarities and the Accompanying Associations and for the Loss of Precious Time and Associated Opportunities” appeared in Families and Society.

“The literature on grieving mostly focuses on loss of loved ones,” says Gitterman. “We suggest that it’s a much broader concept. Losing home, becoming uprooted through natural disasters, losing time to drug addiction — there is mourning for that too.” Published in Clinical Social Work Journal, “Ambiguous and Disenfranchised Grief: An Overlooked but Critical Need for Social Work Intervention,” examines grief when a loved one is alive but no longer present, such as with an Alzheimer’s patient.

The Role of Macro-Level Factors in Child Neglect

Dr. Megan Feely, PhD
Assistant Professor

Traditional child maltreatment prevention strategies have focused on the prevention of physical and sexual abuse but have been less effective at preventing child neglect – the most common type of child maltreatment reported to Child Protective Service agencies in the USIn a new paper, “Heed Neglect, Disrupt Child Maltreatment: A Call to Action for Researchers” published in the International Journal on Child Maltreatment: Research, Policy and Practice, Dr. Megan Feely and co-authors propose expanding the focus of research on neglect from individual and family-level factors to include macro-level factorsas they play an underexplored role in family circumstances and influence parents’ ability to provide safe environments for children. 

The authors speak to the challenges in reducing neglect, which appears to be the result of complex and unidentified interactions that existing health and social service systems do not effectively prevent, perhaps in part because society has traditionally viewed neglect as a problem within the family unit. They argue that research has reinforced this by focusing on micro-level interventions. However, emerging research in the area of child neglect supports the notion that policy changes that effect a family’s macroenvironment may be key in preventing neglect. The authors note that the field needs more research, but they argue that the consideration of macro-level factors should be concurrent with strengthening families and communities. 

Expanding Voter Participation to Improve Community Well-being

Tanya Smith
Tanya Rhodes Smith, MSW
Instructor in Residence and Director, Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work

“Communities that vote have higher rates of education, they report higher rates of health and well being, and they also have higher earnings,” says Tanya Rhodes Smith, instructor in-residence at the School of Social Work and director of the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work.

With help from a grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the Humphreys Institute is providing support and resources to organizations that want to integrate voter registration, education, and outreach into their service delivery. It also is expanding its work with UConn students. “We are trying to build this really strong foundation and connection to social work practice that voting is an appropriate intervention, an ethical and effective intervention at all levels,” says Rhodes Smith.

Training Culturally Competent Practitioners to Work with Children with Disabilities

Cristina Wilson
Dr. Cristina Wilson, PhD
Associate Professor and Research Director, UConn Health University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities

Latinos are the fastest growing population in the United States, yet they have the lowest autism diagnosis rate. One reason for the discrepancy, says Cristina Wilson, associate professor in the School of Social Work and research director at the UConn Health University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, may be lack of access to culturally competent specialists who have the ability to use Spanish-language screening tools. Wilson recently received, as co-PI with Mary Bruder of UConn Health, two five-year grants from the U.S. Department of Education to train students at the MSW and Ph.D. levels to focus on children with disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder, with a particular emphasis on vulnerable populations.

“These grants will ensure that an interdisciplinary group of fully credentialed personnel will have the necessary skills and knowledge, including cultural competence, to be successful in serving high needs infants and young children and their families,” says Wilson.

Exploring Unconscious Racism Through Film

Dr. Ann Marie Garran, PhD
Associate Professor

In a new paper entitled “Psychodynamic Analysis of Racialized Interactions: The Get Out Case Study,” Dr. Ann Marie-Garran and co-author Dr. Brian Rasmussen use the Academy Award-nominated film Get Out as a case study to explore themes related to race relations and the unconscious dynamics of racism that can impact therapeutic services.

The authors use Get Out’s position as a creative piece to reveal aspects of human experience, and race relations in particular, that are difficult to capture through contemporary scientific methods and standards of evidence. While most case studies used in clinical reports are private, offering only the clinician’s report, analyzing film allows for the application of psychoanalytic concepts to recurrent themes in the film that, the authors posit, are the result of the creators’ imagination and lived experiences intermingling.

Get Out  conveys perceptions, anxieties, and fears between the races, with overtures that hold relevance for clinical practice. Moving beyond the notion of cultural competency, the authors discuss race relations through concepts of consciousness, double-consciousness, projection, and more. The authors consider these ideas with respect to mixed racial therapeutic dyads, clinical supervision, and white dominated agencies, noting that it is of utmost important for white clinicians to fully grasp the intensity of these dynamics in order to confront institutional bias and analyze their work for vestiges of white supremacy and internalized racial superiority to minimize their occurrence.

Family Drug Treatment Courts

Margaret Lloyd
Dr. Margaret Lloyd, PhD
Assistant Professor

The US in the midst of a major opioid drug addiction epidemic. Many drug involved people wind up in the criminal justice system. When parents are both drug involved and involved in the criminal justice system, it can have devastating consequences for their young children.  One innovative model for addressing these consequences for children can be found in the Oklahoma Family Drug Treatment Court in Oklahoma City. This model seeks to strengthen families encountering addiction who wind up in the court system.  Margaret Lloyd is conducting groundbreaking research on this important innovation, looking at 3 interventions designed to enhance parent-child bonding in families where an adult parent has been identified by the courts as substance involved.  In this SAMHSA funded evaluation, Dr. Lloyd will compare families involved in the drug court to families with parental substance use disorders in the general child welfare system.

“This project is particularly important because we are focusing services on families with children under age 5", says Dr. Lloyd.  "Infants and young children affected by parental substance use disorders are the fastest growing group of children in foster care—a scary reality given that the developmental importance of parent-child attachment during this time frame.  The outcomes have looked very good in earlier evaluations of these courts.  With this study, we are hoping to continue building knowledge and improving their effectiveness and impact.”

Improving Outcomes for Young Adults in Foster Care

Nate Okpych
Dr. Nathanael Okpych, PhD
Assistant Professor

Nate Okpych, assistant professor of social work, studies older youth in foster care. As program director for the longitudinal CalYouth Study, he evaluates California state law AB 12, which in 2012 extended the age limit for foster care from 18 to 21. The study tracks 727 young people who were in foster care at age 17, interviewing them every two years through age 23. Analysis of the age 21 interviews indicates a wide range of benefits, including increased high school graduation and college enrollment rates and reduced homelessness.

In a second project, Okpych is collaborating with a researcher at Western Michigan University to study the effects of social network formation on college persistence among foster youth, who historically have low graduation rates. “We think the connections youth make on campus are going to affect persistence,” he explains. “Who do they turn to for emotional support? Who do they turn to for information and guidance? Who do they turn to for academic support?”

Exploring International Partnerships

Dr. Rebecca Thomas, PhD
Associate Professor Director, Center for International Social Work Studies

Rebecca Thomas, associate professor of policy practice and director of the Center for International Social Work Studies, coordinates a joint academic program exchange between UConn and Yerevan State University in Armenia. For the past five years, Thomas has taken SSW students to Armenia to conduct research on issues related to international development, poverty, and migration, as well as the role social work can play in helping refugees achieve economic and social security. “We’ve been focusing on Syrian refugees of Armenian descent who have been moving back to Armenia as a result of the war in Syria,” says Thomas. She explores the reverse migration in her article “Returning Home: the Experiences of Resettlement for Syrian-Armenian Refugees into Armenia” in the Journal of International Migration and Integration.

Among other projects, Thomas  also recently co-authored with Professor Emeritus and Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor Lynne M. Healy “International Social Work: Professional Action in an Interdependent World,” (3rd Edition), forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

Research Advisory: COVID-19

The Office of Research & Scholarship (ORS) is posting the following advisory in an effort to keep faculty and staff at the School of Social Work up-to-date on the impact COVID-19 may have on current and future research projects:

ORS will continue to update this section with pertinent information as it becomes available. If you receive information from a funder or funders that you would like to include here to help support colleagues, please send it to Lindsay Wessell at

ORS Biennial Research & Scholarship Exhibition

Biennial Research & Scholarship Exhibition | POSTPONED

The UConn School of Social Work's Office of Research and Scholarship (ORS) is postponing this event until Fall 2020. More information will be posted here about the rescheduled event as it becomes available.

Call for Posters

If you submitted an abstract for this event during the Spring 2020 semester, please save your posters for presentation at the rescheduled exhibition!  Funding will still be available for poster production. You do not need to request funding for this if you submitted a request in the Spring.

For questions, please contact Lindsay Wessell

ORS Alert – April 2020

Research Advisory

The Office of Research & Scholarship is sharing the following advisories in an effort to keep faculty and staff at the School of Social Work up-to-date on the impact COVID-19 may have on current and future research projects:

Recent Research & Scholarship Highlights


Scott Harding and Kathryn Libal 
“War and the Public Health Disaster in Iraq” 
War and Health: The Medical Consequences of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, November 2019 

Shantel Crosby, Caitlin Elaesser, Robert Eschmann, Patrick Leonard, Sadiq Patel, and Desmond Upton Patton
"What's a threat on social media? How Black and Latino Chicago young men define and navigate
threats online"

   Youth and Society, September 2019 

Funding & Professional Development Opportunities

Internal Opportunities

Dean’s Incentive Award*
For more information, 
click here.
EXTENDED Application deadline: May 29, 2020
* In light of the current pandemic, applications proposing research and scholarship linked to COVID-19 are particularly welcomed.

DMHAS Research Collaboration Award
For more information, 
click here.
EXTENDED Application deadline: May 29, 2020

External Opportunities

William Casper Graustein Memorial Fund COVID-19 Response Grant 
For more information,
 click here.
Application deadline: Rolling

RWJF – Policies for Action
For more information,
 click here.
Application deadline: April 29, 2020

Call for Papers
SSWR 25th Anniversary Conference
Topic: Social Work Science for Social Change
For more information, 
click here.
Abstract deadline: April 30, 2020

Brief & Brilliant Sessions
SSWR 25th Anniversary Conference
Topic: Social Work Science for Social Change
For more information, 
click here.
Self-Nomination Deadline: April 30, 2020

NIJ – Research and Evaluation on Promising Reentry Initiatives
For more information
click here.
Application deadline: May 5, 2020

William T. Grant Foundation – Research Grants on Reducing Inequality 
For more information
click here.
Letter of Intent deadline: May 6, 2020 

Facebook Research Foundation – Foundational Integrity Research: Misinformation and Polarization 
For more information, 
click here.
Application deadline: May 6, 2020 

NIJ – Research on Juvenile Reoffending
For more information
click here.
Application deadline: May 18, 2020

Call for Papers
Social Work in Mental Health
Special issue: The Opioid Crisis and Mental Health
For more information,
 click here.
Abstract deadline: May 18, 2020

Call for Papers
Journal of Social Work Education 
Topic: "Teaching, Field Instruction, and Administration in the Time of Pandemic or Natural Disaster"
For more information,
 click here.
Manuscript deadline: August 3, 2020

Upcoming Events

Friday May, 1 2020      
Webinar: The Promise of Adolescence - Education
For more information and to register, click here.

Thursday & Friday May 14-15, 2020
InCHIP Conference: Building an Evidence Base for Commercially Available Technology
For more information and to register, 
click here.

Note: ORS events, originally scheduled for the months of March and April, have been postponed. ORS is working to reschedule events for the Fall 2020 semester. If you prepared and submitted an abstract or full poster for the Spring 2020 ORS Exhibition, please save it for presentation at our rescheduled event! Funds for poster production will be available.

ORS Winter 2020 Update

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UConn SSW Active Grants

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Funding Opportunities

UConn School of Social Work Funding Opportunities

2020 DMHAS Collaborative Pilot Study Seed Funding
Up to $6,000 is available to support pilot projects featuring collaboration with the DMHAS Research Division and tenured/tenure-track faculty at the UConn School of Social Work.

Application deadline: Friday, May 29th, 2020 by 5:00pm.

For more information, click here.

2020 Dean's Incentive Award
Up to two $4,000 grants are available to support research, scholarship, or planning activities with strong potential to lead to extramural grant funding.

Letter of Intent deadline: Friday, May 15th, 2020 by 5:00pm
Application deadline: Friday, May 29th, 2020 by 5:00pm

For more information, click here.

Other UConn Funding Opportunities

InCHIP Rapid Response Proposals to Examine Social
and Behavioral Implications of COVID-19

For more information, click here.
Application deadline: April 15, 2020


Travel Fund Requests

UConn Research Excellence Program (REP)

Federal Funding Opportunities

Administration for Children and Families (ACF)

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

National Institutes of Health, Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR)

National Science Foundation (NSF Funding)

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Non-Federal Funding Opportunities

American Education Research Association

Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)

Fahs-Beck Fund for Research and Experimentation

Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy

New York Community Trust

Social Work Resource Network (SWRnet)

The Wenner-Gren Foundation

PhD Dissertation Research Funding

Disability Determination Small Grant Program

NSF: SBE Dissertation Awards (Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences)

NIJ: Graduate Research Fellowship Program in Social & Behavioral Sciences

Fahs-Beck Fund for Research and Experimentation Doctoral Dissertation Grant Program

Doris Duke Fellowships for the Promotion of Child Well Being

UConn SSW & CT Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Partnership

DMHAS Research Division Staff

Eleni Rodis MS
Eleni Rodis, MS - Acting Director

Research Division

The Research Division of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services (DMHAS) is a nationally recognized research leader among state mental health and substance abuse agencies. The members of the DMHAS Research Division staff are employees of the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, with grant and contract funds from the National Institute on Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, as well as the State of Connecticut.

The Research Division conducts program evaluations and cost effectiveness studies and investigates many issues of policy relevance in the mental health and addictions fields, including supportive housing, mental health and addictions among criminal justice-involved populations, trauma interventions, and implementation of evidence-based practices. Research conducted in Connecticut informs decision-makers about the effectiveness of treatment and the impact of policies on persons with behavioral health disorders.



UConn SSW & CT Department of Social Services Partnership

The UConn School of Social Work and the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS) have worked collaboratively for over twenty five years. DSS has an Office of Organizational and Skill Development (OSD) that provides training and organizational development services to DSS and its staff. The OSD staff and the services are part of a formal partnership between the school and DSS. This arrangement insures effectiveness, efficiency, and shared resources that benefit the partners, clients and The State of Connecticut.

OSD is staffed by professionals from the School of Social Work who provide a variety of training, media and organizational development activities to the agency’s nearly 2,000 employees. Operating under a contractual agreement for more than 30 years, the partnership has changed over time to meet DSS’ developing needs.

Education and training for DSS staff and its partners is focused on programs, leadership and professional growth and development. DSS staff are provided regular training opportunities in a range of program areas such as Medicaid, child care, child support, elderly services, TANF, foodstamps and case management. In addition civil rights, supervisory, managerial and systems training are part of an employee’s growth and development plan. A media production center develops educational materials for training projects, group presentations, and other needs through newsletters, videotapes, and other communications tools. Organizational development activities are initiated and managed by the OSD staff to support service effectiveness and efficient processes. Cultural responsiveness and social justice are fundamental part of training and organizational design services. Graduate students from the School of Social Work are placed as interns in DSS departments.


More information about OSD at The Office of Organizational and Skill Development website.

Darleen Klase, Director
(860) 424-5587

UConn SSW & CT Office of Early Childhood Partnership

In a groundbreaking collaboration, the School of Social Work, the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, and joined the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood (OEC) to create the OEC-UConn Performance Partnership in 2018. The partnership aims to prevent local children from experiencing the trauma of homelessness and to gauge those prevention efforts.

Connecticut Armorial Bearings
Kathryn Parr, Assistant Professor and OEC-UConn Partnership Director

Through the partnership, OEC will contribute funding to the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness's “be homeful” fund, which provides emergency assistance to help families with children remain in their homes and avoid entering homeless shelters — a method known as diversion. UConn’s School of Social Work will study the outcomes of this approach over a three-year period.The new evaluation center draws on the expertise of UConn researchers to implement data-driven policy-making in support of the OEC’s coordinated system of care.

“We’ll be tracking the well-being of children and families across the state as well as the performance of the OEC office and its programs,” says Assistant Research Professor Kathryn Parr, who directs the partnership from the UConn side. “Ultimately what we’re doing with this partnership is putting the expertise of UConn in service of the public good.”