Substance abuse across the lifespan, child welfare, family drug courts, substance abuse prevention, community substance abuse strategies, mixed research methods
My goal as an educator is to make the classroom environment a setting that both encourages and models dynamic, active scholarship. By this I mean that I hope to facilitate many forms of learning for students, so that the classroom becomes a setting where they have the opportunity to use theory, reasoning, skills, flexible understanding, critical thinking, and problem solving when trying to understand complex social welfare related phenomenon. Students enrolled in the KU School of Social Welfare’s MSW program have chosen careers as practitioners and leaders and will repeatedly encounter human situations associated with complex, interrelated social conditions. It is my hope to help give them the tools that they will need as lifelong learners to make decisions that are both principled and intellectually sound.
I have taught Research Methods (SW 740) each spring semester since joining the KU faculty (Fall, 2011), and have elected to teach 2 sections of this same course rather than teaching throughout the academic year. One of the two Research Methods courses I have taught is taught partially online, and this required that I develop the course for this innovative format. During my first year as a faculty member, I also taught Crisis Intervention (SW 633) at the bachelor’s level.
The Research Methods course is an integral part of the MSW curriculum. Though much of my scholarship to date has been expressed through engaged community based research, teaching about research has provided another dimension of knowledge and has given me the opportunity to bring the work from the social work field into the classroom to illustrate the material. I have utilized materials provided by the KU Center for Teaching Excellence to assist in my thinking and planning for this course, and several specific teaching practices that I learned about through this resource have been especially helpful. First, based on Wiggins and McTighe (1998) and Hodges (2012) recommendations, I designed the course with the end result in mind. Essentially, this required that I focus on the competencies and skills that I would like the students to possess when they have completed this course, and I work backward from this point to ensure that they have mastered the necessary steps to achieve this. Consistent with Council on Social Work Education accreditation competencies, I ensure that students are provided with the information and opportunity to practice critical thinking and professional judgment. That is, I ensure that they have received and integrated the knowledge that they need to use practice experience to inform research inquiry and use research generated knowledge to inform practice decisions. My teaching style stresses the importance of using strategies of reasoning and scientifically sound practices in the analysis and assessment of intervention efficacy, in the evaluation of social programs and their connection to social policy.
A second teaching practice outlined by Hodges (2012) that I have used relies on teaching students the criteria or rubric on which they will be evaluated, and then requiring that the student engage in the process of evaluating the work of others using criteria or rubrics established as a guide. I am explicit in how I will evaluate the student’s performance, and then I give them explicit criteria upon which they must evaluate and assess the research work of others located in the peer reviewed literature. This work is focused on a topic of their choosing, but relies upon the process of employing specific criteria to judge the work of others, and the “fit” of this research to their practice area. Further, as the student critiques relevant research, they must present and defend their findings both written and orally.
I have structured the classroom material (for traditional formats and partially online courses) so that the material presented in class is more directly focused on developing key skills and competencies in the research process, and the classroom setting provides the forum for grappling with more difficult matter from a content perspective. Students break work into manageable segments, and I try to then bring together all of the material into a format that synthesizes and efficiently uses the time in face to face interaction.
Graduate Advising and Mentoring
Since joining the faculty at KU, and through prior work at KU as a Research Associate, I have had the opportunity to work collaboratively with doctoral students for the past decade, primarily as a mentor or supervisor for their Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) positions. I currently provide employment/supervision for two GRA positions that share responsibilities across projects. Historically, my externally funded projects have supported three additional GRA positions, and sponsored one Master’s level student in an employment based field practicum. I have assisted students in identification of their interests in the field and in developing a scholarship trajectory that includes timely completion of the Ph.D. I have co-authored four peer reviewed, published works with doctoral students (with several others in process) and have collaboratively submitted proposals for local, state, national and international conferences. This collaborative work requires setting and monitoring of specific goals, including timelines for completion, and ensuring monitoring to ensure that work flow, timelines, and benchmarks for achievement are reasonably and effectively applied. Through work on funded projects, students are also given an opportunity to see research evaluation as it is being carried out, interact with key stakeholders, and play a significant role in the evaluation efforts.
I have recently joined the dissertation committee for two of our Ph.D. students, and am learning about committee membership and dissertation progress from this perspective as well.
- Research Methods
- Substance Abuse
- Crisis Intervention
- Critical thinking
- Competency development
My research activity centers on the design, funding, implementation, and evaluation of publically funded strategic initiatives to serve a highly vulnerable subset of the child welfare population characterized by parental substance abuse. Substance abuse is a key contributing factor in a high percentage of child maltreatment cases, yet current public service delivery systems are inadequately prepared to intervene. Substance abuse is an independent risk factor for child maltreatment, and is associated with multiple other related risk factors such as the presence of domestic violence, homelessness, incarceration, co-occurring physical and mental health issues, and poverty. Substance abuse affected families within the child welfare population experience the highest rates of service system failure, and knowledge about specific effective interventions and effective service delivery systems is limited. My scholarship has sought to optimize ways to implement and rigorously evaluate replicable service programs in order to produce knowledge that is generalizable to the larger child welfare and substance abuse treatment communities. On a broad level my research directly informs the State Governments of Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa in developing the necessary infrastructure to serve these families, and serves nationally as an example of the implementation and translation of community based service evaluation impacting public policy and practice. At the individual consumer level, my research has shed light on the implementation of specific programs and practices and their efficacy within this specialized population.
Major Accomplishments/Significance of Contributions
My research informed scholarship, all of which has been conducted at the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare (Center for Children and Families), has precipitated statewide level changes in child welfare practice in both Kansas and Oklahoma. This research interest developed while I served as a doctoral fellow for the US DHHS, Administration for Children and Families. This fellowship allowed me to evaluate the efficacy of multiple comprehensive, community based strategies for dealing with substance abuse among diverse child welfare service recipients (Brook & McDonald, 2007 & 2009). For the past decade, my colleagues and I have built upon this knowledge, and have been among the first to design, obtain funding for, implement, and evaluate the initiation of substance abuse specific parenting services (the Strengthening Families Program) for child welfare involved families in Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa. Following program execution, evaluation, and dissemination of rigorous outcomes and cost evaluations in Kansas, our work resulted in adoption of the Strengthening Families Program protocol as mandatory child welfare practice statewide beginning July, 2013. Children in Kansas whose families have received these services are reunifying with their parents six months sooner than comparison children, and are not reentering foster care (Brook, McDonald, & Yan, 2012). Further, the implementation of this protocol has saved the State of Kansas significant dollars, and is thus sustainable for the future (Johnson-Motoyama, Brook, Yan, & McDonald, 2013).
My research team’s efforts and partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (Prevention Division) have resulted in successful statewide implementation of a universal screening instrument for substance abuse in the public child welfare service delivery system. This effort represents the only successful statewide implementation of this kind in the United States. From preliminary data generated by this implementation, we are now able to produce intial frameworks for understanding risk profiles, correlates and the complexity of needs experienced by these families (Brook, Yan, Lloyd, & McDonald, 2013, in press).
Goals for the Next Five Years
My research goals center on continuing to strategically advance knowledge about the impact of parental substance abuse and correlated conditions within the context of the child welfare service delivery system. This service delivery system requires collaboration among multiple State and Local service agencies, and my research is well positioned to capture the advantages of using targeted service delivery strategies and settings, such as the Court structure, to facilitate favorable outcomes for children and families. My current research projects are multi-year funded, and slated to continue through 2017. Two of these projects are funded by the US DHHS, and are positioned within the child welfare administrative structure, and two are funded through US DHHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and are providing services from a Court structured perspective. These are in various stages of program implementation and data collection. Through the execution of these service programs, and the concurrent evaluation of these initiatives, there is much that will be learned from both the program and the implementation perspective. As a part of all of these funding activities, my research teams are collecting comprehensive implementation data, to provide longer term data on implementation science, and learn more about public scale up of interventions, and best practices within implementation. With financial support from the States of Iowa and Oklahoma (and support from colleagues who serve as co-principal investigators), I hope to build capacity to serve families across the Country and to learn more about effective practices and their impact on child and family well-being.
Description of Collaborative Research
With few exceptions, all of my work is based on interdisciplinary collaboration. My specific role has been in the development and maintenance of relationship at the State and Federal levels that facilitates joint funding application submission; writing of grant applications; and the design, implementation and evaluation of funded projects. My formal designated role within the applications has been as principal investigator or co-investigator. Effort has been distributed based on investigator availability and expertise and the relative contribution of individual efforts has been accurately reflected in publication authorship order throughout the years.
The work that I have engaged in at the state administration and implementation level is also interdisciplinary in nature. State administrations (such as Oklahoma) utilize a public health approach to substance abuse, whereas the state of Iowa is approaching the problem from a judicial perspective through the implementation of family drug courts. These activities require cross-systems knowledge and skills in the areas of protocol, funding sources, project design and implementation and systemic impact.
- Substance Abuse
- Family Drug Courts
- Child Welfare
- Research Methods
- Community Substance Abuse Prevention and Intervention
- Crisis Intervention
- Community-Based Research