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By William Harms

Sydney Hans, SSA’s Samuel Deutsch Professor, has recently published her research on the impact of a “community doula” who, in addition to joining the mother during labor and delivery, visits new parents in the home in the weeks before and after birth to answer questions and help the mother get to know her baby. Her work shows that the low-income, young mothers who had been clients of the University of Chicago Doula Project are more likely to breastfeed and more comfortable with their roles as mothers. To add to her findings, she has launched a new randomized controlled trial examining the effectiveness of the community doula model as it is being implemented in home visiting programs statewide.

Sidebar Story:

By Julie Jung

All field placements at SSA give students a solid grounding in hands-on experience, but only a select number of master’s students are involved in research projects. This article profiles several: Bria Berger and Max Beshers, who are working with Assistant Professor Alida Bouris on her Project READY; Lauren Feig, part of the team at Professor Deborah Gorman-Smith’s Chicago Center for Youth Violence Prevention; and Callie Freitag, who has a research assistantship to research about how state-level safety net policies affect the economic stability of low-income households. SSA intends to increase the number of research-based field placements and research assistantships for master’s students through funding from the Excellence in Field Education Endowment.

By Carl Vogel

SSA Professor Colleen Grogan has written extensively on the political evolution and current politics of the Medicaid program and the historic development of public health care spending through private entities in the U.S. health care system. When the Affordable Care Act was passed, it was written to add as many as 16 million low-income people to Medicaid, but Supreme Court ruled that the federal government couldn’t require states to adopt the expansion. Nearly half the states have not expanded the program, leaving approximately 5 million very low-income individuals without health care insurance. Grogan has been studying the dynamics of which states have and have not expanded Medicaid under the ACA, including the historical, racial, demographic and political factors that are having an impact.


In late April, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a press conference about Chicago Public Schools’ rising high school graduation rate, touting the latest studies from SSA Professor Melissa Roderick and her colleagues at the UChicago Consortium on Chicago School Research. Graduating from high school and accessing higher education is arguably the most reliable ticket to the middle class in the U.S., opening up a lifetime of opportunities.

Deborah Gorman-Smith spoke with Enlace’s executive director, Michael D. Rodríguez, AM ’07, and its director of violence prevention, Kathryn Bocanegra, AM ’09, about how to measure impact, choosing evidence-based programs, and community/academic partnerships.

Social work has long strived to place itself on a more scientific foundation, and in recent years, many policymakers and government officials have insisted that social services show results. But a new study concludes that social workers have not yet embraced evidence-based practice as their primary approach.

In the early 2000s, single women were the fast growing group of homebuyers in the country. When the foreclosure crisis hit, they figured disproportionately among those who lost their homes. And in most cases, says the author of a new study, social services have failed to help them.

The practice of treating juvenile offenders differently from adults began among social workers in Chicago more than a century ago. Now a new study concludes that social work has strayed too far from those beginnings, abandoning juvenile offenders to law enforcement and allowing punishment to replace rehabilitation.

For the last seven years, SSA students enrolled in the Beatrice Cummings Mayer Program in Violence Prevention have learned the skills and knowledge needed for evidence-based interventions and programs to prevent violence before it happens. Today, alumni of the program work in schools, at early childhood programs, in hospitals, in academia and beyond.

A growing body of research shows that ethnic and cultural differences hamper the bond between therapists and client. That can be even more true when the clients are parents who may already feel insecure about seeking help for a young child with disruptive behavior.

In a new book examining the “global workfare project,” SSA Associate Professor Evelyn Brodkin and her collaborators look beyond what welfare reform and workfare policies appear to do to investigate how they actually take shape on the ground.

School News

Louise Doss Martin, AB ’59, AM ’63, has mixed service and advocacy with her own original research on social welfare policies and programs for mothers and children on the national stage, continuing a tradition begun by SSA’s founding mothers.

Can household economic strategies such as savings groups and seed grants bring the poorest families in Burkina Faso far enough out of poverty so that their children can stop working? Will sensitizing parents on child’s rights by addressing normative beliefs and knowledge related to child labor, child marriage and value of education protect children from labor-related family separation, violence and exploitation? In a new evaluation study I’m launching with a number of partners in this West African country, we’re using a three-arm randomized controlled trial to try to answer these questions and test two different approaches to preventing violence and exploitation of children.