My Research

My research broadly focuses on family-centered practice in child welfare. 

I am currently studying the ways that social media impacts youth in foster care, and how they might use technology-mediated communication to enhance their social networks and online relationships. 

This is important because:
  • youth in foster care experience significant relational loss as they move from their family of origin and subsequently through the child welfare system, often experiencing multiple placements;
  • relationships are important predictors of success as youth age out of care, and may be maintained through the use of social media;
  • my previous research indicates that child welfare workers believe that foster parents and youth do not get adequate guidance about technology-mediated communication;
  • without guidance, many caretakers are prone to restrict social media use for these youth in the name of protection;
  • however, youth often have access to social media at school or through friends, and therefore use it with little guidance, and social media does pose safety risks;
  • however, if they are NOT able to use social media, they may miss building important digital literacy skills, opportunities to explore identity development and connect with other youth like them; build online relationships, learn boundary management, and maintain connections to important people in their lives;
  • many youth who age out of care do reconnect with their families, and tech-mediated connections prior to aging out may offer a safe and supervised opportunity to prepare for those reconnections.
I am conducting research to understand the skills that foster youth, caseworkers, and foster parents need to support the healthy online relationships for youth in foster care.

 My other interests include Indian Child Welfare Act and child welfare workforce development.

My dissertation work was on organizational factors that influence child welfare workforce stability and burnout.

From 2012-2015 I was the lead evaluator on a federal Family Connections Family Group Decision Making grant. We assessed the efficacy of FGDM with Native American families in North Dakota. 

I served as the PI on a North Dakota statewide assessment of Supreme Court Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Compliance, and am the current PI of a federal National ICWA Implementation Project funded by the Administration of Children and Families.

In the area of Scholarship and Teaching and Learning, I am a national expert on teaching with technology. 
Please see my CV for publications and training related to teaching with technology.

I hold the highest professional clinical social work license in North Dakota, which is the LCSW. 
My primary clinical interests include motivational interviewing, narrative therapy, child welfare practice, and clinical supervision.  I teach graduate courses in motivational interviewing, advanced practice with families, and a class in technology in the human environment in our DSW program.