Helping Traumatized Children

Doctoral students at the School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin do not wait to graduation to make significant research contributions and address critical social problems, such as child trauma.

Tara Powell

Tara Powell

Doctoral candidate Tara Powell works with Save the Children to improve the lives of children and caregivers that survive disasters.

“Tara has worked with survivors of natural disasters literally across the globe,” said Dr. Sanna Thompson, Associate Professor at the School and Powell’s dissertation co-chair. “She has hurried to offer assistance to places including Alabama, Oklahoma, England, Kenya, and New Zealand.”

Powell’s work with survivors of disasters laid the foundation for her dissertation research. In 2006, as New Orleans was recovering from hurricane Katrina, Powell worked with Save the Children to create a school-based model psychoeducational program to help children develop positive coping strategies in response to trauma and stress after a disaster. The program is now being implemented throughout the United States and internationally. Powell’s dissertation evaluates the implementation of the program in New Zealand and Alabama.

Tiffany Ryan

Tiffany Ryan

Another doctoral student, Tiffany Ryan, is equally committed to children who are experiencing stress and trauma. Ryan focuses on children within child welfare systems that cannot live with their families because of abuse and other reasons.

“Tiffany is very passionate about improving child welfare systems and, ultimately, the lives of many children,” said Dr. Diana DiNitto, the Cullen Trust Centennial Professor in Alcohol Studies and Education, Distinguished Teaching Professor, and Ryan’s dissertation Co-Chair.

Ryan was the recipient of the 2014 Society for Social Work and Research Doctoral Fellows Award for her dissertation proposal. Her dissertation focuses on how litigation has been used as a method to improve the child welfare system and the potential effectiveness of this approach. According to Dr. Jim Schwab, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Ryan’s dissertation co-chair, Ryan’s research has important financial ramifications for states that spend large sums of monies in lawsuits associated with child welfare practices.

Seven PhD graduates from the School of Social Work are entering the job market this year. All are making significant contributions to the resolution of critical social problems. Meet the graduates here.

Posted October 15, 2013