UIC Doctoral Student Selected for Child Welfare Fellowship

A University of Illinois at Chicago doctoral candidate in sociology is one of 15 students nationwide to be selected for the Doris Duke Fellowship for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.

Kristin Smith Abner was chosen by a panel of experts assembled by the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall, a research and policy center focused on improving the well-being of children and youth, families and their communities.

The two-year, $50,000 fellowship will allow Abner to continue her dissertation project, which examines how a child’s neighborhood and social support might contribute to child protective services involvement and the type of placement or service one receives through the system.

“It is my hope that this research will inform multiple disciplines, so the Duke fellowship is an important academic opportunity that will strengthen the interdisciplinary perspective of my work,” Abner says.

Each fellow must identify two mentors — an academic mentor to supervise the content and rigor of their research, and a policy mentor to maximize the impact of their research on policy and practice.

Rachel A. Gordon, UIC associate professor of sociology and faculty member of the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs, is Abner’s dissertation chair. Womazetta Jones, project director for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services’ Differential Response program, is Abner’s policy mentor.

Chapin Hall will staff a peer learning network to bring together the fellows, their mentors, scholars, practitioners, and policymakers representing disciplines such as social work, psychology, medicine, law, education, public policy and administration, and public health.

“The peer learning network offers an invaluable opportunity to foster dialogue among the most promising, interdisciplinary child welfare scholars,” Abner says.

Abner earned a master’s degree in sociology from UIC and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Virginia. She is a native of Roanoke, Va., and 2001 graduate of Cave Spring High School.

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