Professor Abrams' research focuses on identity formation and transitions among youth and young adults who have histories of incarceration. Her primary works have explored institutional influences on identity and behaviors as well as youths’ subjective accounts of criminality, risk, and treatment programs seeking to reshape their identities through various therapeutic and punitive practices. These themes are fully examined in her recently released book (with Ben Anderson-Nathe from Portland State University) "Compassionate Confinement: A Year in the Life of Unit C," Rutgers University Press (2012).
Dr. Abrams is currently involved in several studies concerning juvenile justice, reentry, and transition age youth in the Los Angeles area. Her current mixed methods project is examining the transition to adulthood, criminal desistance, and use of social supports among young adults with histories of juvenile incarceration. A related ethnographic study concerns education-based incarceration for young men in the Los Angeles County jail system.
Dr. Abrams also has two currently funded projects related to former foster youth and cross-over youth. She is also working with Dr. Bridget Freisthler on a study examining housing resources and experiences for young people in independent living programs. A recent grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is evaluating their transition age youth strategy in Los Angeles and New York City. This project (2013-2016) is conducted in partnership with Westat, Inc. and Hunter College Silberman School of Social Work.
Dr. Abrams has served as an expert witness for criminal cases involving young people and has provided public and congressional testimony regarding treatment in the juvenile justice system, the reentry needs of youth offenders, and effective practices for offender reintegration. Her work has been supported by grants from the NIH Center for Vulnerable Populations Research, the UCLA Faculty Senate, the UC Center for New Racial Studies, the New Visions Foundation, the John Randolph and Dora Haynes Foundation, The Conrad N. HIlton Foundation, and others.
Professor Abrams has expertise in qualitative and mixed methods research and has authored articles on cross-cultural research and the role of qualitative methods in social work. She is currently the co-chair of the qualitative interest group for the Society for Social Work Research and on the editorial board of Qualitative Social Work: Research and Practice.
Dr. Abrams is the current chair of the Doctoral Program in Social Welfare and teaches the following courses: SW 201A- Human Behavior- Diversity, Oppression, and Social Functioning; SW231- Advanced Practice with Diverse Populations; SW 285- Research Methods with Children and Youth; SW286- Qualitative Research Methods; and SW229: The Craft of Social Welfare Scholarship.
Incarcerated youth and identity transitions; the transition to adulthood among formerly incarcerated youth and youth aging out of foster care; contextual influences on mental health and psychosocial functioning; qualitative and mixed methods research; gender studies; critical race theory and social work education.
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