Julia Lesnick

Julia is a first year MSW-PhD student. Her research focuses on understanding how mental and behavioral health services can be individualized to best support the unique experiences and resilience of young people in foster care, the carceral system, and struggling with their mental health. The goal of her work is to expand service accessibility, prevent systems entry, improve quality of life in systems, and strengthen youth resilience for re-entry, recovery, and the transition to adulthood. Her specific areas of inquiry include equitable access to information about service approaches, autonomy to self-determine and revise one’s own service plan, the role of supportive relationships on engagement in services, and youth participation and leadership in systems advocacy and social service decision making.

Prior to UCLA, Julia graduated from Cornell University in 2018 with her B.S. in Human Development and a minor in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. At Cornell, her scholarship focused on research-practice partnerships, and adolescent relationships and mental health. She also worked with Cornell Cooperative Extension to develop trauma-informed care training for afterschool programs, and taught in a degree program for incarcerated students. After graduating, she worked at NYC’s child welfare and juvenile justice agency, and at a community-based service provider on the evaluation and quality improvement of youth leadership and mental health programs.

Stephanie Kathan

Stephanie Kathan (née Thorne) is a second year Social Welfare PhD student at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Stephanie earned her Master of Science in Social Work with a concentration in Administration and Policy Practice from the University of Texas at Austin and her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Sexuality Studies from the University of California at Davis. She has worked with children and families in diverse environments for several years, including providing equine therapy, volunteering at a crisis nursery, providing tutoring services, completing family assessments, and in social work case management. Additionally, Stephanie has experience in developmental psychology research and child welfare research. Before starting at UCLA, Stephanie was a Research Associate at a state-wide Texas child placing agency. Stephanie’s research interests include foster care systems in Los Angeles County. Stephanie is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the Eta Tau chapter of Phi Alpha, the Social Work Honor Society.

Brenda A. Tully

Brenda’s research examines how social and economic capital influence housing security during the transition to adulthood. Her work addresses the nexus of two interrelated systems that historically and presently perpetuate racial injustice: child welfare and housing. The COVID-19 pandemic and broadened social movement for racial justice have increased awareness across communities about the need for secure, affordable housing designed to strengthen families and neighborhoods. Specifically, Brenda’s research explores housing in/security among young adults moving from foster care into the community. Her focus on housing security using a racial justice lens extends this literature beyond homelessness.

Brenda’s dissertation examines longitudinal data from the Midwest Study to test how participants’ race/ethnicity, family relationships, and economic hardship are associated with housing trajectories and eviction. This research builds on her earlier university-funded study with young adults in Los Angeles examining the ecological contexts surrounding their housing experiences after exiting care, including negotiating living with families of origin. Brenda’s work is essential because young adults exiting care continue to experience insecure housing, despite policies that fund skill-building while youth are still in care and transitional housing programs when they leave care. Further, early data on the current eviction crisis show more significant risks to the housing of Black and Latinx young adults, groups overrepresented among youth aging out of care. The overarching goal of Brenda’s research is to inform housing and foster care policies designed to promote racial equity and honor family relationships so that youth experience improved housing security while transitioning to adulthood. Her research agenda includes studying how economic interventions (e.g., financial development accounts or guaranteed income) may improve housing security for youth exiting care.

Research funding awarded through the UCLA Graduate Research Mentorship, Summer Research Mentorship, Franklin D. Gilliam Social Justice Award, and additional support from the Meyer and Rene Luskin Fellowship and UCLA Faculty Women’s Club Scholarship have financed Brenda’s research. She has presented her work at annual meetings of the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR), Society for the Study of Social Problems, ACUM at the University of Transylvania, Romania, and the European Scientific Association on Residential and Family Care for Children and Adolescents. Team-based articles featuring Brenda’s contributions are published in Children and Youth Services Review (2021), Journal of Child and Adolescent Social Work (2020), and American Journal of Public Health (2015).

Brenda’s teaching draws on her research, social work practice, and supervision of MSW student field work. She has taught MSW courses in human behavior in the social environment (2017), clinical diagnosis (2018, 2020), and social welfare policy (2017, 2018); and an undergraduate course in qualitative research methods (2021). Brenda serves as U.S. doctoral student representative to the International Research Network on Transition to Adulthood from Care. She co-organized the Transition Age Youth Special Interest Group for the 2020 SSWR annual meeting and served on the inaugural Luskin School of Public Affairs Dean’s Doctoral Student Advisory Committee.

For 20 years, Brenda practiced as a licensed clinical social worker in New York City. Her motivation to pursue a PhD derived from work at Good Shepherd Services, where she helped launch the Chelsea Foyer, a transitional, supportive housing program for young people aging out of foster care and experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Brenda earned a Master of Social Work degree from Fordham University in New York City and a BA in Speech Communication from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. Brenda will graduate from UCLA with her PhD in Social Welfare in June 2022.

Khush Cooper

Khush Cooper, MSW, PhD. is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs as well as a consultant to public child welfare systems and private child welfare organizations in the areas of foster care reform, LGBTQ youth in systems, implementation science, and leadership. Dr. Cooper teaches Child Welfare Research, Leadership, Public Policy for Children and Youth, and Macro Practice at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA and is a foster care subject matter advisor to the UCLA Williams Institute, a nationally renowned LGBT research and policy analysis center. She received her MSW (2000) and PhD (2010) in Social Work from Luskin.

 

Her research projects include the California Residentially-Based Services (RBS) Demonstration Project which tested new models for the provision of residential treatment to foster children across four jurisdictions, which models influenced AB 403 Continuum of Care Reform – the largest overhaul of California’s child welfare system in 30 years; the RISE Project, a $13 million, federally-funded 5-year demonstration project which developed evidence-based practices and a rigorously evaluated training curriculum aimed at reducing barriers to permanency for LGBTQ youth in foster care; the Los Angeles Foster Youth Study, the first empirical study to determine the disproportionality of LGBTQ youth in a large urban child welfare system; and the LA LGBTQ Youth Preparedness Scan which used a preparedness framework (as opposed to a cultural competence framework) to analyze the eleven youth-relevant Los Angeles County departments’ capacity to properly serve LGBTQ children, youth and families.

 

Additionally, as a social entrepreneur and specialist in the study and implementation science, Dr. Cooper has cultivated long-standing relationships with policymakers, leading practitioners, and consumers to shield and guide California’s child welfare organizations, both public and private, through reform initiatives. Her credibility in the child welfare field is further enhanced by her years of direct practice experience in foster care, residential treatment and community adolescent service settings. She has deployed performance management systems for large multi-site child welfare and mental health provision organizations; designed practical implementation support and readiness initiatives with regard to state and federal legislative mandates (such as the Title IV-E Waiver Demonstration Project and the Families First Prevention Services Act; and currently is an adjunct member of the Implementation Collaborative within Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago as well as CQI subject matter expert utilized widely by Casey Family Programs.

 

Alfreda P. Iglehart

Professor Iglehart’s research centers on adolescents in foster care; aging out of care and the transition to adulthood; and service delivery to diverse communities. Her background as a case-carrying children’s services worker in Los Angeles County ignited her interest in public child welfare.  One aspect of her academic work addresses the needs of and services to adolescents who age-out of, or emancipate from, foster care. Recent child welfare legislation has expanded the service population from those teens preparing for emancipation to include young adults who have already left the foster care system.

Dr. Iglehart is investigating the quality of life of individuals after they have aged out of foster care. Her research, as well as that of others, shows that numerous former foster care individuals are at-risk for negative outcomes such as homelessness, substance abuse, welfare dependency, and incarceration. The current policy dilemma involves the implementation of mandated programs and services that effectively promote and support self-sufficiency and the successful transition to adulthood for this target population.

In the child welfare field, she has published on the topics of adolescents in foster care, kinship care, and the public child welfare organization.

Another aspect of Dr. Iglehart’s work addresses the history and development of non-clinical social work that includes social work practice in organizations, communities, and policy settings. As part of this focus, she is studying the organization, structure, and service delivery patterns of community-based agencies; inter-agency cooperation; and the development and effectiveness of collaboratives. She seeks to identify those policies and practices that facilitate inter-organizational relationships.Dr. Iglehart’s work also emphasizes the role of social justice in the service delivery process.  She was instrumental in creating the Department of Social Welfare’s Social Work and Social Justice Specialization.  Her co-authored book, Social Services and the Ethnic Community (now in its second edition), traces the history and evolution of ethnic services in the United States.  For many ethnic/racial groups, ethnic services can be seen as a pathway for creating opportunities and reducing barriers.

SELECTED BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS

Social Services and the Ethnic Community – History and Analysis
Iglehart, A.P. & Becerra, R.M. (2011).  Social Services and the Ethnic Community – History and Analysis.  Second Edition.  Long Grove, IL:  Waveland Press.

Managing for Diversity and Empowerment in Human Services Agencies. (2009)
Pps. 295 – 318 in Rino Patti, Ed., The Handbook of Human Services Management.  Second Edition.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Sage Publications.

Hispanic and African American Youth
Iglehart, A. and R. Becerra. (2002). “Hispanic and African American Youth: Life After Foster Care Emancipation.” Journal of Ethnic  & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 11, 79-107.

Social Services and the Ethnic Community
Iglehart, A. and R. Becerra. (1995).  Social Services and the Ethnic Community.  Boston:  Allyn and Bacon.  Reissued by Waveland Press, 2000.

Readiness for Independence: Comparison of Foster Care, Kinship Care, and Non-foster Care Adolescents
Iglehart, A. (1995).  “Readiness for Independence: Comparison of Foster Care, Kinship Care, and Non-foster Care Adolescents.” Children and Youth Services Review, 17, 417-32.

Todd Franke

Trained in social work and educational psychology, Professor Franke seeks to achieve a better understanding of, and improve the responsiveness of service systems in the fields of social services, education and health. Using cognitive theory to better define policy issues related to the integration of these two important fields, Dr. Franke’s research has focused in part on the impact of disability and chronic illness on school-age children. He is currently conducting a study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, on the use of personal assistance services for children with disabilities. In addition, Dr. Franke studies how adolescents solve social problems; urban mobility and its impact on children’s education and social development; and how to successfully integrate health and social services in school settings.

Dr. Franke is active in several local and regional efforts to restructure social services in the schools, helping to conceptualize planning and implementation and the design of evaluation measures in Los Angeles Unified School District, the country’s second-largest school district. He also serves as a consultant to local school districts for the preparation of funding proposals for Healthy Start, a state program to establish linkages between community social service agencies and schools. HIs primary work occurs at the intersection of youth violence (child welfare and gang involved youth) and education. In these areas he designs and undertakes evaluative research and has obtained over $9 million in research funding over the past 7 years. He is currently the Associate Director of the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities.

Dr. Franke has been involved with agencies that serve thousands of families representing unique geographic and cultural communities in California, particularly southern California counties. He recently prepared a report for the Los Angeles City Council which examines the measurement issues involved in assessing the success of gang-related and youth development prevention and intervention programs in the city. The link between involvement in the child welfare system and gang involvement is well documented. Dr. Franke is currently the Co-PI of the Best Start LA Initiative which aims to shape, strengthen and support five Los Angeles communities by building resources and providing access to activities that improve the well-being, development and care experienced by pregnant women, parents of newborns and children age 3 and under.

Dr. Franke was also the Principal Investigator for the First 5 LA-funded Partnership for Families Initiative, which is a secondary prevention initiative that is designed to prevent child maltreatment in vulnerable families. Dr. Franke has been the PI for the Small County Initiative, which was designed to systematically examine California’s efforts to build and enhance child abuse and neglect prevention efforts in 11 rural counties in northern California. Additionally, he has numerous years of experience in conducting cross-sectional and longitudinal research in the fields of education, child welfare and adolescent violence.