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.