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Grant Highlights

In Fiscal Year 2020, Rutgers School of Social Work's grant portfolio – the amount of funding available in active and open grant awards – totaled $62,700,770. Below are a selection of grants awarded to faculty and centers last fiscal year.

PI: Edward Alessi, Associate Professor and Chancellor’s Scholar of LGBTQ Mental Health, Trauma, and Resilience
Title: Development of an HIV Prevention Group Intervention for MSM Migrants in South Africa
Amount: $10,000.00
HIV prevalence among South African men who have sex with men (MSM) is among the highest in the world. Yet, the country’s robust HIV/AIDS response over the years has tended to overlook MSM migrants, which is a significant population due to the country’s constitutional guarantees of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The resulting disparities MSM migrants face present a serious challenge to reducing new HIV infections in South Africa and globally. The COVID-19 pandemic may magnify this risk because existing structural and psychosocial drivers of HIV—such as housing insecurity, lack of health care access, and perceived homophobia within their diaspora communities—will likely intersect with pandemic-related stressors. These increasingly complicated dynamics have the potential to create unprecedented health inequities for MSM migrants in South Africa. This pilot study will develop a group intervention and test its potential to increase knowledge about HIV prevention, increase self-efficacy in managing HIV risk, and reduce HIV-related stigma among MSM migrants in South Africa. This will lay the empirical foundation for testing the intervention on a larger scale, which could involve multiple languages, peer facilitators, and a control group.

PI: Victoria Banyard, Professor, Associate Dean for Faculty Development, and Associate Director, Center on Violence Against Women and Children
Title: Preventing Sexual Violence through a Comprehensive, Peer-Led Initiative: A Process and Outcome Evaluation
Amount: $89,900.00 (subaward from University of Nebraska)

PI: Emily Greenfield, Associate Professor
Title: A Population Health Perspective on Risk and Resilience at the Municipal Level in Response to COVID
Amount: $18,425.00
This project marks a new collaboration between Rutgers School of Social Work and the Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs at Rutgers University–Camden. Currently, geo-spatial data on COVID-19 in New Jersey has been made available only at the county level. While county data are valuable, they do not allow for understanding the disparate effects of COVID-19 across municipalities within the same county. This project involves collecting information on daily and weekly COVID-19 case counts and mortality that local authorities have been providing to the public to create a municipal-level dataset for New Jersey. Findings from this study, as well as the creation of the dataset itself, will contribute to greater understanding of municipal-level risk and resilience during the pandemic in New Jersey.

PI: Theresa Comprelli McCutcheon, Managing Director, Institute for Families
Title: Coordination Center for Quality Improvement in Forensic Evaluations              
Amount: $400,000.00   
The NJ Coordination Center for Quality Improvement in Forensic Evaluation was funded as a statewide quality management initiative offering assessment and improvement of forensic evaluation services conducted by private providers under contract with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families to inform practices conducted by the Division of Child Permanency and Protection’s to preserve the safety and wellbeing of children. This award fostered quality improvement activities and developed specialized education to improve forensic evaluation services and address practice gaps.

PI: Theresa Comprelli McCutcheon, Managing Director, Institute for Families
Title: New Jersey’s Kinship Navigator Program Model         
Amount: $219,018.60   
New Jersey’s Kinship Navigator Programs support special caregivers who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their relatives' children. These children, kin caregiver’s siblings, nieces, nephews, or, most often, grandchildren, and benefit from the program’s concrete and supportive resources to safeguard family stability and facilitate long-term well-being.  IFF was awarded $219,018.60 to collaborate on the design of education, development of coaching, and creation of operational manuals that would ensure coordination and consistency in the implementation of the program model as it serves kin caregivers across the state. 

PI: Theresa Comprelli McCutcheon, Managing Director, Institute for Families         
Title: Supportive Visitation Services          
Amount: $219,716.57   
Supportive Visitation Services are an innovative parent-child visitation model designed for child welfare-involved families who have children in out-of-home placement.  These services offer a combination of clinical, educational, and when appropriate, supervised support for parents which are aimed at strengthen family interactions and sustaining long-term safety and wellbeing for children.  IFF was awarded $219,716.57 to create education, coaching practices and operational process for the professionals who work in a network of community-based provider agencies providing Supportive Visitation Services across the state. 

PI: Ilona Arnold-Berkovits, Director of Research and Evaluation, Institute for Families          
Title: New Jersey Child Welfare Data Portal           
Amount: $340,039.84
The NJ Child Welfare Data Hub ( offers a powerful web tool that provides access to data about the children and families who interact with the state’s child welfare system. The portal aims to enhance transparency, build understanding, and provide decision-making support for child welfare practitioners, researchers, and policymakers. The Data Portal allows users to explore key indicators of child well-being through customizable visualization and query tools. After selecting a measure, users can selectively target key demographic, geographic and time variables to gain further insight into the state of child welfare and its progression over time.

PI: Ilona Arnold-Berkovits, Director of Research and Evaluation, Institute for Families
Title: New Jersey County-Based Needs Assessment           
Amount: $79,123.98      
IFF partnered with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families to provide county-based Human Services Advisory Councils with data compilations that could be used to inform localized planning efforts for social, human and health services.  Comprehensive data sets, including community and family health indicators that ranged from crime statistics to maternal child health outcomes, were gathered and then provided through a series of presentation tools used to foster collaborative discussions among local service providers and decision makers.  Further efforts will include a synthesis report on planning efforts and data trends while informing community-based planning around resource distribution and service provisions.

PI: Theresa Comprelli McCutcheon, Managing Director, Institute for Families
Title: Price Family Fellows            
Amount: $349,621.00   
The Price Family Foundation awarded the Institute for Families a $349,621 grant to fund the Price Family Fellows Program, a support program for students on the New Brunswick campus who have lived experiences with foster care or homelessness. As a Price Fellow, these resilient young adults receive supportive coaching, life skills workshops, and emergency assistance for food, housing during school breaks, textbooks and other academic supplies. The program aims to raise retention and increase rates of academic success and graduation among this vulnerable cohort of Rutgers Students, and prepare them for lifelong success. 

PI: Theresa Comprelli McCutcheon, Managing Director, Institute for Families
Title: New Jersey Child Welfare Training Partnership           
Amount: $3,044,525.00
The New Jersey Child Welfare Training Partnership (VZMM) is a university‐state collaboration to provide training to 3,500 frontline child welfare workers, supervisors, and leaders within the Department of Children and Families Division of Child Protection and Permanency to prepares and support their work preserving the safety and well-being of New Jersey’s children.

PI: Theresa Comprelli McCutcheon, Managing Director, Institute for Families
Title: New Jersey Victim’s Assistance Academy      
Amount: $849,832.00   
The $849,832 award to the New Jersey Victim Assistance Academy builds the capacity of professionals serving victims of crime, largely intimate personal violence. Participants learn and practice essential skills for empowering crime victims to regain control of their lives. The program offers a Foundational Academy offering a certificate in Victim’s Assistance, an Advanced Academy for seasoned professionals, and basic skills training, all approved by the National Advocate Credentialing Program.

PI: Laura Cuesta, Assistant Professor
Title: A Comparative Analysis of Child Support Systems of Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay    
Amount: $7,795.00        
Child support from a nonresident father is a critical source of income for single-mother families, yet the majority of these families do not receive this monetary transfer, especially in less affluent nations. These two concepts beg the questions: How do child support systems operate in less affluent countries? How do these systems respond to changes in parents’ circumstances? An increasing proportion of children worldwide are raised by a single mother, and these families often experience poverty and material hardship. While we have begun to understand key processes behind this phenomenon, most of the prior research focuses on the U.S., with relatively little work on developing countries that experience high rates of union dissolution among parents of minor children. To answer these questions, we interview lawyers, child support agency staff, judges, and representatives of parents’ organizations in Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay. Findings will inform family policy and practice in the Americas.  

PI: Jacquelynn Duron, Assistant Professor
Title: Survey of Therapists: Perspectives on the Needs of Youth with Problematic Sexual Behaviors
Amount: $1,000.00        
This study examines the perspectives of clinicians working with youth with problematic sexual behaviors (PSB) across the United States. Using a Delphi survey approach, we are gathering insight about the challenges and protective factors youth experience across socioecological levels prior to COVID and during COVID. This information will aid practitioners in supporting youth and their families and will inform policymakers about the needs of youth with PSB. 

PI: Jeounghee Kim, Associate Professor
Title: New Jersey's 2020 Child Care Market Price Study    
Amount: $77,800.00      
The grant is provided by the Division of Family Development at the NJ Department of Human Services. The purpose of the grant is to examine the variations in childcare prices by geographic location and quality of service as well as access barriers to childcare services and adequacy in state childcare subsidies. The scope of this research project has been extended to examine the effects of the pandemic and the state pandemic relief efforts on the availability and prices of local childcare services across the state. 

PI: Jamey Lister, Assistant Professor
Title: Evaluation of the Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI) for High Risk Men of New Jersey        
Amount: $500,000.00 (subaward from Rowan University)
Assistant Professor Jamey Lister will lead a $500,000 award from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to evaluate the "Minority AIDS Initiative for High Risk Men of New Jersey" led by Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine ($2.5 million overall award). The five-year evaluation includes Professor and Associate Dean for Research Andrew Peterson and Assistant Research Professor Kristen Gilmore Powell from the Center for Prevention Science on the investigator team. The Minority AIDS Initiative seeks to improve coordinated treatment for infectious diseases, mental health, and recovery support for Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx men in residential treatment for addiction. Lister also authored “Shortages of Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder in Underserved Michigan Counties: Examining the Influence of Urbanicity and Income Level” in Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved.

PI: Raymond Sanchez Mayers, Associate Professor; Co-PI: Laura Curran, Associate Professor and Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Title: Advancing Social Work to Better Serve Latinx Communities
Amount: $97,000.00      
The purpose of the grant is to create a certification program that prepares social workers to work with Latinx populations.

PI: Sarah McMahon, Associate Professor and Director, Center on Violence Against Women and Children
Title: Technical Assistance Workshops for Higher Education and Secondary Institutions to Address Campus Sexual violence and Dating Violence      
Amount: $116,670.00   
This project included the organization and delivery of a series of online technical assistance workshops to help build capacity to address sexual and dating violence in higher education and high schools within the state of New Jersey. The purpose of these workshops was to offer in-depth discussion into particular sub-topics (e.g. conducting campus climate surveys, working with diverse student populations, and engaging high school populations) related to sexual violence and dating violence that were raised as priority areas by those who attended the NJ State Conference on Campus Sexual Violence in 2019, and which represent critical gaps in the field.

PI: Sarah McMahon, Associate Professor and Director, Center on Violence Against Women and Children
Title: Enhancing Victim Services at Rutgers University      
Amount: $4,999,991.00
This project uses evidence- informed best practices to enhance victim services for students across all of Rutgers’ campuses. A university-wide Advisory Board comprised of key stakeholders meets quarterly to provide feedback, guidance, and to coordinate efforts across campuses. Key accomplishments of the grant include expanding the Office of Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance (VPVA) office at Rutgers-New Brunswick a well as establishing VPVA offices at Rutgers-Newark, Camden and RBHS where offices previously did not exist. In addition, funding provided by the grant resulted in the establishment of a University-wide faculty and staff training coordinator. Grant funding has allowed tailored outreach to various groups of students on campus (e.g., graduate, international, LGBTQ+ students). The grant has also supported the development of a data ecosystem to evaluate all efforts.

PI: Sarah McMahon, Associate Professor and Director, Center on Violence Against Women and Children
Title: The New Jersey State Conference on Campus Sexual Violence            
Amount: $65,728.00      
A statewide conference was convened on March 28, 2019 for higher education administration and services providers. The goals were to support participants to identify next steps to further address campus sexual violence, identify resources and partnerships, and develop a vision for statewide response to campus sexual violence in NJ.

PI: Felix Muchomba, Assistant Professor
Title: Maternal Health Atlas of New Jersey
Amount: $250,000.00
This grant will support Muchomba's study examining policy levers that have the potential to improve and reduce disparities in maternal health in New Jersey. The two-year grant is the largest RWJF grant received by the School of Social Work in the School’s history.

PI: N. Andrew Peterson, Professor and Associate Dean for Research
Title: Empower Somerset - Strategic Prevention Framework - Community Level Partnerships for Success Grant         
Amount: $40,000.00 (subaward from EmPoWER Somerset)
This project supports development of an infrastructure to implement data-driven substance abuse prevention strategies in Somerset County, New Jersey.  The goals of the project are to prevent the onset and reduce the progression of substance abuse, reduce substance abuse-related problems, and strengthen prevention capacity at the community level.

PI: Gabriel Robles Alberto, Assistant Professor; Chancellor's Scholar for Inclusive Excellence in Sexual and Gender Minority Health
Title: The examination of minority stress and syndemics measures for use among Latino English and Spanish speaking sexual minority men: Secondary data analyses
Amount: $100,000 (subaward from NIH)
This award will help fund a series of research papers that use minority stress and syndemics measures that examine HIV prevention among diverse Latino populations across the U.S., including Puerto Rico. Assistant Professor Robles Alberto will be part of a team that includes other investigators from The George Washington University and The City University of New York.

PI: Cassandra Simmel, Associate Professor and Director, MSW Certificate in Promoting Child and Adolescent Well-Being
Title: The Impact of COVID19 on Families and Caseworkers in NYC              
Amount: $30,000.00      
The overarching goal of the project is to systematically explore the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable families’ functioning, risk for maltreatment, and ability to manage sudden systemic challenges such as home schooling, unemployment, loss of housing, and food insecurity. The second goal of the project is to examine the barriers and challenges that child welfare caseworkers are experiencing in the delivery of services to vulnerable families. This workforce population has received very little attention in how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted their work, nor have their needs and challenges been identified or addressed.  Although not explicitly termed “essential workers,” the essential work that this far less visible workforce is doing has been largely overlooked. Virtual interviews are being conducted with both caseworker/clinicians and caregivers in NYC.

PI: Julissa Vizcaino
Title: Adult Protective Services Supervisors and Workers Training Program              
Amount: $86,156.00      
The Adult Protective Services Training Institute, coordinated by the Office of Continuing Education (CE), has been the sole source for statewide training to Adult Protective Service (APS) workers since its inception in 1991. The training program consists of an education series that is structured to orient new APS workers to the many demanding facets of protecting the fragile populations of older adults and disabled adults in New Jersey. The program strives to effectively train APS supervisors and workers and provide continuing education that will benefit the workers in their important role(s). The goal is to enhance the quality of services that will be provided to New Jersey’s vulnerable adult population               

PI: Allison Zippay, Director of Doctoral Program and Professor, with the Center for Leadership and Management
Title: Comprehensive Implementation Plan: Opioid Response Team Project             
Amount: $100,000.00   
Allison Zippay is a PI, with the Center for Leadership and Management, on a grant from the New Jersey State Office of the Attorney General to develop a comprehensive implementation plan for statewide opioid response teams. The project includes the design of formulas for funding allocation to municipalities and developing a program sustainability and evaluation plan. The Center for Leadership and Management provides technical assistance to public and nonprofit organizations, including planning, research, and evaluation.

PI: Karen Zurlo, Associate Professor
Title: An Evaluation of New Jersey's Assisted Living Program          
Amount: $88,000.00      
Older adults living in subsidized housing in NJ often need home care services to continue living independently. Many locations offer on-site Assisted Living Programs (ALPs), providing seniors with a variety of in-home services. Yet, the take-up rate for these programs is extremely low.  This project evaluates four existing ALPs and will assess the factors that contribute to the low take-up rate of participants and services. The results will include program and policy recommendations that offer solutions yielding greater sustainability of services and increases in numbers of participants and services offered by existing ALPs.   

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