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Professor Awarded Grant by National Institutes of Health

Posted in: Faculty News, Social Work

headshot photo of Wendy Zeitlin

Wendy Zeitlin, associate professor in Social Work and Child Advocacy, was recently awarded $87,000 by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development for her proposal entitled, “Understanding the effects of a family preservation program for parents with intellectual disability.”

This project builds upon a previous successful collaboration between Montclair State University, Westchester Institute for Human Development, and Boston University. The partnership was so successful that it was featured as a model in Children’s Voice, a magazine published by the Child Welfare League of America.

In the United States, little is done to identify and provide reasonable accommodations to parents with intellectual disabilities who are involved in child welfare systems, and very few services are available with these families’ unique needs in mind. In fact, little is known about parents with intellectual disabilities more generally. All of this may be attributed, at least in part, to the stigma and discrimination these folks experience in many facets of life.

A small program called Project IMPACT in Valhalla, New York, was designed specifically to meet the needs of this population. It is an intensive in-home program that teaches parenting skills in real-life settings. In Zeitlin’s previous collaboration that was funded by Boston University’s Center for Innovation in Social Work and Health, their research found that 88% of all families participating in Project IMPACT and 98% of families completing the program remained intact one year after ending the program (i.e., their children were not placed in foster care). Those findings, however, are not enough to show that Project IMPACT was actually responsible for those high rates of success. The award that was received from NIH will allow us to determine whether Project IMPACT is actually effective at reducing foster care placement for this high-risk population.