Sunday, July 6, 2008

Hey to Fellow Dissertation Writers

I'm posting as jerry'sdaughter, in my father's memory. He was a Ph.D. sociologist from an immigrant, blue collar New York City family. A mid-life epiphany lead me to enroll in a doctoral program. Since 2001, while continuing to work full-time and supporting my two sons' emergence into young adulthood, I have been a doc student. Now I have made it to candidate level and am making my way through a Lord of the Rings-like quest to complete my proposal.

I totally love my topic, the shining light that is guiding me through the caves, past the monsters, etc. That topic is child welfare workers' experiences in working with infants and toddlers.

Why this topic?

1. Child abuse and neglect is a serious social problem affecting perhaps 3x as many children as official federal data indicates, and maybe more. For example a recent survey of adults found 46% reporting some form of childhood abuse or neglect. This was a U. of Georgia study, summarized here:
2. Infants and toddlers are disproportionately found among the victims of child abuse/neglect and account for over 3/4 of abuse related deaths. See federal data at Abuse and neglect in the early years can have immediate and long-term impacts, including emotional, physical and financial costs. These impacts are felt at the individual, family, community and societal levels. See /25/08

My mixed-methods study will used quantitative methods to understand what child welfare workers serving babies know about infants and toddlers and qualitative methods to understand what it's like to for child welfare workers to have such young children in their caseloads. The overall goal is to gather information that will help those of us in the infant-family world to offer relevant professional development to child welfare workers that can improve services to infants and toddlers in the child welfare system.

I started my career as a mental health counselor. So many of my clients had childhood histories of abuse or neglect. This was true whether they came from high or low income backgrounds and whether I saw them in my private practice or at a community mental health clinic. At the time I was the young mother of a 3 and 1 year old. I thought about how each of the adults I saw in therapy had once been a dependent, vulnerable young infant, full of all the hope and promise with which every baby enters this world. I decided that my career would be about helping families get off to a good start so that parents and their babies could grow to their fullest potential. Yes - the liberal, idealist let's build a better world mentality. It still drives me!

Onward to my revision of chapter 2 of my dissertation. Drop by my blog if you have time and let me know what you're working on!

1 comment:

Billie said...

Hi, JD! Welcome to DBC. You know, we have been in much the same position. I started my Ph.D. about the same time you did, had a family, and worked fulltime (in the profession I was trying to enter!). It's tough, but you can do it. You sound like a woman with a lot of strength and perseverance.

Your topic is so very interesting and so very needed. It's also a tough subject to research. Props for the work there.

Keep is informed about your progress. We are here to cheer you on!