Barbara Pierce

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From Clinician to Community-Engaged Translational Practitioner: Building Social and Mental Health Programs for Children, Families, and Practitioners

Barbara Pierce, Ph.D., LCSW, has been a clinical social worker for 40 years and an academic for 20 years. She is a Professor of Social Work at the IU School of Social Work and a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Fellowship Program graduate. She specializes in teaching about and working to dismantle the destructive effects of the social determinants of health/mental health by creating a culture of health and trauma-responsive programming for children, youth, and their families. I am also dedicated to working to create trauma-responsive work cultures for all social workers, teachers, and other professionals dedicated to working with children and youth. Dr. Pierce is also a community-engaged participatory action scholar. She facilitates trainings to state, national, and tribal federal leaders on developing a resilient and trauma-responsive workforce. Her new grant, part of the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, is a Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Project to build capacity for school mental health services in Indiana. This $5.7 million 5-year grant will serve low-income school corporations in communities with low mental health service capacity. Dr. Pierce's focus on bringing trauma-responsive and equitable health programming to students and practitioners is another excellent example of how IUPUI's faculty members are TRANSLATING their RESEARCH INTO PRACTICE.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 8 of 8
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    Trust in Participatory Action Community Engaged Partnerships: Relationships and Historic Trauma Matter
    (IUPUI Office of Community Engagement, 2019-05-23) Pierce, Barbara; Klemme, Paige; Tate, Val; Studley, Mary
    University-community participatory action partnerships can be mutually beneficial. Universities often work alongside communities to establish new and innovative community-based programming and research that are intended to benefit communities from these efforts. However, mistrust has been found to be a major issue in creating and maintaining strong relationships. This paper will marry a model of trust that forms when partners exhibit relational capital, relational embeddedness, and transparency within the principles of trauma-informed care as established by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (2014). A group of university researchers and community activists/organizers analyzed their work on a project to bring a community engaged participatory action design team intervention to develop and implement trauma-responsive care in an established transitional African American community located in a large urban Midwestern city. Through our analysis we identified three major reasons for mistrust: objectification of community members, lack of real change in the community, and lack of transparency.. Additionally, we found that paying attention to power differentials between the university researchers and community partners is key. Major findings around best practices mirrored the SAMHSA trauma-informed care principles and included developing “not just trust but trusting relationships”, sharing “voice and choice” with all who seek to participate, understanding the historical trauma within the community, using cultural guides and long time seasoned community organizers to facilitate processes, “showing up” and being interested in the community beyond the research or intervention by finding a way to give back to the community beyond the project.
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    Competency Curriculum Intervention: Student Task Self-Efficacy and Attitudes in Child Welfare
    (Indiana University School of Social Work, 2017-12-17) Pierce, Barbara; Park, Taekyung
    Three cohorts of BSW and MSW Title IV-E and NCWWI student scholars (n= 125) were educated using a university-agency developed competency-based curriculum and field placement. In order to determine if this curriculum and field placement would improve perceived competence and attitudes toward child welfare work, pre and post-field placement surveys were used. Statistically significant change was demonstrated for most competencies. Attitudes toward child welfare work demonstrated no change from the favorable attitudes students had before entering their field placements. There were no statistically significant differences between BSW and MSW students. Students who had higher perceived competence endorsed motivation and intent to remain in child welfare. Based on the findings, we recommend key strategies to keep up the morale of BSW and MSW graduates in child welfare agencies: transition-to-work initiatives by schools, mentoring programs by agencies, manageable caseloads, and the application of skills and knowledge learned.
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    Network Functional Connectivity Underlying Dissociable Cognitive and Affective Components of Empathy in Adolescence
    (Elsevier, 2021) Winters, Drew E.; Pruitt, Patrick J.; Fukui, Sadaaki; Cyders, Melissa A.; Pierce, Barbara J.; Lay, Kathy; Damoiseaux, Jessica S.
    Empathy, the capacity to understand and share others' emotions, can occur through cognitive and affective components. These components are different conceptually, behaviorally, and in the brain. Neuroimaging task-based research in adolescents and adults document that cognitive empathy associates with the default mode and frontoparietal networks, whereas regions of the salience network underlie affective empathy. However, cognitive empathy is slower to mature than affective empathy and the extant literature reveals considerable developmental differences between adolescent and adult brains within and between these three networks. We extend previous work by examining empathy's association with functional connectivity within and between these networks in adolescents. Participants (n = 84, aged 13-17; 46.4% female) underwent resting state fMRI and completed self-report measures (Interpersonal Reactivity Index) for empathy as part of a larger Nathan-Kline Institute study. Regression analyses revealed adolescents reporting higher cognitive empathy had higher within DMN connectivity. Post hoc analysis revealed cognitive empathy's association within DMN connectivity is independent of affective empathy or empathy in general; and this association is driven by positive pairwise connections between the bilateral angular gyri and medial prefrontal cortex. These results suggest introspective cognitive processes related to the DMN are specifically important for cognitive empathy in adolescence.
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    Former Foster Youths’ Perceptions of Their Acquisition of Sexual Health Information While in Foster Care
    (The 6th Annual Riley Maternal and Child Health Partners in Leadership Education Excellence, 2016-04-15) Brandon-Friedman, Richard A.; Kinney, Marea K.; Pierce, Barbara; Fortenberry, J. Dennis
    In response to disproportionately high rates of pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and engagement in sexual risk behaviors, a qualitative pilot study of eight former foster youth was conducted. Semi-structured interviews explored relationships with caregivers, opportunities for sexual health information, and comfort making decisions with current sexual health knowledge. Multiple themes were identified and implications for child welfare systems were discussed.
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    Organizational justice and secondary traumatic stress among child welfare workers: The moderated mediation model
    (Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy (American Psychological Association), 2023-10-25) Kim, Jangmin; Choi, Mijin; Pierce, Barbara
    Objective: Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) is documented as a common occupational hazard among child welfare workers. We examined the moderated mediation effects of distributive, procedural, and interpersonal justice on child welfare workers’ STS. Method: We analyzed survey data collected from 1053 child welfare workers in a Midwestern state in 2018. Participants were asked to rate their STS and perceived organizational justice using valid scales. Hypotheses were tested using multiple regression and the PROCESS macro. Results: Distributive justice was a stronger factor associated with STS. The direct effect of procedural justice was not significant. However, it was associated indirectly with STS through distributive justice. Interpersonal justice was associated directly with STS. Furthermore, it moderated the association between distributive justice and STS. Conclusion: Findings suggest that the different types of organizational justice have different functions in reducing child welfare workers’ STS. This study can contribute to developing justice-oriented and trauma-informed organizations that prevent child welfare workers’ STS and reduce its negative effects on themselves, organizations, and children in the child welfare system.
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    Secondary Traumatic Stress and Public Child Welfare Workers’ Intention to Remain Employed in Child Welfare: The Interaction Effect of Job Functions
    (Routledge: Taylor and Francis Groups, 2023-09-28) Kim, Jangmin; Pierce, Barbara; Park, Tae Kyung
    High exposure to Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) is a significant risk factor for public child welfare workers’ intention to remain employed in child welfare. This study examined whether the negative effect of STS differs by workers’ job functions by analyzing survey data collected from 1,053 public child welfare workers. STS was negatively associated with workers’ intention to remain. Furthermore, The negative impact of STS was greater among ongoing case managers than among assessment case managers. We conclude that child welfare organizations should develop trauma-informed policies and organizational support targeted to different patterns of STS by job functions. Keywords: secondary traumatic stress, job retention, job functions, public child welfare system Practice Points • Child welfare organizations should tailor organizational approaches to prevent STS and mitigate its negative consequences based on the different job functions of case managers, taking into consideration their unique challenges and needs. • Child welfare organizations should offer enhanced support to ongoing case managers due to their higher susceptibility to the adverse effects of STS. • Child welfare organizations should create physically and emotionally safe working environments that allow case managers to address their STS and improve their well-being. • Child welfare organizations should provide training to supervisors and other leaders to recognize the signs of STS and support their workers in managing their stress.
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    Social and Emotional Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Public School Personnel--the first five months
    (2021-05-20) Thruston, Wanda; Pierce, Barbara; Carlson, Megan
    This report documents initial findings from a survey of Indianapolis school personnel regarding social and emotional impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and school shut-down.
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    Effective workload management in child welfare: Understanding the relationship between caseload and workload
    (Wiley, 2019-12) Kim, Jangmin; Yi, Eun-Hye; Pierce, Barbara; Hall, James; School of Social Work
    A common assumption in public social service organizations is that workload may be positively associated with caseload. However, few empirical studies have examined what specific characteristics of caseload affect caseworkers' workloads in the child welfare system. This study attempts to address this gap by identifying specific individual and regional factors that influence both subjective and objective dimensions of workloads. Survey data were collected from 1,244 caseworkers at one public child welfare agency in a Midwestern state in the United States. The data indicated that both perceptions of unmanageable workloads and self‐reported overtime work were significantly higher when caseworkers had a greater number of cases than the state caseload standard for the investigations units and worked with at least two different types of cases simultaneously (e.g., working with both investigation and ongoing service cases). Additionally, sufficient staffing numbers to meet caseload demands at the regional level significantly decreased the odds ratio of having to do overtime work. The major findings suggest that the objective and subjective dimensions of workload vary by individual‐ and regional‐level variables. Practice implications are discussed for effective and efficient workload management in the public child welfare system.