Current Projects

The ADAPT Project: Adaptation, Development, and Positive Trajectories in the Context of Childhood Adversity

Michael Smith Health Research BC Scholar Award, 2021-2026
Principal Investigator: Dr. Sarah Dow-Fleisner

This program of research utilizes a mixed-methods approach to explore pathways to wellbeing in the context of childhood adversity (CA), focusing on the timing and type of protective factors. To fully understand how socio-environmental and biological factors contribute to health and wellbeing inequity due to CA, we must examine the pathways to impairment and wellbeing using a developmentally informed framework. Changing the question from ‘how are youth at risk’ to ‘how do youth adapt,’ and shifting to a model where those with trauma histories are not defined by their risk. Findings will produce actionable evidence for practitioners and policymakers to develop early intervention and prevention programs fostering health equity for those with CA.

Engaging in Critical Conversations to Transform Child Welfare Praxis in British Columbia (BC)

Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Connections Grant, 2024-2025
Principal Investigator: Dr. Barbara Lee
Co-Investigators: Dr. Sarah Dow-Fleisner, Dr. Judy Gillespie, Dr. Charles Grant, Dr. Monty Montgomery, Dr. Tracy Lavin (BC Aboriginal Child Care Society), Dr. Rebecca Sanford (Thompson Rivers University), Dr. Susan Burke (University of Northern British Columbia), Dr. Mandeep Mucina (University of Victoria). Dr. Jennifer Nutton (University of Victoria)

With the leadership of Indigenous communities and recent federal and provincial legislation changes, child welfare in British Columbia (BC) is facing a pivotal opportunity for change. This project is a series of four virtual dialogue circles, culminating in an in-person colloquium, which will bring together academics, researchers, and policymakers to foster critical reflections on the state of child welfare in the province and engage in conversation about how to mobilize research to facilitate positive transformative change. A primary outcome of this initiative is the establishment of a provincial child welfare research network that is essential in developing and sustaining transformative connections and initiatives. The key knowledge creation will be a shared child welfare research agenda for the province and an online research website portal with regular newsletter communications highlighting child welfare praxis in BC. This knowledge exchange and mobilization through online efforts will expand the reach to other scholarly associations, professional associations, researcher-policy-practitioners, the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) and community agencies, and the general public.

Strengthening Kinship Care in British Columbia (BC): Leveraging Research and Advocacy for Comprehensive Supports for Children, Youth, and Families

UBC Community-University Engagement Support Fund, 2024
Principal Investigator: Dr. Barbara Lee
Community Partner: Fairness for Children Raised by Relatives Society

Fairness for Children Raised by Relatives Association (F4CRR) is a grassroots advocacy group formed in 2021 comprised of kinship caregivers, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others who are raising relative’s children in BC. F4CRR has partnered with the UBC Centre for the Study of Services to Children and Families (CSSCF) to develop and implement an advocacy strategy. The collaborative aim is to use evidence-based research to identify service gaps impacting kinship families and formulate calls-to-action for equitable supports to address the unique circumstances of children raised by relatives. This partnership is mutually beneficial in building university-community capacity for applied research with a social impact. This collaboration helps bridge the gap between academic theory and real-world application. F4CRR offers invaluable practical insights, lived experiences, and a direct connection to the issues being addressed. By leveraging the strengths of both F4CRR and UBC-CSSCF, we strive to bring about positive systemic changes to empower kinship caregivers, enhance the well-being of the children in their care, and promote fair and inclusive family supports in British Columbia.

Child Protective Services Organizational Environment, Practice, & Outcomes

Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), 2017-2022
Principal Investigator: Dr. Sarah Dow-Fleisner

The purpose of this project is to determine the relationships among organizational environment, approach to practice, and case outcomes in an array of delegated Indigenous agencies in British Columbia. This mixed methods study will assess the organizational climate and evaluate the relationship among agency climate and approach to practice. At its completion, this project will identify and describe a more complex and informative picture of the relationships among environment, practice, and case outcomes. With this knowledge, practitioners, managers, and policy makers will be able to review their own agencies and practices to determine ways in which they can begin to make lasting improvements to the quality of practice in diverse agencies. The findings and methodology of this study will also help advance the dialogue concerning factors related to promoting practice excellence. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this information will further support and promote the practice of CPS, worker retention, and also improved and consistent outcomes for children.

Exploring the Barriers and Facilitators for Effective Child Welfare Intervention for Asian-Canadian Children and Families: Perspectives of Service Users and Service Providers

SSHRC Insight Development Grant, 2020 – 2023
Principal Investigator: Dr. Barbara Lee

East and Southeast Asian communities in Canada comprise a large, diverse, and rapidly growing visible minority population. However, there is a dearth of research on Asian-Canadian communities involved or at risk of involvement in the child welfare system. This research is the first qualitative study to examine Asian-Canadian children and families involved or at risk of involvement in the child welfare system. Improved understanding of facilitators (such a cultural brokers), as well as barriers (such as lack of translation services) for Asian-Canadian children and families involved or at risk of involvement in the child welfare system will help inform policy and practice changes to better serve and support diverse populations within mainstream universal systems of care.

Promising Practices for Children and Youth: A Model of Canada-China Collaboration

SSHRC Partnership Grant, 2020-2023
Co-Investigator: Dr. Barbara Lee (PI: Dr. Dora Tam)

The goal of this international partnership project is to engage children and youth, as well as parents and community partners, in the development of user focused initiatives for the promotion and early intervention of mental health (via the identification of intervention strategies to promote healthy physical, emotional, and social development) among children and youth aged 12-18 in Canada and China. The combined perspectives and experiences of service users, service providers, policy makers, and academic researchers are vital to improving the mental wellness of children and youth; therefore, partnership among diverse stakeholders will merge lived experiences, practice wisdom, legal and public management considerations, and a theoretical lens to address mental health issues among children and youth.

Child Maltreatment and the Trajectory of Adult Well-being Among Ethno-racial Communities: Results from the Canadian Community Health Survey

UBC Hampton Fund, 2019 – 2023
Principal Investigator: Dr. Barbara Lee 

The provinces and territories in Canada are each mandated to serve and protect children who have experienced or are at risk of maltreatment. While the child welfare system is a universal service for all children, there are differences in child welfare involvement among ethno-racial groups. The purpose of the research is to examine the prevalence of child maltreatment among ethno-racial communities in Canada and their health and well- being outcomes. A focus will be to consider the differences in health and wellbeing in multiple contexts, including among rural/urban, immigrant, and treatment seeking populations.

Using Simulation in Social Work Education Specializing in Children and Families

UBC Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund (TLEF), 2018 – 2023
Principal Investigator: Dr. Barbara Lee 

In the area of child welfare, the child’s safety and well-being is paramount. A crucial component of ensuring this mandate is the social workers’ competence in working with high-risk families. This project is aimed at developing, implementing, and evaluating a program of teaching and assessment using simulation in social work with a focus on children and families. This project will result in a series of simulation workshops/classes for undergraduate and graduate students. The project will contribute to evidence-based teaching methods that can supplement existing social work teaching methods.

Evaluating Decision-making and Relationship Competence when Reporting Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect

SSHRC Insight Development Grant, 2018 – 2023
Co-Investigator: Dr. Barbara Lee (PI: Dr. Lea Tufford)

Social workers and other allied professionals often fail to report to Child Protection Services (CPS). There are many challenges, at both the individual and environmental level to understanding these judgment and decision-making processes. The decision to report is often an ambiguous exercise fraught with uncertainty and professional complexity. While mandated to report suspected child maltreatment, professionals must also work to maintain the relationship with individual and families. This study seeks to evaluate student social workers and registered social workers decision making and ability to maintain relationships when reporting suspected child abuse and/or neglect. We are seeking to develop an educational manual for social workers for how to effectively work with situations of potential maltreatment, when to report, how to report and how to maintain the relationship.

Building Capacity to Investigate Interprofessional Child Welfare Expertise: A research project in association with the Centre for the Study of Services to Children and Families

Principal Investigator: Dr. Judy Gillespie

Research indicates that many professionals find child welfare to be one of the most stressful aspects of their practice and one for which they feel poorly prepared; acquisition of expertise for the complexity of interprofessional child welfare practice is thus a critical question that has received limited empirical study. This research will facilitate investigation of how interprofessional child welfare expertise is acquired. This will occur through two steps: First, an extensive review and synthesis of existing literature to inform a theoretical framework regarding interprofessional child welfare expertise and second, development of research methods and tools to enable examination of expertise within and across various professional groups and jurisdictional contexts. A third step in the research is the development of an international, cross-jurisdictional, multidisciplinary research partnership that will then enable implementation of such examination. A minimum of three graduate students from three different disciplines will be involved in this research (Nursing, Education, and Social Work); this involvement will offer students valuable research knowledge and skills as well as strong interprofessional practice knowledge and experience working in collaborative multidisciplinary teams.



(Last update: May 14, 2023)