Strengthening our collective response: New social work faculty member works to improve child welfare practices across the U.S.

Every year in Michigan, approximately 147,500 children come into contact with the child welfare system and this number balloons to 3.5 million children across the United States annually (Child Maltreatment 2019, 2021). With over 35,000 children suspected of being maltreated in Michigan each year, we must do more to protect the most vulnerable population of the mitten state.

Strengthening our collective response to child maltreatment is important given the high volume of abuse and neglect in this country, the long-term consequences of maltreatment for health and wellbeing, and the racial disproportionality that exists within the child welfare system. - Social Work Assistant Professor Bryan Victor, PhD

For new Wayne State University Assistant Professor Bryan Victor, improving child welfare practice in the United States is an urgent issue. “We need to effectively respond to child maltreatment while ensuring that involvement with child welfare systems in the United States enhance the wellbeing of both children and their caregivers, something which unfortunately is not always the case.” Victor examines policy and practice innovations designed to enhance the ability of child welfare systems to address children’s exposure to domestic violence and parental substance misuse, and to reduce the harm to families that is often associated with child welfare involvement. He also investigates primary prevention strategies for child maltreatment including the use of family resource centers to reduce rates of entry into the foster care system.

Victor is no stranger to warrior country having obtained his Doctor of Philosophy from the School in 2017. Victor also earned a Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan and Bachelor of Arts in Social Relations and Social Policy from Michigan State University. Prior to returning to Detroit, Victor  served on the faculty at the Indiana University School of Social Work. “Transitioning from Indiana  back to Wayne State is a homecoming for me.  I’m thrilled to return and support all of the amazing service and social justice work that the School is doing across Detroit and Southeast Michigan, and to help in training the next generation of social work practitioners and scholars.”

Victor’s work is steeped in community relationship building and has him working closely with local domestic violence service organizations and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “Families in Detroit often face investigation by the child welfare system, and these investigations can result in the separation of children from their families. My work is designed to prevent families from becoming involved with child welfare in the first place by enhancing the availability of resources and concrete supports in local communities that are protective against maltreatment and enhance family wellbeing.” Victor’s work also incorporates reducing the punitive aspects of child welfare involvement. For instance, survivors of domestic violence are often held accountable by child welfare systems for a perceived “failure to protect” their children. Victor’s work highlights the need to instead hold perpetrators of domestic violence responsible for the harm that they cause, and to support child welfare responses that work to keep survivors and their children together with access to the resources they need.

Victor plans to work closely with the Center for Social Work Research to expand his research portfolio, which currently includes Strengthening Indiana Families, a $2.84 million dollar grant he co-leads with Dr. E. Susana Mariscal at Indiana University. Funded by the Children’s Bureau in the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, the project focuses on the development and implementation of family resource centers as a primary prevention strategy for child maltreatment. Strengthening Indiana Families is being carried out in collaboration with a number of state agencies, community partners, local municipalities, and families and youth with lived experience in the child welfare system.

Learn more about Victor’s research on his faculty profile.

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