Expert in gerontology, elder justice, elder abuse and neglect
Joy Swanson Ernst, Associate Professor of Social Work, joined the Wayne State faculty in August 2016. From August 2016-2019, she served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. Before that, she was Professor of Social Work and director of the undergraduate social work program at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. She received her PhD in 1999 from the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Her dissertation, “The Neighborhood Correlates of Child Abuse and Neglect,” won the Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award from the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children in 2000. While at the University of Maryland, she was the research director for the Family Connections program. She has had social work positions in agencies that serve families and children and runaway and homeless youth.
Ernst is a Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholar and her research interests include elder mistreatment and adult protective services (APS) programs. She has published articles on elder self-neglect, the use of multidisciplinary teams in APS, geriatric enrichment in social work education, the neighborhood correlates of child maltreatment, child welfare practice in New Zealand, and several book chapters on elder abuse and neglect. She serves on the research committee for the National Adult Protective Services Association where she has worked on projects including a review of the research on Adult Protective Services published in the Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, a review of the literature on self-neglect among older adults, and a web-based resource on evidence-based practice for APS workers. She has reviewed grants related to elder justice and APS for the Administration for Community Living (ACL). She was a member of the second Expert Working Group that made recommendations related to the Final National Voluntary Consensus Guidelines for State Adult Protective Services Systems, published by the ACL in 2016. In 2019, she served on Technical Expert Panels related on ACL-funded projects related to self-neglect and outcomes research in APS.
Degrees and Certifications
• PhD, University of Maryland, Baltimore
• M.S.W., Rutgers University
• B.A., History, University of Chicago
• Human rights and social justice
• Social work practice with older adults
• Social welfare history
• Social policy
Areas of Expertise
• Elder Justice
• Elder Abuse and Neglect
• Adult Protective Services (APS) programs
• Gerontological social work education
Grand Challenges Project
Responding to Elder Self-neglect
With colleagues from the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the National Adult Protective Services Association, Ernst is working on a project to significantly enhance existing knowledge regarding responses of APS and other programs to self-neglect. Funded by the U.S. Administration for Community Living, “Self-Neglect Knowledge, Policy, Practice & Research: Realities & Needs” entails a systematic review of the self-neglect literature published in the United States over the past 20 years to analyze research addressing policy and practice issues, including tools and scales used by APS to assess and address self-neglect.Because most self-neglecting older adults are socially isolated, enhancing the knowledge base on self-neglect to inform future research, policy, and practice going forward fits with the Social Work Grand Challenge to eradicate social isolation.