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Smith, Brenda D.

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Contact Information

Office: Little Hall 2027
Phone: (205) 348-6528

Areas of Interest and Expertise

  • Child Welfare Policy and Services
  • Organizational and Policy Contexts of Practice
  • Policy and Service Disparities


  • BA, St. Olaf College
  • AM, University of Chicago
  • PhD, University of Chicago


Dr. Brenda Smith’s research focuses on the child welfare system and how organizational and policy contexts can affect practice in human service organizations. She has studied how toxic organizational conditions can hinder the use of evidence and strengths-based practices in such organizations. Her research also addresses the social justice implications of policy and service disparities between and within states.

Selected Publications

  • Smith, B.D., & Resendez, H.* (2024). Practicing up: Teaching social work students how to challenge authority figures. Social Work Education.
  • Smith, N.L.,* Smith, A.M.,* Mott, A.,* & Smith, B.D. (2023). Enhancing supports for novice workers in child welfare: A study of coaching for child welfare interns. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services.
  • Wang, K.,* & Smith, B.D. (2022). A county-level analysis of unemployment and mental health: Applying a social determinants of health framework. Social Work in Mental Health.
  • Spruill, S.A.,* Laurenson, A.,* Warner, L.A., & Smith, B.D. (2021). At the frontlines of policy implementation: Contrasting experiences of Affordable Care Act navigators. Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance, 46(4), 275-292.
  • Smith, B.D., Li, Q.,* Wang, K.,* & Smith, A.M.* (2021).  A national study of child maltreatment reporting at the county level:  Interactions among race/ethnicity, rurality, and poverty.  Children and Youth Services Review, 122.
  • Li, Q. *, Luo, Y.,* Hao, Z.,* Smith, B.D., Guo, Y.,* & Cheng, T.  (2020). Risk factors of cyberbullying perpetration among school-aged children across 41 countries/WHO regions: A perspective from Routine Activity Theory. International Journal of Bullying Prevention, 2(3).
  • Smith, B.D., & Presley, T.D. (2019).  Do surprisingly low child maltreatment rates in rural southern counties reflect lower rates of substantiation?  Children and Youth Services Review, 107.
  • Smith, B.D., Kay, E.S., Pressley, T. D. (2018).  Child maltreatment in rural southern counties: Another perspective on race, poverty, and child welfare. Child Abuse & Neglect, 80, 52-61.
  • Smith, B.D., Kay, E.S., & Womack, B.G.  (2017). How can county-level maltreatment report rates better inform child welfare practice? Children and Youth Services Review, 79, 341-347.
  • Smith, B.D. (2017). Reproductive justice: A policy window for social work advocacy. Social Work, 62(3), 221-226,
  • Smith, B.D., Womack, B.G., & Knierim, M.  (2017). Political advocacy in the context of “show me your papers”: How do human service administrators respond to policy upheaval?  Journal of Policy Practice, 16(2), 166-186.
  • Kay, E.S., & Smith, B.D.  (2017). State-level HIV criminalization laws: Social construction of target populations? Journal of Policy Practice, 16(2), 133-146.
  • Smith, B.D., Prichard, C., & Boltz, L.D. (2016). Do child welfare realistic job preview videos reflect evidence on retention and turnover?  Children and Youth Services Review, 71, 210-216.
  • Wayne, R.H., & Smith, B.D. (2016). Threats to perceptions of fairness in the termination of parental rights. Juvenile and Family Court Journal, 67(4), 26-40.
  • Smith, B.D., & Vandiver, V.L. (2016). Child welfare research and training: A response to David Stoesz. Research on Social Work Practice, 26, 515-518.
  • Smith, B.D., & Womack, B. G. (2016). Human service administrators’ attitudes toward immigration: Shaped by community and organizational context? Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership, & Governance, 40(1), 6-21.
  • Smith, B.D., & Womack, B.G. (2015). Human service administrators’ knowledge about immigration policy: Associations with attitudes, political ideology, and organizational practices. Families in Society, 96(1), 67-75.
  • Rajendran, K., Smith, B.D., & Videka, L.  (2015). Association of caregiver social support with the safety, permanency, and well-being of children in child welfare. Children and Youth Services Review, 48 (1), 150-158.
  • Smith, B.D., & Liu, J. (2014). Latent practice profiles of substance abuse treatment counselors: Do evidence-based techniques displace traditional techniques? Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 46(4), 439-446.
  • Smith, B.D.  (2013). Substance use treatment counselors’ attitudes toward evidence-based practice: The importance of organizational context. Substance Use & Misuse, 48(5), 379-390.
  • Lawrence, C.K., Zuckerman, M., Smith, B.D., & Lui, J.  (2012). Building cultural competence in the child welfare workforce: A mixed-methods analysis of the impact of training on individuals and their practice. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 6, 225-241.
  • Smith, B.D. & Manfredo, I.T. (2011). Frontline counselors in organizational contexts: A study of treatment practices in community settings. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 42 (2), 124-136.
  • Marsh, J.C., Smith, B.D., & Bruni, M. (2011). Integrated substance abuse and child welfare services for women:  A progress review. Children and Youth Services Review, 33 (3), 466-472.
  • Liu, J. & Smith, B.D.  (2011). Transferring training to child welfare practice: Individual and collective efforts. Children and Youth Services Review, 33 (1), 149-156.
  • Smith, B.D. (2009). Service technologies and the conditions of work in child welfare. Pp. 253-268.  In Y. Hasenfeld (Ed.) Human Services as Complex Organizations (2nd Ed.).  Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Testa, M.F., & Smith, B.D. (2009). Child maltreatment prevention and drug treatment. The Future of Children, 19 (2), 147-168.
  • Smith, B.D.  (2008). Methamphetamines and child welfare: Review and research agenda. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 2(4), 511-529.
  • Smith, B.D.  (2008). Service plan compliance in child welfare: Perceptions of biological parents and their caseworkers. Families in Society, 89(4), 521-532.
  • Smith, B.D., Duffee, D.D., Steinke, C.M., Huang, Y., & Larkin, H.  (2008). Outcomes in residential treatment for youth: The role of early engagement. Children and Youth Services Review, 30(12), 1425-1436.
  • Strolin, J., McCarthy, M., Lawson, H., Smith, B.D., Caringi, J., & Bronstein, L.  (2008). Should I stay or should I go? A comparison study of intention to leave among public child welfare systems with high and low turnover rates. Child Welfare, 87(4), 125-143.
  • Smith, B.D. & Mogro-Wilson, C. (2008). Inter-agency collaboration: Policy and practice in child welfare and substance abuse treatment. Administration in Social Work, 32(2), 5-24.
  • Smith, B.D. & Mogro-Wilson, C. (2007). Multi-level influences on the practice of inter-agency collaboration in child welfare and substance abuse treatment. Children and Youth Services Review, 29(5), 545-556.
  • Smith, B.D. (2005).Parental employment and home-visiting service delivery. Family Preservation Journal, 8, 65-81.
  • Smith, B.D. (2005). Job retention in child welfare: Effects of perceived organizational support, supervisor support, and intrinsic job value. Children and Youth Services Review, 27(2), 153-169.
  • Smith, B.D. & Donovan, S.E.F. (2003). Child welfare practice in organizational and institutional context. Social Service Review, 77(4), 541-563.
  • Smith, B.D. (2003). How parental drug use and drug treatment compliance relate to family reunification. Child Welfare, 82(3), 335-365.
  • Smith, B.D. (2003). After parental rights are terminated: Factors associated with exiting foster care. Children and Youth Services Review, 25(12), 965-985.
  • Smith, B.D. & Testa, M.F. (2002). The risk of subsequent maltreatment allegations in families with substance-exposed infants. Child Abuse & Neglect, 26(1), 97-114.
  • Smith, B.D. & Marsh, J.C. (2002). Client-service matching in substance abuse treatment for women with children. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 22(3), 161-168.
  • Smith, B.D. (2002). Evaluating federally-funded child welfare training partnerships: A worthwhile challenge. Journal of Health and Social Policy, 15(3/4), 189-201.
  • Marsh, J.C., D’Aunno, T.A. & Smith, B.D. (2000). Increasing access and providing social services to improve drug abuse treatment for women with children. Addiction, 95(8), 1237-1247.

Selected Research Grants

  • Mathematica Policy Research subcontract from the US HHS/Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Office of Planning Research and Evaluation (OPRE). (2019). $114,012.  Feasibility of Linking Administrative Data to Better Understand Child Maltreatment Incidence and Related Risk (CMI Data Linkages) Project.
  • University of Alabama, Center for Community-Based Partnerships Doctoral Fellowship. (2015). (For student tuition and stipend). Study title: Clarifying and Addressing Policy, Service, and Cultural Barriers to HIV/AIDS Service Access among Latinos in West Alabama.
  • University of Alabama, School of Social Work, Faculty Summer Research Funding. (2014). Study title: State-Level Disparities in the Social Welfare Safety Net: Implications for Practice.
  • The Silberman Fund Faculty Grant Program of the New York Community Trust. (2012)..Study title: Front-Line Practice and Service Delivery:  Implications of State Immigration Policy.
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Substance Abuse Policy Research Program. (2007). Study title: The Implementation of Evidence-Based Addiction Treatment in Community Settings.
  • Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children Youth and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  University-Based Fellowships on Child Abuse and Neglect. (2003).  With Co-Investigator Lynn Videka.  (The grant also supported dissertations for three doctoral students.)  Study title: Safety and Permanency in Intact Families: The Interacting Effects of Social Capital and Service Use.
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health (5R01-DA-015376-02).Pilot funding in Social Work Research Development Program Award. (2003). Study title: Inter-Agency Collaboration and Effective Treatment for Child Welfare Clients.
  • National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, Administration for Children Youth and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. University-based Fellowships on Child Abuse and Neglect.  Dissertation Research Award. (1996).