Dr. Tyreasa Washington is Child Trends’ senior program area director and distinguished senior scholar for child welfare. She is also a professor in the Department of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), a faculty affiliate to the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis, a faculty affiliate to the UNCG Gerontology Program, and the founding director of the African American Families and Kinship Care Lab.
Can you tell us about your primary research interest(s)?
I’m most interested in examining the strengths and resources that contribute to the promotion of social, academic, and behavioral outcomes for African American children who reside in kinship care (for example, grandparents raising grandchildren). In my work, I’ve explored how various factors and policies impact kinship care families, as well as caregivers’ mental and physical health. Currently, I am the principal investigator of two studies funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD): “Family’s Impact on the Development of African American Children in Kinship Care” and “Reducing Alzheimer’s Risk among African-American Kinship Caregivers.” My research agenda also includes the examination of fathers’ roles in their children’s positive outcomes.
What sparked your interest in kinship care and strengths-based research on families?
I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) who has worked in both child welfare and mental health settings. As a foster care social worker and child welfare supervisor, I saw firsthand some of the challenges experienced by children and families who are involved with the child welfare system; this motivated my interest in identifying means to lessen their challenges. To me, kinship care represented an important way to mitigate this population’s challenges. Additionally, I have always had a passion for social and racial justice, so conducting research to better the lives of racial and ethnic minorities—especially African Americans and Blacks—was a must for me.
What are your hobbies or interests outside of research?
I’m a graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T), currently the largest historically black college or university (HBCU) in the United States. I absolutely love supporting and engaging in activities with my alma mater. For example, I recruit and mentor students who attend NC A&T. I also attend sporting events, including football and basketball games and track meets. The homecoming activities are awesome! We call this event the Greatest Homecoming on Earth (GHOE).
To wrap up, can you tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself or your family?
My father’s family were farmers, and our immediate roots can be traced to Hadnot Point, NC. Initially, this area in eastern NC, located near the beach, was occupied mainly by African Americans. However, the federal government declared that this area would make an excellent Marine Corps Base—today’s Camp Lejeune—and so my family and others were relocated in the 1940s.
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