Who We Are

The Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW) was established in 1992 with federal Title IV-E funding and a grant from the Bush Foundation. The Center brings the University of Minnesota together with county, tribal, state and community social services in a partnership dedicated to improving the lives of children and families involved with public child welfare. Substantial funding for the Center continues to come from federal Title IV-E funds and support from the University of Minnesota, the College of Education and Human Development and the School of Social Work.

CASCW fulfills its mission by focusing its efforts around three primary areas: Professional Education, Outreach, and Research & Evaluation.

To improve the well-being of children and families who are involved in the child welfare system by: educating human service professionals, fostering collaboration across systems and disciplines, informing policy makers and the public, and expanding the child welfare knowledge base.
  • All children deserve competent and effective child welfare services to promote safety, well-being and permanency.
  • Effective child welfare workers require continual professional development that is financially, geographically and culturally accessible.
  • Effective child welfare training, education, policy and evaluation is multidisciplinary, multicultural and collaborative in nature.
  • Child welfare evaluation informs policy and practice resulting in better outcomes for children and families.
  • Policy makers and the public make effective decisions when provided with current, relevant, and accurate child welfare information.
CASCW’s Outreach activities connect child welfare stakeholders in Minnesota to dynamic, relevant, accessible, research-informed practice and policy resources and trainings. We produce a variety of training events and publications that bridge the worlds of research, policy, and practice, bringing the latest information to students, administrators, policymakers, and practitioners working directly with children and families.
Professional Education encompasses the Center’s work with Title IV-E students and additional academic opportunities for current practitioners. We are committed to supporting students and professionals dedicated to working in the public or tribal child welfare workforce through the distribution of Title IV-E stipends and through the Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate Program (PACC).
CASCW identifies knowledge gaps through engagement of our stakeholders and conducts meaningful, high-quality research in order to advance the field of child welfare. We disseminate information from policy and practice relevant research undertaken by faculty, staff, and graduate students across the University of Minnesota through web publications, peer-reviewed journal articles, and online modules.

Meet Our Staff

Korina Barry, MSW
Korina Barry, MSWDirector of Outreach
Korina leads the outreach component of CASCW. She manages CASCW’s events and publications as well as developing and maintaining the Center’s collaborative relationships with important partners in the child welfare field.

Office: 205A Peters Hall
Phone: 612-625-8121
Email: barry081@umn.edu
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Jennifer Bertram, MSW, LISW
Jennifer Bertram, MSW, LISWOutreach and Policy Program Coordinator
Jennifer manages CASCW’s online communications via social media and blogging. Jennifer serves as editor of CW360°. She also works on CASCW’s child welfare public policy efforts, including legislative bill tracking.

Office: 205A Peters Hall
Phone: 612-624-3159
Email: heid0081@umn.edu
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Saahoon Hong, PhD
Saahoon Hong, PhDSenior Minn-LInK Researcher
Saahoon is Senior Minn-LInK Researcher on the Minn-LInK project. Minn-LInk is a unique resource for students and faculty who want to do research on child welfare using administrative program data.

Office: 217 Peters Hall
Phone: 612-624-1250
Email: hong0083@umn.edu
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Traci LaLiberte, PhD, MSW, LISW
Traci LaLiberte, PhD, MSW, LISWExecutive Director
Traci has served as Executive Director of CASCW since 2007. She oversees all of the professional education, outreach, and evaluation efforts of the Center. In addition, she teaches at the SSW and leads other evaluation projects.

Office: 205C Peters Hall
Phone: 612-624-2279
Email: lali0017@umn.edu
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Mary Kaye LaPointe
Mary Kaye LaPointeProject Assistant
Mary Kaye assists Esther Wattenberg, the Coordinator for Special Projects.

Office: 330 Humphrey (West Bank)
Phone: 612-625-6550
Email: welle003@umn.edu

Nora Lee
Nora LeeExecutive Office Specialist
Nora assists with the outreach and professional education components of the Center. Her work spans many aspects of the daily functions of CASCW including event planning and maintaining accurate records of Title IV-E stipend students.

Office: 205 Peters Hall
Phone: 612-624-4231
Email: nmlee@umn.edu
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Melissa Batalden Mendez, MSW, LICSW
Melissa Batalden Mendez, MSW, LICSWTitle IV-E Field Coordinator
Melissa coordinates the field placements for students who are receiving the Title IV-E stipend. She leads a special Title IV-E field placement program at Hennepin County.

Office: 219 Peters Hall
Phone: 612-624-3159
Email: mamendez@umn.edu
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Nicole Mickelson, MPP
Nicole Mickelson, MPPMinn-LInK Researcher
Nicole is a Minn-LInK Researcher on CASCW’s Minn-LInK project. In addition to conducting evaluations with Minn-LInK data, Nicole works on the National Science Foundation grant to expand Minn-LInK’s capacity for data intensive research.

Office: 238 Peters Hall
Phone: 612-624-3656
Email: mick0149@umn.edu
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Kristine Piescher, PhD
Kristine Piescher, PhDDirector of Research & Evaluation
Kristy leads the evaluation and research projects undertaken by the Center. She is responsible for the Minn-LInK project. Additionally, Kristy serves as a leader on the project team for a Ramsey County evaluation project, “Using Comprehensive Family Assessments to Improve Child Welfare Outcomes.”

Office: 212 Peters Hall
Phone: 612-625-8169
Email: kpiesche@umn.edu
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Jim Reinardy
Jim ReinardyTitle IV-E Project Principal Investigator
Jim Reinardy is the Director of the School of Social Work and serves as the principal investigator on the Center’s Title IV-E Program.

Office: 105 Peters Hall
Phone: 612-625-1220
Email: jreinard@umn.edu
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Elizabeth Snyder, MSW, LISW
Elizabeth Snyder, MSW, LISWDirector of Professional Education
Liz leads the professional education component of CASCW. She conducts IV-E student recruitment and oversees the ongoing IV-E student stipends. Her responsibilities also include coordinating the BSW Title IV-E Program.

Office: 205E Peters Hall
Phone: 612-624-3779
Email: snyde276@umn.edu
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Elizabeth Keely Vandre, MSW, LGSW
Elizabeth Keely Vandre, MSW, LGSWPACC Coordinator
Keely coordinates the Permanency & Adoption Competency Certificate (PACC) program, supporting advanced level training for mental health and child welfare professionals, and increasing a network of qualified providers state-wide.

Office: 205E Peters Hall
Phone: 612-626-3831
Email: shal0035@umn.edu
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Esther Wattenberg
Esther WattenbergSpecial Projects Coordinator
Esther Wattenberg serves as the Center’s Special Projects Coordinator. She coordinates in-service training through county supervisor forums, bag lunch presentations, lectures, and seminars.

Office: 330 Humphrey (CURA, West Bank)
Phone: 612-625-6550 (via Mary Kaye LaPointe)
Email: ewattenb@umn.edu
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Affiliated Faculty Members

Dale A. Blyth
Extension Professor
Tel: 612-624-2188
Colleen Fisher
Assistant Professor
Priscilla Gibson
Associate Professor
Jane Gilgun
Wendy Haight
Gamble-Skogmo Chair in Child Welfare & Youth Policy
David Hollister
Helen Kivnick
Amy Krentzman
Assistant Professor
Hee Lee
Assistant Professor
Elizabeth Lightfoot
Associate Professor
Dario Menanteau
Tel: 612-625-8798
Lynette Renner
Associate Professor;
Director, MINCAVA
Ron Rooney
Rebecca J. Shlafer
Assistant Professor
Department of Pediatrics
Patricia Shannon
Assistant Professor
Oliver Williams
Director, IDVAAC