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USF professor receives research grant to help families and children

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SARASOTA, FL -- USF Sarasota-Manatee College of Arts & Sciences professors Dr. Melissa Sloan and Dr. Jane Roberts received a grant from the American Sociological Association to support their community action research project with Family Safety Alliance (FSA). FSA is a local organization devoted to engaging the community in the oversight and improvement of the local child welfare system. It comprises representatives from local government, juvenile justice, child service organizations, faith-based organizations, educational and medical systems and the community at large.

Sloan and Roberts’s research will identify gaps, strengths and weaknesses in the system of care for families and children in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties and strengthen community partnerships. “This project will enable us to develop a holistic view of the strengths in the system and will shed light on areas in need of increased resources and community involvement,” said Sloan. “An additional benefit of bringing together diverse community members within the stakeholder groups will be the facilitation of partnerships within and across groups as well as the devotion of concentrated attention to the needs of local families.”

The grant will fund undergraduate student research assistants, provide compensation for study participants and enable the purchase of data analysis software for faculty and student use.  The results of Sloan’s and Roberts’s  research will inform the strategic planning efforts of the FSA, helping to establish models of academic-community partnerships and generate policy recommendations.

These research findings will also be utilized in USFSM’s classrooms. In the fall, Dr. Roberts will teach a service learning special topic course titled “Selected Topics in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences”, which will focus on family and child welfare, incorporating the history of Florida’s child welfare system, detailed examination of the community context and relevant organizations and social inequalities.