Project Team

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

Mark Courtney, Ph.D. | Website
Samuel Deutsch Professor
University of Chicago – School of Social Service Administration

Mark Courtney is a Professor in the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. His fields of special interest are child welfare policy and services, the connection between child welfare services and other institutions serving vulnerable populations, and the professionalization of social work. His current work includes studies of the adult functioning of former foster children, experimental evaluation of independent living services for foster youth, reunification of foster children with their families, and the influence of juvenile courts on the operation of the child welfare system.

PROJECT DIRECTOR

Nathanael J. Okpych, SM ’16 (BSD), PhD ’17 (SSA) | Website
Assistant Professor
University of Connecticut – School of Social Work

Nathanael J. Okpych is the Project Director of the California Youth Transitions to Adulthood Study (CalYOUTH) and an Assistant professor at University of Connecticut’s School of Social Work. He studies the transition to adulthood for youth in foster care, and his research focuses on postsecondary education access and attainment, mental health, and social support. He earned a PhD from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, and holds master’s degrees in biostatistics and epidemiology (Chicago), social work (Rutgers), and clinical psychology (Duquesne). Nathanael’s professional experience includes providing mental health services to youth with emotional disturbances in residential, school, and community settings, as well as working for several years in college residence life.

PROJECT COORDINATOR

Justin Harty, MSW, LCSW | CV | Website
Doctoral Candidate
University of Chicago – School of Social Service Administration

Justin Harty is the Project Coordinator for the California Youth Transitions to Adulthood Study (CalYOUTH) and a doctoral candidate at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He earned his master’s degree in social work, with a concentration in children and families, from the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has bachelor’s degrees in both sociology and philosophy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include pregnancy, parenting, and parental involvement among youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood. His current work includes studies of involvement and engagement among young fathers in foster care. His research is informed by several years of practice experience in child welfare as a foster care caseworker in Chicago.

AFFILIATED SCHOLARS

Pajarita Charles, MPA, MSW, Ph.D. | Website
Assistant Professor
University of Wisconsin at Madison – School of Social Work

Laura Napolitano, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Rutgers University

Harold Pollack, Ph.D. | Website
Helen Ross Professor & Deputy Dean for Researcher & Faculty Development
University of Chicago – School of Social Service Administration

Sunggeun (Ethan) Park, Ph.D., MSW, MBA | Website
Assistant Professor
University of Michigan – School of Social Work

Sunggeun (Ethan) Park is an Assistant Professor at University of Michigan’s School of Social Work. He is an organizational and management scholar with deep interests in intra/inter-organizational collaboration, cross-sectoral collaboration, and user engagement in service production processes. At CalYOUTH, Ethan manages administrative datasets, conducts economic evaluations of extended foster care, and investigates youth’s engagement in individual care and system-level decision-making processes and child welfare system-level factors associated with youth’s various outcomes. He completed PhD degree from University of Chicago (SSA) and earned MSW and MBA degrees from Washington University in St. Louis.

Keunhye Park, MSW, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Michigan State University – School of Social Work

Keunhye (Kune) Park is an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University’s School of Social Work. She earned a PhD from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago and her master’s degree in social work with a specialization in child welfare from the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work. Her research focuses on the connection between child welfare services and other systems of care serving marginalized populations. Her primary fields of interest are child welfare services and policy, juvenile justice services and policy, educational experiences of marginalized youth, and adolescent development and the transition to adulthood among foster youth. She has a particular interest in factors that place marginalized youth at risk for justice system involvement, and strategies for keeping those young people out of the justice system. Her research interests build upon her field practice in public schools, juvenile detention centers, state departments of children and family services, child welfare agencies, and research institutes. Prior to her graduate studies, she was a Michigan-certified elementary school teacher.

RESEARCH ASSISTANTS

Huiling Feng, MSW
Doctoral Candidate

Huiling Feng is a doctoral candidate at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. She obtained her master’s in social work from Peking University, China. She holds bachelor’s degrees in both sociology and philosophy from Peking University, China. Her research interests include housing issues and homelessness among youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood, wellbeing of migrant children and left-behind children in China, and comparative child welfare system in U.S. and China. Her current work includes studies of placement trajectories and homelessness among transition age foster youth.

Jenna Powers, MSW | CV
Doctoral Candidate
University of Connecticut – School of Social Work
Jenna Powers is a doctoral candidate at the School of Social Work at the University of Connecticut. While earning her master’s in social work at the University of New England, Jenna focused on the interconnections amongst program development, community organizing, and policy practice. Jenna’s bachelor’s degree in outdoor education informs her social work practice and teaching philosophy. Her research interests include participatory decision-making, particularly with youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood. Her current work includes studies of the processes of engaging transition-age foster youth within child welfare decisions (i.e., case planning and policy-making) and their associated outcomes.