Current and Recent

Research Projects and Grants

Outcome Evaluation of Creating a Healthy Niagara Falls project

As part of a $300,000.00 Grant from the Oshei Foundation this project focuses on improving the health of an impoverised neighborhood in Niagara Falls, NY. The interventions focus on the social determinants of health and the outcome evaluation makes use of the Urban Heart Tool that has been developed by the World Health Organization to assess the health of an urban neighborhood. Dr. Blair leads the outcome evaluation team.

Validation of a Tracking Tool on Undergraduate Attitudes Towards People Living in Poverty
Drawing upon an instrument initially developed by Atherton et al, this project involves the development of a survey instrument that can be used to track undergraduates' attitudes towards those in poverty, underlying beliefs regarding causes of poverty, and commitment to working with the poor. This project is supported by Niagara University and a grant from the Niagara University Fund for the Improvement of Teaching. Publication of the findings from this study should be available soon.

Impact of a Poverty Simulation on the Social Empathy of Undergraduate Students for the Poor
This project was started in fall 2008 and the data collection and analysis was started in fall 2009. Using an instrument drawn from the Atherton et al Attitudes about Poverty and Poor People Assessment Scale, this project seeks to determine whether participation in a poverty simulation combined with course work about poverty and volunteer experiences with the poor significantly impacts the empathy of participants for those living in poverty. This project is supported by Niagara University and a grant from the Niagara University Fund for the Improvement of Teaching.

Best Practices and Methods of Teaching Undergraduates about Poverty and the Poor
Grant Awarded from Niagara University Research Council, 2009-2010
Approved sabbatical leave project for spring 2010. During my sabbatical I visted four universities that currently offer undergraduate programs that focus on poverty. During the visits I met with faculty, students, and community participants and conducted a series of ethnographic style interviews that explored the program's approach to poverty and what students and the community are learning from their involvement with the program. Data collection and analysis used qualitative research methods: Observation, Structured and unstructured interviews,Historical archives, and Life histories, i.e. personal stories of faculty, students and others regarding their experiences with the poverty programs.

Results were presented at conferences in Oxford, UK and Atlanta, GA. and were published in: Social Justice, Poverty and Race: Normative and Empirical Points of View.
Edited by Paul Kriese and Randall E. Osborne. Rodopi, Amsterdam/New York, NY 2011. XVIII, 222 pp. (Value Inquiry Book Series 234)
ISBN: 978-90-420-3394-8                 Paper
ISBN: 978-94-012-0681-5                 E-Book
Online info:

Survey of Niagara County Homeless Population, January 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, & 2007.
Developed survey and advisor on methodology and data analysis for this annual survey that is designed to gather vital information and to meet federal requirements.

Outcomes Evaluation of the Niagara University Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC), June 2008.
This progress evaluation involved surveying the residents of Niagara Falls and a series of focus groups with the community service agencies who were involved as community partners with COPC. A final evaluation of COPC is in progress and scheduled to be completed in March 2009.

Strengths and Stressors of Kinship Care Givers 2005-2007.
This project was funded by a grant from The Niagara County Department of Social Services during 2005-2007. Results from this study have been presented at national conferences and an article based on our findings can be found at:

Strengths and Stressors in a Population of Kinship Caregivers: Implications for Caseload Management and Administration. Families In Society. Vol. 90 (4) October-December 2009, pg. 431-438..

The project involved 77 interviews with kinship caregivers who are participating in the Child-Only Component of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program in one county in New York State. To examine the common description of this population as one that is best characterized as high need and at high risk, we specifically interviewed the caregivers for their strengths and stressors using the Strengths and Stressors Tracking Device (SSTD). For further information regarding the SSTD please see:

Berry, M., Cash, S. J., & Mathiesen, S. G. (2003). Validation of the strengths and stressors tracking device with a child welfare population. Child Welfare, 82(3), 293-319.

Key findings of the study include: virtually all of the kinship caregivers and their families possess significant strengths that can be used in a strengths-based approach to case management; environmental stress (such as neighborhood safety)-an acknowledged ecological correlate with potential for abuse and neglect-is an area of strength with this group of kinship caregivers; and that permanency planning and long term stability of the kinship care situation should be a major focus of departments of social services and case managers. This research offers a valuable contribution to the literature on child welfare and kinship care as it provides evidence based research to demonstrate the significant strengths in a caregiving population.

A Needs Assessment and Focus Groups with Kinship Caregivers, 2002-2003.
A $30,000.00 project conducting an assessment and exploratory research into the needs of the Child Only Grantees under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program of Niagara County, New York. The project included both quantitative methods and a series of qualitative focus groups with the grantees. Initial results were completed in June 2003. Presentations of the results were made at national conferences and published in the Journal of Family Social Work. The Second Phase of the project, described above, examined the strengths and stressors impacting these families.