US honors ASU social work professor for efforts in improving child well-being

Judy Krysik says she focuses on programming that helps children and youths lead safer, more stable lives


Portrait of Judy Krysik, associate professor at ASU's School of Social Work.

Associate Professor Judy Krysik of the ASU School of Social Work received the Children’s Bureau Champions Award for Promoting Child and Family Well-Being from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Photo courtesy Judy Krysik

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Current and future social workers are zeroing in on child well-being issues, programming and policy that help children live safer lives, thanks in part to the efforts of an Arizona State University professor the federal government recently honored.

Judy Krysik, an associate professor in the School of Social Work, said the goal is to educate more social workers and put them to work in more places where the need for their services has greatly increased in recent years.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families honored Krysik earlier this summer with the Children’s Bureau Champions Award for Promoting Child and Family Well-Being.

Krysik said she is humbled to receive the award.

“I’m very grateful for that recognition,” she said. “It’s really an honor to receive an award from the Children’s Bureau. A lot of the work that was done at the Center for Child Well-Being led to the award, particularly work with children whose parents have been incarcerated and families who have child welfare involvement. The center has been a national leader in these areas and has participated internationally.”

Krysik is the school’s associate director for academic affairs. She created the school’s Center for Child Well-Being in 2015 and has been evaluating programs that support communities and families to create stable and nurturing environments for children.

Krysik and the center’s staff established the Advanced Child Welfare Training Academy and founded the annual National Children of Incarcerated Parents conference, held annually since 2018. Krysik said the event has helped increase public awareness of children whose parents are incarcerated, but there’s more work to do to move beyond awareness.

“We still focus on increasing awareness at the conference, and I have to say that it has increased,” Krysik said. “Our conference is much more sophisticated and well-rounded because we now deal beyond awareness to include programming and best practices, and policy as well.”

She said the conference attendees concentrate their efforts on improving the policies of both the agencies that serve children whose parents who are incarcerated and the correctional system.

Assessing child care in Arizona

Krysik has developed child safety prevention programming that is utilized in schools and preschools across the nation. She is currently working with her colleague, social work Associate Professor Qi Wu, to evaluate an evidence-based, specialized program known as Safe Babies Court Teams. 

“We’re working on evaluating a program that impacts infants and toddlers who have been removed from their parents,” Krysik said. “We’re looking at outcomes in terms of whether the children are reunified with their parents and how quickly. This is very important, as infants and toddlers are very much affected by trauma at those early ages.”

Krysik is also working with colleagues on a needs assessment of how child care is provided throughout the state, examining the size of the workforce and the nature of training and professional development.

How child care is delivered is a critical matter for the state and a major issue impacting child well-being, she said. 

Krysik said the school is focused on training more social workers who are needed in an expanding array of positions in the field. For example, many schools have added social work positions to their staffs to help connect children and families to resources that address basic needs as well as children’s social and emotional well-being.

“Social workers have also started to work more closely with law enforcement, helping to respond to unaddressed mental health needs. This can help to defuse crisis situations where people get hurt, primarily due to mental health issues,” she said. “Integrated health is another growth area for social work, and more social workers are working on interdisciplinary teams in a variety of medical placements. That’s another career-growth opportunity.”

More social workers needed

In addition to families with children, Krysik said more social workers are needed to work with a number of growing populations including older adults, particularly those who experience dementia; individuals living in poverty who need help find housing and resources; people who have overdosed on opioids and fentanyl; and members of the LGBTQ+ and transgender communities who need support.

“There’s a lot of need for social work in these areas and I am honored to work for the ASU School of Social Work to help grow the profession,” she said.

School of Social Work Director and Distinguished Professor of Social Policy Elizabeth Lightfoot said that Krysik’s reputation as an innovative child welfare scholar who has greatly contributed to children’s well-being is complemented by her service as the school’s associate director for academic affairs.

“She is enormously valuable to our academic programs and is responsible for all of ASU’s (social work) undergraduate and graduate programs throughout the state,” Lightfoot said. “I’ve been consistently impressed with her ability to stay focused on our broader social work values while attending to the thousands of details that come with running the school’s complicated array of programs. She's one of a kind.”

Krysik also received the 2019 Council on Social Work Education Award for Innovative Teaching and was a 2017 Fellow of the Society for Social Work and Research. Among her many publications is "Research for Effective Social Work Practice," now in its fourth edition.

The School of Social Work is part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

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