DEVON BROOKS joined the faculty in 1999 and teaches human behavior and research methodology in the M.S.W. program and research methodology in the Ph.D. program.
His research and practice interests generally revolve around the reduction and treatment of child maltreatment, with a focus on racial and ethnic disparities in the permanency and mental health outcomes of children and families served by public child welfare agencies; risk assessment; assessment of formal and indigenous service needs and utilization; transracial adoption and racial matching policy; gay and lesbian adoption and foster care placements; family preservation; and child welfare innovations.
He regularly provides consultation and technical assistance in the area of child welfare and presents at national conferences. He is principal investigator of both "The SPIN Initiative: Evaluation of an In-Home, Strengths and Video Based Intervention for at-Risk Families" and "Enhancing Positive Outcomes in Transracial Adoptive Families Following Implementation of the Multiethnic Placement Act and Interethnic Adoption Provisions."
Dr. Brooks is a member of the National Association of Social Workers, the Association of Black Social Workers, the Council on Social Work Education, and the Society for Social Work and Research. He is a member of the editorial board of Children and Youth Services Review, and has most recently published in Child and Family Social Work, Child Welfare, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology and Social Work.
In the eyes of Dr. Devon Brooks, child welfare is incredibly complex and undefined. Many factors are at play, from substance abuse and mental and physical health to safety issues and family functioning. There is no “disease” that can be targeted, and it is difficult to analyze specific factors that lead to child maltreatment using a standard clinical approach. Despite the dynamic nature of the field, Brooks is determined to build a greater understanding of the context surrounding child maltreatment in order to develop applicable tools for practitioners. “I try to get at that complexity and reduce it to something that is simple and meaningful,” he says.
After earning a degree in psychology from George Mason University in 1991, Brooks spent several years working with chronically mentally ill patients and was impacted by the vulnerability of his younger clients. Despite histories of abuse, assault and homelessness, there was a sense of hope that their lives could still be turned around. He pursued a master’s degree in social work at the University of California, Berkeley, where Brooks took a job at the Child Welfare Research Center and met his mentor, renowned child welfare policy scholar Dr. Richard Barth, who bolstered his focus on child maltreatment.
Since joining the USC School of Social Work in 1999, Brooks has centered his research on at-risk families who might be referred to child protective services. In a study of Partnership For Families, a child abuse prevention program in Los Angeles, Brooks is analyzing data from surveys, focus groups, interviews with administrators and other client assessments. In addition to examining receipt and use of services, he is also exploring changes in functioning and associated risk and protective factors, as well as rates of referral and subsequent maltreatment.
Throughout his research and work with students, he emphasizes critical thinking and context as keys to balancing complex theoretical models with the development of effective and useful tools. Brooks is outlining his research approach in a textbook that he views as a guide to social work knowledge and inquiry; he focuses not only on traditional research methods but also client assessment and program evaluation, areas he feels are initially more valuable to practitioners and students.
Having served as associate dean for faculty affairs for four years, Brooks is also intrigued by social work education. In the classroom, he focuses less on lecturing and more on facilitating learning through one-on-one interaction or working in small groups. Brooks enjoys involving MSW and doctoral students in his research, which often leads to their own projects.
Brooks, D., Kim, H. & Wind, L. (2011). Supporting gay and lesbian adoptive families before and after adoption: service need, utilization, and helpfulness. In Brodzinsky, D., Pertman, A. & Kunz, D (Eds.) Adoption by Lesbians and Gay Men: A New Dimension in Family Diversity. (pp. 150-183).
Ji, J., Brooks, D., Barth, R.P. & Kim, H. (2010). Beyond pre-adoptive risk: the impact of adoptive family environment on adopted youth’s psychosocial adjustment. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 80(3), 432-442.
Crea, T.M., Barth, R.P., Guo, S. & Brooks, D. (2008). Externalizing behaviors of substance-exposed adopted children: 14 years postadoption.American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 78(1), 11-19.
Brooks, D., Kim, A.K., Kim, H. & Nissly, J. (2008). Structured Decision Making and child welfare service delivery project.: University of California at Berkeley, California Social Work Education Center.
Brooks, D. (2008). Interdisciplinary exchange. Understanding transracial adoption: A conversation with Devon Brooks. Child Law Practice, 17.
Simmel, C., Barth, R.P. & Brooks, D. (2007). Adopted foster youth’s psychosocial functioning: a longitudinal perspective. Child and Family Social Work, 12, 336-348.
Schneiderman, J.U., Brooks, D., Facher, B. & Amis, J. (2007). Improving health services for foster youth: Multidisciplinary and multistakeholder perspectives and recommendations. Children and Youth Services Review, 29(3), 313-328.
Wind, L.H., Brooks, D. & Barth, R.P. (2007). Influences of risk history and adoption preparation on post-adoption services use in U.S. adoptions. Family Relations, 56(4), 378-390.
Yoo, J., Brooks, D. & Patti, R. (2007). Organizational constructs as predictors of effectiveness in child welfare interventions. Child Welfare, 86(1), 53-79.
Brooks, D., Franke, T., Budde, S., Christie, C. & Nissly, J. (2006).Partnerships for Families Evaluation: Year 2 Final Report.: First 5 LA.
Brooks, D., Kim, A.K., Kim, H. & Nissly, J. (2006). Structured Decision Making and child welfare service delivery project: Final Report.: University of California at Berkeley, California Social Work Education Center.
Brooks, D., Wind, L., Simmel, C. & Barth, R.P. (2005). Contemporary adoptive families and implications for the next wave of adoption research. In I.E. Sigel (Series Ed.) & D. Brodzinsky, & J. Palacios (Vol. Eds.) (Eds.)Advances in applied developmental psychology. (pp. 1-25). Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.
Wind, L.H., Brooks, D. & Barth, R.P. (2005). Adoption preparation: Differences between families of adoptees with and without special needs.Adoption Quarterly, 8(4), 45-75.
Yoo, J. & Brooks, D. (2005). The role of organizational variables in predicting service effectiveness: An analysis of a multilevel model. Research of Social Work Practice, 15(4), 267-277.
Brooks, D., Frasch, K., Reich, J. & Wind, L. (2004). Enhancing positive outcomes in transracial adoptive families.: University of Southern California, School of Social Work.
Brooks, D. & Becerra, R.M. (2004). Racial and ethnic disparities in the child welfare system.: Hamovitch Social Work Research Center, School of Social Work, University of Southern California.
Frasch, K.M. & Brooks, D. (2003). Normative development in transracially adoptive families: An integration of the literature and implications for the construction of a theoretical framework. Families in Society, 84(2), 201-212.
Brooks, D. & James, S. (2003). Willingness to adopt Black foster children: Implications for child welfare policy and recruitment of transracial adoptive families. Children and Youth Services Review, 25(5/6), 463-489.
Brooks, D. & Allen, J. (2002). Adoption services use, helpfulness, and need: A comparison of public and private agency and independent adoptive families.Children and Youth Services Review, 24, 213-238.
Brooks, D. & Wind, L. (2002). Challenges implementing and evaluating child welfare demonstrations. Children and Youth Services Review: Challenges Implementing and Evaluating Child Welfare Demonstrations, 24(6/7), 379-384.
Brooks, D. & Wind, L. (2002). Child welfare demonstration projects: A model for implementation and evaluation. Children and Youth Services Review: Challenges Implementing and Evaluating Child Welfare Demonstrations, 24(6/7), 543.
Brooks, D., James, S. & Barth, R.P. (2002). Preferred characteristics of children in need of adoption: Is there a demand for available foster children?.Social Service Review, 76(4), 575-602.