Social Work, Rutgers University
Cohort Six Fellow

Academic Mentor
Michael MacKenzie
Chancellor's Scholar for Well-Being and Associate Professor of Social Work and Pediatrics, School of Social Work, Rutgers University

Policy Mentor
Debra Lancaster
Director of Strategic Development, New Jersey Department of Children and Families

Research Interests
Child maltreatment prevention, child well-being

Areas of Expertise

Child Welfare and Foster Care Systems, Early Childhood Education and Initiatives, Evidence-Based/Evidence-Informed Programs, Home Visiting and Maltreatment Prevention, Mental Health and Well-Being, Prevention Science, Longitudinal Data Analysis, Regression Modeling, Structural Equation Models, Content Analysis, Mixed Methods, Adolescents and Young Adults, Infants and Toddlers, LGBTQ Youth, Preschool-aged Children, Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups, School-aged Children


Kate Stepleton is a doctoral candidate in the School of Social Work at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Her research addresses child welfare policy, mental health services, and child well-being. Prior to coming to Rutgers in 2013, Ms. Stepleton served in the immediate office of the Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where her duties included policy analysis, policy development, and management of the Commissioner’s messaging and communications. From 2007 to 2010, Ms. Stepleton was an Associate with the Center for the Study of Social Policy, focused on early childhood policies concerned with family strengthening and the prevention of child abuse and neglect. Ms. Stepleton earned her bachelor’s degree from Barnard College in 2005 and her master’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration in 2007.


Health Care Case Management as a Preventive Intervention: Examining Effects on Child Welfare Outcomes Mediated by Behavioral Health Care Access

The proposed study will examine the use of nurse-provided health care case management (HCCM) to prevent maltreatment and foster care placement for youth receiving in-home child welfare services. Partial, time-limited implementation of the intervention created the conditions for a natural experiment, allowing for a robust study design that will support qualified attribution of causality. From 2013 to 2015, New Jersey extended HCCM to children in intact families with open child welfare cases in ten coastal counties to mitigate an anticipated increase in foster care admissions in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. In addition to coordinating physical health care, nurses also functioned to ensure that children’s behavioral health needs were met to reduce family stress and promote child well-being following the natural disaster. Using mixed methods, this dissertation will examine the preventive effects of HCCM on child welfare outcomes and explore the mediating role of behavioral health care access.