PhD, Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis
Cohort Eight Fellow

Katherine Marcal.jpg

Academic Mentor
Patrick J. Fowler, PhD
Associate Professor, Washington University in St. Louis

Policy Mentor
John Landsverk, PhD
Senior Research Scientist, Oregon Social Learning Center

Areas of Expertise
Child Welfare and Foster Care Systems, Economic Supports for Families, Mental Health and Well-Being, Regression Modeling, Structural Equation Modeling, Mixed Methods, System Dynamics, Homeless Families and Young People, Low-Income Families and Individuals



Katherine Marcal is a doctoral student in social work at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research uses systems science methods to investigate mental health, development, and service utilization among families with children experiencing homelessness. At Washington University, Ms. Marcal works in the Social System Design Lab investigating the impact and scale-up potential of housing interventions in the child welfare system. She has also contributed to research examining conceptualizations of homelessness, the links between homelessness and maternal depression, and evaluation of homeless interventions. She has experience teaching policy analysis, structural equation modeling, and system dynamics. Ms. Marcal holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature as well as a Master in Social Work, both from Washington University in St. Louis.


Promoting Child Behavioral Health in Homeless Services: A Community-Based System Dynamics Approach

This dissertation will advance empirical knowledge toward promoting child behavioral health in the context of homelessness in order to stabilize families, support healthy parenting, and reduce maltreatment risk. This mixed methods study will explore relationships between family needs, service use patterns, and caregivers’ abilities to promote child behavioral health among families utilizing homeless services. In collaboration with staff at a local family homeless shelter, clients with children and service providers will be engaged in group model building—a qualitative systems science tool—to understand prioritization and decision-making as drivers of service use patterns, use these insights to identify feedback processes that impede successful shelter exit, and test interventions to speed return to independent housing while promoting child behavioral well-being and family stability.