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

Academic Mentor
Patricia Kohl
Professor, George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis

Policy Mentor
Susan Shelton
Regional Director, St. Louis County Children's Division

Current Institutional Affiliation
University of South Carolina: Assistant Professor

Areas of Expertise

Child Welfare and Foster Care Systems, Evidence-Based/Evidence-Informed Programs, Longitudinal Data Analysis, Regression Modeling, Structural Equation Models, Adolescents and Young Adults


As an assistant professor in the College of Social Work at University of South Carolina, Dr. Kristen Seay’s research focuses on improving the lives of families affected by parental substance use.  Dr. Seay earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in social work.  After receiving her MSW, Dr. Seay investigated reports of child abuse in Georgia and in Alabama, where she gained valuable insight into the lives of parents who struggle with addiction. These experiences motivated her to earn her doctorate with a focus on parental substance use and its impact on children and families.

Within the College of Social Work, Dr. Seay looks forward to involving her students with local and state agencies where they will gain hands-on experience helping families.  Throughout her youth and into college, Dr. Seay worked with programs for children and older adults and volunteered with organizations that helped those in poverty.  It was through these early experiences that she realized she wanted a career that would allow her to help those who were struggling.

Through her scholarship, Dr. Seay seeks to decrease child maltreatment, enhance parenting, and improve the well-being of vulnerable children and families.  Her research focuses on the impact and treatment of substance abuse in families with a particular focus on the relationship from substance abuse to the occurrence of child abuse and neglect.  Her recent projects have focused on child welfare–involved families where caregiver substance abuse is present.  Using data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being II, she examined the direct, mediating, and moderating pathways from caregiver problematic substance use to child harm among child welfare–involved families.  Dr. Seay also partnered with a public child welfare agency to conduct focus groups with child protective services caseworkers who investigate child abuse and neglect. The overarching goal of these focus groups was to understand how caseworkers think about caregiver substance abuse and its impact on case decision making.

Dr. Seay is the recipient of three competitive dissertation grants: a National Research Service Award (NRSA) Pre-Doctoral Fellowship (F31DA034442, Seay, PI) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a Doris Duke Fellowship for the Promotion of Child Well-Being, and a Fahs-Beck Doctoral Dissertation Grant.  She was also the recipient of four years of funding from an institutional level STAR Pre-Doctoral Fellowship from NIDA (5T32DA015035, Cunningham-Williams, PI).