PhD, Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis
Cohort Two Fellow
Professor, George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis
Regional Director, St. Louis County Children's Division
Current Institutional Affiliation
University of South Carolina: Assistant Professor
Areas of Expertise
Making Change Happen
As an assistant professor in the College of Social Work, 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.
“Parents want what’s best for their children,” says Dr. Seay. “But sometimes they struggle with substance use or other stressors. I hope to empower my students with the knowledge they need to provide parents with the skills and resources necessary to improve their lives.”
Dr. Seay is confident that her students, with the education they receive at the College of Social Work, will make positive change happen within South Carolina families.
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).