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Bringing Our Best Minds Together for Big Ideas

Nina Nelson (PhD Student)

Making Change Happen

Nina Nelson has always had a passion for helping children, especially at-risk students and those with special needs, such as youth with disabilities and those in foster care. Her research centers on improving this population’s quality of life, mainly in regards to healthcare and education. Throughout her career, Nelson would like to help those children and their parents/guardians work together to ensure that the kids’ basic needs are met.

Although Nelson originally wanted to major in psychology, she realized that social work would best support her desire to bring about societal change and the individual and family levels. She especially wants to harness the power of the everyday person for making change, since there are some people she says professionals cannot reach. “If you have not had the experience of having a child who has a disability, you don’t quite understand what that parent is going through,” she said. Thus, she wants to work with grassroots groups and volunteers to cultivate their capacity for addressing the needs of at-risk and special needs youth.

Whether Nelson ends up in the U.S., in her home country of Jamaica, or elsewhere in the world, she will continue working to improve the lives and opportunities of young people.

Research Interests

Nelson's research interests include: foster care; children with special health care needs (CSHCN); support services for parents of foster children and CSHCN; Educational involvement of parents of foster children and at at-risk students.

Dissertation Title

Helpfulness of Parent to Parent Support for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Perspectives of Parents and Program Staff


  • Ryan, S., Nelson, N., & Siebert, C. (2009). Examining the facilitators and barriers faced by adoptive professionals delivering post-adoption services. Children and Youth Services Review, 31(5), 584-594.
  • Miller, C., & Nelson, N. (2008). Instructors' manual for social work:  Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (D. DiNitto & C. A. McNeece).  Chicago: Lyceum Books. Available at

Reports and Unpublished Manuscripts

  • Lownes, S., Worrell, C., Nelson, N., & Flynn, C. (2009). Comprehensive Needs Assessment of the Educational Needs of Migrant Children in South Carolina, 2009. Prepared by the Center for Child and Family Studies for the Department of Education, Migrant Education Program, South Carolina.
  • Nelson, N. (2005). Development and initial validation of the parent involvement in education scale for high school students. Unpublished manuscript.

Other Activities or Awards

  • Main developer of the BSW program and curriculum for the University of Northern Caribbean, Jamaica.
  • Student Representative for the Social Work Doctoral Committee: 2009-2010; 2010-2011

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