Jennifer Thornhill

Addressing Racial Inequity in Child Welfare through Child Welfare Worker Training

Jennifer Thornhill is a doctoral candidate in the Doctorate of Social Work program through the University of Kentucky. She is expected to graduate in May 2023 with a focus in social work education. Jennifer holds a Master’s of Science in Social Work from the University of Louisville, conferred in May 2014, and a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from the University of Kentucky, conferred in May 2009. Jennifer has also held licensure as a Certified Social Worker in the state of Kentucky since 2017.

Jennifer is the Prevention Branch Manager for the Division of Protection and Permanency within the Department for Community Based Services in Kentucky. She has been employed with the state child welfare agency since 2009, holding positions spanning frontline to leadership positions. In her current position, Jennifer has been instrumental in implementing the Family First Prevention Services Act in Kentucky, including Kentucky’s position as the 5th state in the nation to implement, shifting practice to prevention rather than foster care placement as an intervention of first resort. In her current position she also exhibits a skill set including public speaking, grant writing, data analysis, community organizing, federal report writing, supervision, contracts and budgets, program administration, and evidence-based practice implementation.

Jennifer has also served as an adjunct instructor for the Carver School of Social Work through Campbellsville University since 2018. As an adjunct she primarily instructs master’s advanced practicum students. However, she has also served as an instructor for undergraduate social work students in a mezzo practice course focusing on practice with groups and families. Serving in this role sparked Jennifer’s interest in social work education through partnering with students in advancing their education and skill set.

Jennifer’s research interests include child maltreatment prevention, foster care prevention, community engagement, and racial inequity in child welfare. Jennifer’s interest in child welfare and social work education converge in her doctoral Capstone Project. Her project focus is the role of child welfare worker training in reducing racial disproportionality and disparity in child welfare systems.

Jennifer has presented at multiple Kentucky state conferences, is expected to present at a national conference in 2023, and has a publication expected in 2023. She has presented at state conferences, including the Kids Are Worth It conference, the Be Heroes conference, and the System of Care Academy conference. Presentation topics include the Family First Prevention Services Act, and effective service provision for the deaf and hard of hearing involved in child welfare systems. She is expected to present on Family First Prevention Services Act continuous quality improvement at the Child Welfare League of America conference in April 2023. Jennifer also participated in a Prevention Planning into Action Series roundtable, publically available through the Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaboration. Lastly, she wrote a chapter on mental health and social well-being for a National Business Education Association publication on effective methods for teaching business during and post crisis, expected to be published in 2023.