Prevent Child Abuse Arizona is thrilled to announce that recent board member, Cara Kelly, defended her dissertation on September 10. This capstone of her PhD program examines the utility of the Healthy Families Parenting Inventory (HFPI) to predict a family’s risk for future maltreatment. As Healthy Families is a strong training program administered by PCA, Dr. Kelly’s successful defense in her research and new honorable education designation increase our fortune of her valuable and knowledgeable presence on our board.

In speaking with Dr. Kelly, we took some time to learn more about her passions and how her direction in risk-assessment of child maltreatment in social work became clear to her throughout the years:

“My passion for the field of social work emanates from my desire to advocate for those that may need a voice within society.  I was raised by a social worker, so naturally, discussions surrounding our responsibilities in working towards social justice were incorporated into our household from a very young age.  My passion for child welfare became infinitely clear to me in my practice efforts over the years with children and families.  Not only are families the foundation of society, but by helping support a family in need, you are impacting not only that family, but future generations.  I believe that people can change, and as a social worker I am often in the position to guide and facilitate these changes in a family’s life.   Social workers really do make the world a better place!

My passion for child welfare drives my future career goals in helping keep children safe and protected.  Moving forward in my career I hope to continue my work in risk assessment, in assisting professionals who come into contact with at-risk families make the best possible decisions in order to keep children safe and protected.  By assisting social work practitioners and the community in identifying at-risk families before they come into contact with the public child welfare system, we have an opportunity to alter a family’s trajectory away from abuse and neglect, towards more positive parenting practices over time.   Prevention is key!

Over my years in practice I have worked across the spectrum of prevention and intervention in child protection.  I wouldn’t say there’s been a single moment when I felt my work made a difference, rather it has been the collective influence of thousands of moments.  Every time I’m able to help a parent better understand the needs of their child, connect them to a community resource to better support their family, or empower them to make decisions to keep their children safe and protected, I’m making a difference with the potential to last a lifetime.  As a social work educator I am hopefully that I can bring my passion and expertise in child welfare in improving our work with children and families by supporting our next generations of social workers.

Dr. Kelly’s impressive experience in social work and child welfare are not her only interests. When asked about her personal goals in the next few years, she made it evident of her abundant appreciation and motivation to learn.

“I absolutely love to learn, so it is only natural that I would want to fill my free time with more learning!  Over the course of my program I’ve learned to really love data, so I hope to take some more advanced statistical coursework, and perhaps develop my own risk assessment instrument in the future.  I also plan on learning conversational Spanish, as it’s so very important in my work as a social work practitioner.  And finally, I plan on learning to play the cello.  I have a strong musical background with brass and woodwind instruments, and would like to expand my skillset to include strings.”

In pursuing her doctoral degree, Dr. Kelly has not only added value to her life, but she has added an inspiring value to Prevent Child Abuse and the children of Arizona. We cannot wait to see what Dr. Kelly impresses us with next!