Q&A with Ruth McRoy, Donahue and DiFelice Professor of Social Work

Professor Ruth McRoy

Professor Ruth McRoy

In September 2009, Ruth McRoy became the first holder of the Donahue and DiFelice Endowed Professorship at the Boston College School of Social Work. Since then, she has worked tirelessly to expand community partnerships, and to build a new focus group devoted to studying the impacts of adoption, while leading the school’s Diversity and Justice Initiatives. 

And as if that isn’t enough to keep her busy, McRoy serves on the Board of Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Boston, is a member of the Research Advisory Board of the Rudd Adoption Research Program at UMass Amherst, and a Senior Research Fellow and a member of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute Board. She’s also authored or co-authored eleven books and more than 100 articles and book chapters on child welfare issues.

Here she talks with BC Social Work about her role as Chair of the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Commission for Diversity and Social and Economic Justice, a new ad campaign designed to connect families with children in foster care, and adoptions in the small town of Possum Trot, Texas.

Good morning Ruth, and welcome back to Boston. You’ve been traveling quite a bit this year for various projects – recently, you were in Tampa, Florida for the Council on Social Work Education’s annual meeting. You’re part of an important commission at CSWE. 

I chair the Commission for Diversity and Social and Economic Justice: our purpose is to promote inclusion, equity, and social and economic justice in social work education. We focus on the impact of oppression, power, and privilege and serve as a resource for schools and departments of social work. We are developing resources to help educators be more inclusive in the way they teach their courses.

I’ve also had the pleasure to accept a role as Diversity and Justice Chair at BC Social Work. This year, our focus is “Race and Justice” and we’re convening a series of thought-provoking events throughout the year on this topic. In September, we heard from agency leaders in and around the city of Boston. On Friday, January 9th we’ll host our annual alumni awards and Race, Justice, and Diversity Conference for alumni and the BCSSW community. John H. Jackson, President and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, will give the keynote address. For Black History Month on February 19th, we’ll host a talk by Claudette Colvin, pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement and grandmother of one of our students, Jennifer Colvin. And on April 15th, we’ll have our annual Diversity and Justice Pinderhughes Lecture by Dr. Salome Raheim, Dean and Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work.

It seems like almost immediately following the CSWE meeting, you were in Washington, D.C. to promote a national advertising campaign designed to raise awareness on adoption. Tell us more about this important venture.

In November (which is National Adoption Month) AdoptUSKids unveiled a series of public service announcements in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Ad Council designed to help find families for the more than 100,000 children and youth in the U.S. foster care system who are awaiting permanent families. This year’s theme: “Promoting and Supporting Sibling Connections” focuses on the importance of maintaining sibling bonds. We are hoping that many families will respond and consider adopting.

Since 2002, I have been involved as a researcher and now evaluator for AdoptUsKids, a fantastic organization devoted to providing services to both families and child welfare professionals. Many of us in the AdoptUSKids community convened in Washington, D.C. for the launch of this important campaign. I’m really excited about the impact these print and television advertisements can have in finding homes for so many children who need them. I encourage you to check them out, and share widely with your networks!

Your research and scholarship is incredibly broad-based, and includes topics such as racial disproportionality in child welfare, family preservation, and kinship care, and of course, various aspects of adoption. This year, you’re re-visiting an important research project regarding the small rural town of Possum Trot, Texas, and a faith-based community that has famously adopted close to 80 children. Tell us more about the good people of Bennett Chapel, their pastor, Bishop W.C. Martin, and your work there.  

Professor McRoy and Bishop W.C. Martin

Professor McRoy and Bishop W.C. Martin

I first found out about Bennett Chapel back in 2003 from Kathleen Belanger, a PhD student with whom I was working when I was at the University of Texas at Austin. She was collecting initial data from families who were adopting African American children in care. Over the years, about 23 families from Possum Trot, Texas have adopted 77 children, a remarkable investment for such a small community in the futures of so many. We continued to be so intrigued about this amazing initiative and acknowledged that this church community was absolutely worth knowing much more about, and along with Belanger, who is now a professor at Stephen F. Austin University, we began to delve deeper into what this investment meant.

Bennett Chapel is an African American congregation; all of the children adopted were African American, and they were adopted by African American families. Bishop Martin has long been an advocate for bringing in children from the child welfare system, and I consider it a privilege to call him a friend and colleague. He and his wife Donna have adopted four children themselves. Today, Belanger, Bishop Martin, and I remain committed to developing effective strategies to recruit and retain prospective adoptive families for African American youth, as they represent a disproportionately high number of children waiting to be adopted across the U.S.

Currently, Professor Belanger and I are also very much interested in the way that this religious community came together to get involved in raising a next generation. We’re currently working to develop a faith-based model based on what we’ve learned, and we hope to share that sometime in the coming year.

Your strong interest in adoption has become a major part of your focus here at Boston College as well.

That’s right – we recently established an Adoption Special Interest Group here at BC designed to provide an open forum to discuss issues related to adoption, and also, to find innovative ways to expose our students to social workers who are out in the field, already doing critical work.

We visited Treehouse, a multi-generational community in Western Massachusetts which is designed to support families who are fostering or adopting. We’ve had students present at important events such as the annual Re-envisioning Foster Care in America Conference, and the Annual Rudd Adoption Conference at UMass-Amherst. And we’ve invited noted speakers like Susan Harris O’Connor, Adam Pertman and Ian Anand Forber-Pratt to come to BC to speak to our students about their work in adoptions. The group continues to grow, which is exciting.

Learn more about Professor McRoy’s call for an “inclusive perspective [to] find strategies for enhancing the well-being of economically oppressed and socially excluded groups all over the world” in BC Social Work Magazine.


One thought on “Q&A with Ruth McRoy, Donahue and DiFelice Professor of Social Work

  1. Pingback: BC Social Work Convenes Diversity Conference on ‘Race + Justice’ | Innovate@BCSocialWork

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